Those of us trying to figure out how to leverage social media/marketing
tools have been waiting to see which of these platforms will thrive and
which will wither on the vine.
Those of us trying to figure out how to leverage social media/marketing tools have been waiting to see which of these platforms will thrive and which will wither on the vine. Facebook, Twitter, Four Square, Pinterest…if we were to use all of them, we’d never have time to run our businesses. Who are we kidding? We barely have time to do it all even if we just picked one or two to focus on. Fortunately, that’s exactly the best strategy, and what’s even better – there are wonderful free tools to help time-starved business owners get into the social marketing game.
Using these tools effectively and efficiently requires a three-pronged approach. First, focus. This means you should not try to jump on each and every emerging social media invention. Once the hot new tools are created – they are copied and tweaked by many developers but in the end, the smaller sites aren’t widely read by your customers so jumping on the bandwagon is a waste of time. Twitter may be a granddaddy of social media tools but it’s the one with the largest reach, so your time is likely best spent here for now. Twitter is what’s known as “micro-blogging.” It’s a tool to blast out to people who “follow” you as you post 140-character messages. It’s popular and becoming even more popular rapidly. “As of February 2012, some 15% of online adults use Twitter, and 8% do so on a typical day,” reports the Pew Research Centre. “Overall Twitter adoption remains steady, as the 15% of online adults who use Twitter is similar to the 13% of such adults who did so in May 2011. At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011 and has quadrupled since late 2010 – at that point just 2% of online adults used Twitter on a typical day. The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter.”
Your second area of focus should be to define your Twitter content and to assign the responsibility for creating it within your team. The secret here is to divide and conquer. You can create a Twitter profile for your business that allows several people to post “as the business.” By doing it this way, it’s not all on your shoulders to find the time to tweet; it can be a shared effort. If you have a team member who embraces social media, appoint him or he as your communications co-ordinator who looks for “tweetable moments.” Such moments could include that beautiful new cake all set to head off to a wedding or a description of the way the cinnamon rolls smell when just coming out of the oven. Twitter allows customers to feel as if they’re a part of your day and to share “new news” with them.
If you have multiple users and want customers to know who’s tweeting, you can create cotags for them to use at the end. Cotags are short signatures developed to identify different users on the same account. Signatures should be two to three characters so as not to take up much valuable space in the 140-character limit. If you want your customers to connect with the personalities in your business, cotags will help. If you want the focus to be on your business, you may want it to be the “personality” coming through, in which case multiple anonymous posters speaking on behalf of the business is the way to go.
The last area to focus on is on managing the process. Tweeting is one more thing to do and if you have to choose between getting that cake off to the event and taking pictures of it to write a pithy tweet, you’ll likely choose getting the product to the customer. If you have a smartphone, grab a shot of the item. Today’s smart phone cameras take beautiful pictures. Later on, when you have another minute, write the tweet and attach the picture. It doesn’t have to all happen in the same instant but do grab those lovely images when you can as they add depth to your tweets. There are many wonderful social media platforms that allow you to take a block of time and write a number of posts to be released to the wild at times and dates you specify. These platforms stage your tweets and make it appear as though you’re tweeting all week long, when in fact you wrote the messages in one sitting. With names like Hoot Suite, Co-Tweet, Easy Tweet, Twitbot and Splitweet, these tools all allow multiple users to post as well as allow posts to be staged for deployment later and posted to many different platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. They are easy to use and there are lots of online videos and chat rooms to help you get set up and use them. But remember, these tools create a more efficient process and may save time but you might be sacrificing authenticity and spontaneity.
Sharing a cool moment as it’s happening is much more interesting to a follower than a staged message that says “sale today.” A balance of the two approaches is probably best.
Martha Stewart boasts 2.6 million Twitter followers and uses the platform effectively. She’s been known to post recipes, conduct mini surveys and make announcements all with just the 140 characters allotted. She spends five minutes a day tweeting and doesn’t use other people to tweet on her behalf, creating an authentic connection to her audience. Using Twitter doesn’t have to be the time burden it can be perceived to be.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.
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