Using Twitter as a Marketing Tool

A friend recently asked me about ways his clients could use the power of social networks. As I was explaining to him the nuances of socnets as marketing tools, it occurred to me that Twitter could be used as a powerful marketing weapon. Imagine being able to immediately reach your clients with breaking news at zero cost.

Here are some examples, for different industries:

  • Retail: inform clients of new promotions, sales, time-limited offers, etc.
  • Real Estate: post new properties the moment they come on the market.
  • News: breaking news, behind the scenes info, insights into developing stories.

In this context, it’s no different than an RSS feed to which your readers subscribe – except that Twitter is somehow more immediate, and more personal than an RSS feed. Twitter, you see, is a two-way communications medium, whereas RSS is one way.

I searched the internet for more examples of people using Twitter in this context. One company using this is Woot.com, a website where you can buy items at ridiculous prices during a short amount of time (and very small inventories). I subscribed to Woot’s Twitter feed to check it out: Woot broadcasts the latest deals via Twitter. If you’re into the whole Woot thing, you’ll want to be informed as quickly as possible about new deals, as they usually go quite fast. Receiving a short tweet (that’s what a Twitter message is called) on your cellphone or Twitter app is preferable to constantly checking the Woot home page. After all, some of us have work to do.

Woot’s Twitter solution is as simple as it gets. You subscribe, you receive a tweet every time a new product comes up for sale (or when a product sells out). It’s one way (you don’t get to talk back), but who wants to talk to an automated script anyway?

Guy Kawasaki also uses Twitter as a marketing tool, this time to advertise new posts that appear on his Truemors website. But he sends too many tweets throughout the day and he won’t automatically add you to his list, which means you can’t talk back to him.

Robert Scoble, of Scobelizer fame does get it. He doesn’t send too many tweets, and he will automatically add you to his Twitter list if you add him to yours. Seems to me like the right thing to do. I certainly don’t want to be listening to someone’s tweets if I can’t reach back to him when I want to follow up on something he said.

NBC’s Jim Long uses his Twitter account to share behind-the-scenes looks while he’s off on secret media tours to Iraq or following President Bush to Australia. Though he won’t automatically add you to his list (so that you can tweet him), I get the feeling he would if you ask nice enough (and I suppose Guy Kawasaki would too. The problem with this it that you need to be able to contact them through some other means, as it’s not possible through the Twitter interface). Jim does, however, post a little too much as he tries to keep the conversation on a very personal level. [UPDATE: Jim’s mentioned on the comments that he does automatically follow people on Twitter.]

Here’s a short list of Dos and Don’ts if you plan on using Twitter as a marketing tool:

  1. Do use Twitter to sell your products, ideas, offers, insights, etc.
  2. Do advertise your Twitter account on your website, business card and marketing literature. Here’s mine.
  3. Do create a conversation. Add your users to your Twitter account. Let those who listen to you, talk to you.
  4. Don’t spam. Really. You don’t have to post everything to Twitter… your important messages will get lost amid the junk. If yours is a high-volume Twitter channel, let users know before hand.
  5. Don’t rely on Twitter 100%. Twitter’s service has been down a lot lately. Use Twitter as one more tool in your social media toolbox.

What about you? How do you use Twitter?

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