Can Twitter make a difference in your business? Can any good come out of the short messaging service limited to 140 characters per "tweet"?
(Please note the above paragraph [and this 1] is exactly 139 characters, including spaces. So you can express complex ideas in short form.)
Author and web strategist J. S. McDougall is tired of business people being so dubious about the value of Twitter. That's why he wrote his new, delightfully short book, #Tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community, just published by O'Reilly Media.
McDougall starts out by saying the Twitter is not a marketing channel, and shouldn't be used as one. "It is a place where interested, engaged and influential people connect." Getting to know these people and building trust with them can help you build a community of interest that will in turn help your business grow.
Here are four of the 25 ways McDougall suggests you build community:
- Hold a user contest like they do for radio listeners. For instance, once a week you could announce that the fourth (or 10th, or 20th) person that day to tweet a link to a product on your site will win a free product. This would increase your Twitter followers' interest in your products, and promote your products to the people who follow the contest participants. Expect participation to start slowly, but to grow week by week.
- Use Twitter for market research. "Invite your followers into your decision-making process," says McDougall. You might ask them which logo they like better, or what color they think your next product should be. You can choose to follow this advice or not. If you are serious about this market research, you could use Twitter to link respondents to more sophisticated services, such as SurveyMonkey.
"Involving your Twitter followers in your process," says McDougall, "will build more of a relationship with your most likely customers than ever could have been built with a press release or commercial."
- Offer prizes to customers who tweet about their purchases. Write up a page on your website letting customers know that if they tweet about what they buy on your website, (and include an appropriate hashtag in the post, such as #yournamehere), that you will send them a special bonus product. (McDougall suggests it be "Buy One, Get One Free," but that seems excessive to me.) Tweet about the deal to your followers, and let them know exactly what you expect, e.g. "Just bought some fabulous cider (URL for the product) at www.yourstore.com. #BOGO"
- Encourage your followers to retweet your tweets. For instance, once a week you could hold a "Random Retweet Riot" in which you let your followers know that everyone who redistributes one of your Twitter posts to their own followers will be entered in a draw for a cool prize. That way your messages reach not just your own followers, but also their followers—whom McDougall calls your "second-order" followers. "They are the audience that represents exponential growth."
There are many more ideas in #tweetsmart. "The book is my answer to anyone who was ever asked the question, 'OK, I've got my Twitter account. Now what do I do?'" says McDougall. He hopes that by using focus, research, and a little strategy and creativity, you'll find out how powerful Twitter can be at building communities of interest.