Twitter is like sex: Everyone thinks about it and talks about it more than they actually do it, and although you've got the basics down, you feel like you constantly need to step up your game.
Your Twitter strategy and execution are solid. You've read billions of articles on the topic, you know your business objectives for Twitter, and you watch your competitors' tweets. You're using it to listen to what people are saying about your brand, you're having a true dialogue with your followers, and you're extending your Twitter presence to include promotions, contests, customer service, and more.
So, what's next? How do you keep your Twitter presence engaging and memorable as more companies step up their Twitter game? Here are a few ideas from the Twitter frontier.
Don't put your followers to sleep with marketing speak. If your Twitter voice sounds like a robot with no distinct personality, you're not being true to your brand, and you're not getting the attention of your audience.
JetBlue has often brought humor into its tweets in order to show the personality of its brand. Before Comic-Con, someone on Twitter joked that JetBlue had a 30 percent surcharge on all furries who fly with JetBlue. Then @JetBlue quipped in response, "no 30% surcharge for furries, but if in costume, they must be able to fit in a pet carrier under the seat!"
Old Navy has a standard Twitter account with all the promotions and news you'd expect. But it also has a few accounts for Old Navy mannequins that were featured in TV ads a while back. The mannequins gab with over-the-top personality and wit. I particularly like @OldNavyKelly, who describes herself as a "self admitted poser," and @OldNavyHeather from the U.K.
Another way of bringing personality is to create public Twitter Lists of your brand's or employees' favorite things. This could be a list of favorite nearby businesses, restaurants, vacation spots, celebrities, and so on.
You have followers because they want to be associated with your brand. To ensure that they feel connected and special, give them access to exclusive content. In addition to providing special offers (which are quite effective), you could also post inside information, behind-the-scenes stories, and even first dibs on special events. Your followers are disproportionately likely to be existing customers, so talk to them like in-the-know friends, not strangers.
Kitchenette, a creative lunch place, sells "spontaneous organic covert nourishment" out of a garage in San Francisco. Lunch varies every day, so it uses Twitter to give customers the inside track on what's being served. Similarly, @AlbionsOven lets customers know when the bread is fresh.
When BeFlurt adds new products to its ecommerce site, followers are sometimes the first to know.
Special offers via Twitter continue to drive attention, traffic, and sales. But have you considered using Twitter to target a subset of your audience? Like any marketing channel, Twitter isn't necessarily good for one-size-fits-all messaging.
TwitterMoms consists of thousands of moms who are on Twitter and talking about everything you can imagine. Brands like Lands' End and CVS are working within the site to promote their products through contests and giveaways. This subset of the Twitterverse is a perfect target for brands that want to focus on a specific segment.
Here's another idea: Use Twitter to find prospects that particularly match the type of customer you want, then send them private special offers. The Roger Smith in New York recently did this by monitoring Twitter for certain types of travellers coming to New York, then offering them a 10 percent discount on hotel rooms. This targeted promotion quickly brought in new revenue and new loyal customers.
This one is simple but often forgotten: When your followers speak or act in support of your brand, give them a treat.
My favorite example is from P.F. Chang's. When a customer in a restaurant tweeted positively about a chicken lettuce wrap, a Twitter watcher at P.F. Chang's headquarters on the other side of the country noticed and called the specific restaurant. The manager there found this particular customer and gave her a free wrap and dessert. Imagine the customer's surprise and increased brand loyalty. Imagine the additional word of mouth that resulted, both from the customer and from people like me retelling this story. Small rewards go a long way.
A more common technique is to reward customers with discounts or points for tweeting about you. Tasti D-Lite, which wants to expand across the U.S. and raise brand awareness, rewards customers with TreatCards when they talk about the brand on Twitter.
It's commonly recognized that your followers are your most promising advocates, and that you've succeeded when they transform from listeners to talkers about your brand. For many followers, feeling like they're part of your brand is a key factor in whether they'll advocate for you. And one of the best ways to make followers feel like part of the family is to embrace them publicly.
Don't just talk with your followers. Brag about them. Celebrate them on Twitter, and even better, outside of Twitter, on your site, in your catalog, on your office walls. Treat them like the loving family members they want to be. You could honor one follower each day -- or one great tweet -- and create a hall of fame. You could create a Twitter List of your most vocal and supportive followers. You could use your followers and their words in your marketing materials.
Here's a specific example: @americanapparel had a follower who sent photos of his pregnant wife wearing American Apparel clothing. American Apparel loved the photos and sent free clothes to the new mom. In addition, the brand got permission to use the photos as the basis for a new ad campaign targeting soon-to-be moms. Customers aren't just fans; they can also be co-creators of your brand.
Imagine other ways in which you can celebrate your followers. KDDI, a large wireless carrier in Japan, created a parade on its site to visualize the followers of any brand or keyword.
Twitter continues to evolve, and brands must continue to evolve in how they use it. Because Twitter is more of a conversation channel than a marketing channel, customers' expectations of you will continue to rise. They want memorable experiences, they want to feel special and rewarded, and they want to feel part of your brand. The payoff can be great, if you're ready to step up the conversation.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.