Social Commerce: To Tweet or Not to Tweet (Do's and Don'ts of Tweeting for Your Brand)

Written by Scott NesbittMarch 30, 2011

These days, using social media to promote your brand and business isn't an option. It's a must. And one of the most effective ways to do that is by using Twitter. Used properly, Twitter is a fantastic channel for engaging customers and for building both buzz and a wider customer base. Used badly, Twitter can be the hot stove that burns the hand of your brand.

Regardless of what some people say, there really are no hard and fast rules for social media. And there are no rules for tweeting your brand. Well, aside from not annoying or boring everyone. And with that in mind, here's some advice on what and what not to do to effectively tweet your brand.

Remember that it's a conversation

Sure, you're there to promote your brand or business or product. But if that's all you do, followers and potential followers will get the impression that you're spamming them. And that's fatal. The ideas is to engage your followers. To do that, you need to listen and interact with them.

It's OK to plug your products and services every so often. But Twitter really is for building reputation and trust. Give your followers information that they can use -- links to tutorials, tips for best practices, information about specials. Look at the Twitter feed of personal finance site Mint.com. The company points readers to blog posts, promotions, and more.

And, wherever possible, don't ignore @mentions aimed at your Twitter account. Those are customers or potential customers who are reaching out to you. They may have praise. They may have questions. They may have complaints or misgivings. Responding to them in a civil, caring tone can do wonders. It's your chance to enchant them. Don't blow it.

Don't flood Twitter

On Twitter, spamming isn't only continually crowing how great your brand is. Spamming also involves the number of tweets, no matter focused they are, that you post each day. Especially if those tweets are repetitive or don't contain anything engaging or intriguing.

Try to ration your tweets. Post fresh tweets, at most, once or twice an hour. And during business hours when a portion of your customer base will be on line. When replying to @mentions, feel free to post more.

How about tweeting after hours? Unless you have a team of people working in different time zones or doing overnight shifts (like the Internet, Twitter never sleeps), you might want to consider scheduling tweets outside of business hours. Services like Cotweet and Twaitter, among others, can help you do that. But try to keep the schedule tweets to a minimum.

It's not all about you

This goes back to making your tweets informative and useful. Don't just point people back to your Web site. Feel free to point them to useful information that's somewhere else on the Web. That somewhere else could be a competitor's Web site, a customer's blog, a newspaper article, and more. Not only are you giving people more information, you're giving them more choice. And you're giving them a way compare your brand, business, or product with others.

And don't be afraid to retweet anything that your customers and competitors have to say on Twitter. It's not about the source, it's about the value of the information. 

Speak the same language that your customers do

No one likes to read corporate speak or anything filled with jargon and acronyms. It smacks of dishonesty, tired thinking, and a distinct lack of passion. If you don't, or can't, speak about your brand passionately then no one else will either. So make sure that your tweets are in plain and easy-to-understand language. Tweet in the way you'd speak.

Well, up to a point. Slang, profanity, and Internet speak are no-nos. Keep your tweets loose and casual -- as if you were speaking to a friend or co-worker. But use proper grammar, too. 

If you find yourself going over Twitter's 140 character limit, use a URL shortener to compress links. When necessary, take advantage of a service like Tweet Extend or TwitLonger to cram a little more in. Again, don't overuse services like this. Try to keep your brand's Twitter experience on Twitter.

Don't forget your profile

If you're an up-and-coming brand, or an established company making a move into the world of social media, you'll want to put your best face forward on Twitter. And that's where a good profile comes in. Your profile should capture what your brand is about -- who you are and what you do.

Include a URL that points back to your Web site, blog, or Facebook fan page. Spend a little time or a little money on creating a background image that captures the spirit of your company. And, most importantly, use your logo as your avatar. Doing all that identifies your brand and keeps it at the front of peoples' minds.

Final thoughts

There's definitely a lot more to tweeting your brand. But by following the advice in the paragraphs above you'll get off to a good start when you move your brand into the Twittersphere. Properly using Twitter to promote your brand or business takes some work. But the potential rewards are definitely worth the effort. 

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