Twitter Tips for Social Media Managers

I hate shopping. (No, it is true. I really do.) Everyone is supposed to have a go-to “favorite” pair of jeans, but finding those “favorite” pair of jeans can be a difficult experience. On a Saturday evening in the spring of 2010, I went shopping for a pair of jeans at Express. After finding my local suburban mall only carried size 0 or 14, I decided to purchase something else to satiate my need for shopping. On the receipt, I noticed that you could do this thing called “tweet” at the “CMO” of Express. Earlier, in 2009, I had signed up for Twitter — but rarely used it.

Normally, this would be at the point where any retail customer would be no longer a customer. Instead, I took that receipt, wrote a quick blog post, and signed on to Twitter. By 6 p.m. that Saturday evening, I had received an @reply from the social media manager of Express’ Twitter account, which was based in New York — three hours ahead. By the end of the week, I not only had received a phone call from a marketing assistant, but had received a gift card for a pair of jeans to order online (so I was assured of finding my size). I was also invited to conference calls with its marketing and allocation teams. This may have been in 2010, but this only demonstrates the power of Twitter for both consumers and companies now in 2012.

This is the power for brands via their social media managers to easily communicate with customers. The power to retain customers who each spend thousands of dollars in your store every year with just 140 characters on a Sunday night.

Twitter is quickly becoming an incredibly easy channel for both customer service and reputation management, as communications with customers are public (and, let’s not forget, archived in the Library of Congress). Followers of your customers might see their tweets, and as a result will see your response — especially if the situation is negative. Twitter is your chance as a social media manager to prove the integrity of your product and as a service.

The first thing to keep in mind as a social media manager is that tweets are indexed and searchable not only via Twitter, but third-party apps that utilize Twitter’s API — and, of course, Google as well. If one of your customers, or even a potential customer, uses Twitter to express a negative opinion about your business or brand, any other future, current, or past customer who is searching for your brand can read their thoughts almost instantly. Should they happen to respond or forward those thoughts, that negative commentary can catch on like wildfire — unless, of course, you as a social media manager are standing by to prevent such a PR disaster.

Consumers have already defined Twitter, at least in part, as a customer service channel. Are you, as a social media manager, and the business that you support, ready to use Twitter as one, too? Here are a few ways you can use Twitter to not only help your current customers, but attract new customers (which is really what marketing is all about).

Tell your customers you have a Twitter account. I discovered Express was using Twitter on my receipt. You can encourage your marketing team do something similar, or simply post a flyer in your store where your customers will see it (such as near the register). If you’re a Web-based businesses, be sure to talk with the development team to include an obvious link to your Twitter account on your homepage. Developing positive relationships with customers on Twitter is critical to demonstrating the integrity of your brand when potential customers search for you, which can increase conversion rates.

Use your Twitter account (and I don’t mean as an an advertising platform.) Be sure not to just tweet about your business (such as your own blog posts, links to products, etc). As a a social media manager, you should be sharing interesting blog articles related to your business and always making sure you’re responding to others who send you @mentions or reply to you. Sharing and retweeting juicy stories is a great way to increase awareness of your company and gain more targeted followers, which can thereby generate buzz about your products and services on both Twitter and in search results. The final result? An eventual increase in not only awareness, but profits, which will demonstrate that social media is a valuable tool for your company and, thereby, job security for you.

Monitor your Twitter account. Depending on the size of your business, you may need multiple social managers to watch the company’s media channels, including Twitter, 24/7 — including holidays. This is the case for businesses like airlines and many other Fortune 500 companies that operate around the clock. A PR disaster can unravel in just minutes, especially if you, as a social media manager, are not there to respond. Proper staffing can not only prevent loss of customers, but ensure you don’t lose future customers when these potentially negative tweets get indexed by search engines.

Use Twitter. If your definition of ROI is centered around simply building more awareness, you can gain more followers on Twitter by not only engaging with users, but also by following relevant search terms and hashtags. For example, if Express follows jeans and fashion related terms, and responds to questions and engages with Twitter users talking about these terms, this helps these Twitter users solve their problems, which will generate more followers for Express as the brand establishes itself as an authority interested in helping others ahead of just simply driving sales.

It’s important to point out that social media managers will each measure different goals. However, many similar tools can be used to measure these different goals. Social media managers must first set these goals, which should be measurable, before engaging a social media strategy. These can range from just acquiring more followers than before you started the campaign, to creating more conversations, or acquiring more customers than before, to being more profitable than the prior year. Before you begin your social media campaign, take the pulse of your current measurements, such as what’s being said on Twitter or noting your current state of finances. Only afterward should you implement your strategy. Then, at defined intervals (say 3, 6, and 9 months), take the pulse again to see if what’s being done is effective as defined by your specific goals.

When ready to implement a strategy, social media managers can use tools like Radian6 and HootSuite Analytics to configure goal tracking and execute and monitor social media campaigns. HootSuite is an especially great tool for social media managers with the ability to assign social media tasks to specific users with specific permission levels and monitor a brand’s keywords, messages, and even competitors to help monitor those conversations. HootSuite can even generate custom reports to help you measure your goals. While Radian6 is great for big brands and enterprise level use, HootSuite can be scaled for anyone from social media managers to enterprise level use. There are also dozens of free and freemium apps to help monitor Twitter campaigns, including Simply Measured, TwentyFeet, and Refollow.

If you’re a social media manager, what tips do you have for others in the industry to help manage their Twitter accounts? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.