The micro blogging site Twitter has generated plenty of buzz lately and all from the simple question: “What are you doing now?” Those who use the site have 140 characters or less to respond to the question. Members “follow” other members, and vice-versa, to stay up-to-date on what everyone is doing. Many real estate pros have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, using it as a way to connect with clients. In the book Twitter Power (Wiley, 2009), authors Joel Comm and Ken Burge show how individuals and organizations can use it as a marketing tool and how such short “tweets” can even land new business. BUY THE BOOK
FROM THE BOOK: 5 WAYS TO USE TWITTER FOR BUSINESS
When you use Twitter for business reasons, you want to “blend in” and make sure your messages don’t come across as blatant sales pitches, or you could face a backlash from followers, the authors write. Your goal for using Twitter should be to make your business stand out and turn your customers into a community.
“Your Twitter timeline is not a sales page,” Comm and Burge write. “Gripping headlines and hard call-to-actions on Twitter are more likely to drive people away than drive them to buy. Your Tweets need to be subtle. They have to build interest and trust. Only then will your followers feel that doing what you want them to do will be worth their while. ”
Here are five tips from the book on using Twitter for business.
1. Make yourself personable. You want your messages, or “tweets,” to be written in a laid-back tone that creates the impression that you’re chatting with others. “Businesses that tweet like a corporate executive addressing a board meeting will … scream that they have no idea what they’re doing—or who they’re talking to,” the authors write.
To help make your Twitter account more personable, use a photo or an icon that represents your business instead of your company’s logo as your Twitter image. For example, Southwest Airlines uses an image of its planes’ tail and the sky as its background; Comcast’s Twitter.com/comcastcares uses a human face and tweets in an informal, friendly tone.
2. Give your tweet the “who cares?” test. If you just repainted your office or grabbed a donut on your way to the kitchen, should you really tweet about it? You’ll read a lot of random thoughts from Twitterers, but if you’re using it to land new business, think before you tweet.
“News announcements that affect the reader are always going to be the most interesting,” the authors write. “The best way to handle news for branding, then, is to mix it in with other kinds of content and to add a personal comment so that it sounds like its coming from a real person, not from a company. ”
If you’re tweeting on behalf of a company, keep it human, but not too personal, the authors write. And if you’re tweeting on behalf of a personal brand, you might include random thoughts (e.g., the donuts on the way to the kitchen) but keep them limited and mix them in with helpful tweets.
3. Build a following. Once you’re using Twitter, of course, you’ll want others to be reading and responding to your messages. So how can you build a strong following? Simply, start following others. Reciprocal following is like good manners in the Twitter universe so those who you follow will likely start following you. Follow the major Twitterers and reply to their tweets with interesting, valuable information. Others will notice your comments and reciprocate.
4. Find who’s talking about you and your business. You might want to reply to others who appear to have an interest in your topic. Try using Twellow (the site allows you to find who’s talking about what in a field or topic) or use TweetBeep (to receive alerts for keywords you set). You might want to use these sites so you receive alerts for mentions of your business name, blog, Twitter name, or topics such as “real estate” or “short sales.”
5. Know your audience. Offer advice and solutions to Twitterers who pose questions or are struggling with something in your field of expertise. This also helps you build a core group of followers. If you have a real estate blog, you might want to use Twitter to provide quick notices about upcoming blog posts and what you’re working on. Include links to your blog or Web site where your followers can read more. Just watch out for linking overload: If you want to increase the odds that your followers will click on a link that you offer on Twitter, make sure to limit links in your tweets so they don’t suffer from click fatigue.
Try to tweet at least once a day—and ideally, more often that that—if you’re using it as a branding tool so you’ll build community and develop momentum, the authors suggest.
“What on Earth can you put in 140 characters that could possibly be worth reading? Surely you can’t promote products, build a brand, generate interest in your company, and keep people reading with such small amounts of content? The answers it turns out, are ‘a lot’ and ‘yes, you really can!’ Twitter has proven itself to be incredibly addictive and, for business owners, very valuable too.
“Ever since I stumbled onto Twitter, I’ve spent many hours thumb-typing messages. I do it frequently and I love it. It’s fantastic fun, like writing a personal blog but without the effort. The pleasure alone would be enough reason for me to recommend Twitter, but Twitter isn’t just good fun. It’s also proven to be a very important and easy way of finding new users and customers, a powerful networking tool, and an excellent way of picking up useful information.
“It ‘s helped me to build deeper relationships with my partners, my clients, and other entrepreneurs. It’s extended the reach of my brand, making the name of my business known to people who might never otherwise have heard of it. It’s brought me advice and suggestions from experts I couldn’t have reached any other way. It brings me a steady stream of additional Web site users and provides a channel for me to alert people who have visited my sites when I’ve uploaded new content. And it’s brought me some fascinating reading and a bunch of wonderful new friends, too.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Twitter guru Joel Comm (@joelcomm) is a speaker on Internet marketing and business. He is also the author of The AdSense Code (Morgan James Publishing, 2006) and Click Here to Order (Morgan James Publishing, 2008).
Co-author Ken Burge (@KenBurge) is president of InfoMedia Inc. and also an expert on online marketing. He is an eight-year veteran of Microsoft.
Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.