Thursday, December 10, 2015

Social Media Marketing 101: How to Write Better Tweets

(Second in Think Janusian's ongoing series on social media marketing.)

Twitter tweets are a great way to publish just-breaking news and information about your company and its services. Since the social network was established in 2006, Twitter's features and the way it is being used have both changed significantly. For example, mobile device use has become more ubiquitous over time, adding to Twitter's ability to immediately convey information and opinions. Yet at the same time, new tools have emerged to allow users to schedule their "spontaneous" tweets in advance. Followers have seen just about everything on Twitter and are more sensitive to obvious marketing efforts there. What your target audience continues to respond to, however, is content that encourages engagement and lively exchanges with its creator (and the greater online community). Audiences also respond to helpful information that's freely given "with no strings attached." While people may provide their e-mail address to get a "special report," they typically won't give up most information about themselves without a reasonable expectation of receiving something of far greater value in exchange for that information.

header artwork for article on writing better tweets


We know that you don't have all day to spend on your social media programs and that your main focus is properly on the products and services you sell. So here's a list of the hard-knocks lessons we've learned so far from our own Twitter experience... with no strings attached:

Keep it personal (within limits.) Social media is all about personal relationships -- even though they may be created and nurtured online. While your followers may be sitting in front of a computer or using their mobile device to contact you, they still want to get to know you as a person, not just as a brand or sales critter. Speak to your followers the way you would a trusted friend. But at the same time, be smart about what you post online. For example, don't give out confidential client information or your own trade secrets. When in doubt, imagine yourself at dinner with a new acquaintance and your tweets are how you speak to him or her. Would you spend the entire time hard-selling? Would you share information even your best friends don't know? Let common sense be your guide.

Strike the right balance of content. You'll want to mix it up: some links to articles you wrote yourself that your followers will find useful and/or interesting, some retweets of other people's content you think your followers will find useful and/or interesting, some original soundbytes your followers will find useful and/or interesting... notice a recurring theme? While it's alright to occasionally use Twitter to sell your products and services, don't overwhelm your audience with a never-ending series of tweets that are nothing more than links to your product page. At best, you'll annoy your followers; at worst, you'll lose hard-earned followers. (We learned this the hard way on Black Friday.) Even if your followers stay, they'll learn to ignore your relentless sales pitches as nothing more than white noise.

Retweet the right way. Don't just mindlessly republish to your followers: try to add a brief reason of ***why*** you think the retweet contains valuable information to your followers. This establishes you as a thought leader and an authority, not just an information "middle man" or "traffic cop". (We're guilty ourselves of quick retweets from time to time, when its either that or no tweet at all. But we try to add valuable context wherever possible.)

Be nice and polite (at least most of the time). We try to always thank new followers in a tweet referencing them by Twitter handle / username. We do this for many reasons. First, out of all the millions and millions of possible people and organizations to follow, they chose us. We're flattered and grateful and we don't take it for granted that they'll always follow us. Second, it lets our other followers know we're growing and introduces them to a business that ***they*** may want to follow, too. And finally, the "thank you" tweet shows up on their Twitter feed and introduces THEIR followers to ***us***. A high percentage of our new followers appreciate our "thank you" tweets and like and/or favorite the message. This means more exposure for everyone. When is it time to put away the white gloves? When someone is engaging in clearly libelous activity or cyberbullying. Stand up for yourself, but know when to let it go. As the old saying goes, "Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon - no matter how good you are, the pigeon will still crap all over the board and strut around like it won anyway."

Don’t link all your social media accounts together. Many social media marketers will likely disagree with our position on this, but we're still digging in our heels. While some people like the convenience of sending out information once and having it show up across their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts at the same time, we think it's lazy (and that it shows, kind of like sending out a pre-printed Christmas card without adding a hand-written personalized message inside.) What might be the perfect posting frequency on Twitter may look unprofessional or "crazy stalker" to your LinkedIn followers. Plus, each social network has its own personality and community: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If someone took the time to follow you on Twitter, make it worth their while to continue to do so.

Be smart about who you follow. Unlike some others, we don't think we necessarily have to follow everyone who follows us. If someone "unfollows" you simply because you won't follow them back, they were never following you for the right reason to begin with. The tweets of everyone you follow will show up in your own feed, which could make it harder for you to locate and use the valuable content. Don't make it any harder on yourself than it has to be. We follow people and organizations because they intrigue us and help us further our mission. And we especially love people who favorite and retweet our content: we blow them lots of online hugs and kisses.

You do NOT have to tweet non-stop. Some marketers will tell you that you only have 2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes to capture someone's attention and that after that time, the tweet is useless. While that may be true for riding the "trending" wave, it's not always an accurate conclusion. For example, when I look at someone's tweets before deciding whether to follow them, I go back 6 or 8 months to ensure their tweets won't "junk up" my feed. Several times, I've found valuable articles and advice there. Never underestimate the long-lasting value of your tweets.

Use the "delete tweet" function to clean up your tweet chronology. Again, this is advice that many marketers would disagree with. However, there are many reasons to edit your tweets ruthlessly. For example, if you discontinue a product, there's no need to keep tweets regarding it. Or if your company has changed positions on something, delete the earlier-inconsistent tweets: it's just confusing to everyone. Hire/promotion tweets about someone who later left your company are other good candidates for deletion. It's a good idea to review your tweet chronology by reading it start to finish the way a new follower would. Do your postings send out the right message? Are your tweets laden with typos? While you can't edit tweets, you can always delete the misspelled entries (and repost them with everything spelled correctly, if the tweet is still relevant.) We also perform "revisionist history" across all our social network accounts (like Facebook and Instagram) for these same reasons.

Understand that it's impossible to please everyone. Never compromise yourself or your company trying to assuage the feelings of a few disgruntled followers. Again, this is like playing chess with the chicken. And when you think about it, do ***you*** agree with everything you read online?


What lessons have you learned from being on Twitter? Please share your experiences below.


Lynne Guimond Sabean has more than 20 years experience marketing a variety of products and services for companies of all sizes. She is co-founder of Think Janusian (, which offers social media marketing services to artists and other businesses.

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