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The Twitter Trend

Take advantage of social media’s free marketing opportunities.

By now most of you have heard of Twitter, the newest social media phenomenon that is sweeping the Web. It allows you to communicate with your pool of “followers” via 140-character posts or “tweets.” What you might not realize is that Twitter is a great marketing tool that’s becoming more and more useful every day. It allows you to proactively engage customers, whereas a standard Web site is generally reactive. At American Warehouse Systems (AWS), we use Twitter to drive traffic to our blog and then to our Web site. Since we began tweeting, Twitter has become the number one non-search-related driver of traffic to our site. It’s also the number one driver of traffic to the AWS blog.While usage hasn’t evolved to the point where you will be wheeling and dealing, selling equipment on the site, Twitter has become a valuable brand-building tool.

Developing a Following
When starting out on the site, the first thing you need to focus your efforts on is building a following. The idea is to build as large a community of followers (contacts) as you possibly can. However, simply adding anyone you come across isn’t a great strategy. The key is to develop a target audience and find ways to get its attention.

So how do you find the people in your target market? The first thing you should do is to start to follow others. Look for people who either fall into your target audience or people who your target Take advantage of social media’s free marketing opportunities. audience might be interested in. For instance, we do a great deal of contracting with the federal government, so I follow a great deal of military-related people. Then, when one of the people I follow posts something that I find interesting, I can “retweet” or re-post what they said for the rest of my followers to see. I get a twofold benefit. My followers will recognize me as someone who knows about the things that matter to them and then, that person might return the favor sometime in the future.

How do you know who to follow? The Twitter search feature itself is useful, but not comprehensive. To fully maximize your Twitter potential, you should look at the array of third-party platforms out there. One such application that I recommend is Tweet Spinner. It allows you to search for a demographic based on keyword, company or zip code. The application also allows you to view follower “overlaps” with your competitors. It will also give you insight into the quality of each of your followers. The application’s configuration helps you bypass people who tweet too many URLS and who never @reply. Ultimately, all these tools are going to help you build a following that is not just big, but also targeted and high-quality.

Once you have found your target market on Twitter, the next, and perhaps most important, way to grow your following is to position yourself as a person that people in your target market need to follow. You have to be an authority. The most effective way to do this is by writing quality tweets. Many new Twitter users fall into the trap of only using the site to spam links to their Web page. That’s not a good idea. Twitter is a conversation. At its core, it is people interacting. You wouldn’t step into a conversation where people are talking about football and say “Hey, check out my pallet rack.” Don’t do it on Twitter either. As a rule of thumb, I try to make sure only one in every five tweets that I send out are links back to the AWS Web site.

Instead, look for things that your target audience will be interested in. Read an interesting article? Link to it. Hear a good joke or a funny story? Share it. Stumble across a piece of breaking news? Let your followers know about it. If you write valuable tweets, your followers will pay attention to what you’re saying. Then, when you do slip your company link in at a strategic time, your followers are much more likely to click on it.

When you see one of your followers starting a discussion, don’t be afraid to get involved. That’s what Twitter is for. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, respond to it. It will make your followers feel more involved with your company and they will pay more attention to its tweets.

The Future Is Now
As I mentioned previously, Twitter isn’t necessarily a foolproof sales tool yet. I can’t off the top of my head say that we have received a PO specifically because of Twitter. What I can quantify is the effect Twitter has had on building our brand and sending people to our Web sites. Twitter is the number one non-search-engine referrer to the AWS Web site and the overall number one referrer to the AWS blog.

I know some people are still skeptical about Twitter and other social media ventures, but it’s getting to the point where you can’t afford to be. Every company should at the very least have a corporate account. Larger companies may even want to consider an account for every department. The social media train is at the station and it’s time for you to get onboard. Especially in trying times like these, you can’t afford to let any opportunity pass you by. Marketing through social media is the future and the future is now.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Mark Juelich Meet the Author
Mark Juelich is a member of MHEDA’s Board of Directors and executive director of American Warehouse Systems/ToyotaLift MN in Minneapolis, MN, and on the Web at www.aw-systems.com.

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