Twitter for Companies

June 14, 2011 by Daniel Hardt

It’s time: Some 50% of the profiles are linked to businesses (screenshot: Bing)

It’s time: Some 50% of the profiles are linked to businesses (screenshot: Bing)

Twitter is a key part of the Web 2.0. Users pass on articles from the Internet using special messages – known as tweets – while companies carry out marketing, customer care, and service activities. The speed with which information can be spread with the help of the little blue bird (the Twitter emblem) is even said to have triggered political upheavals.

With Twitter, which can be defined as a microblogging tool, companies can maximize their success and – in particular – analyze and measure their results. Setting up an account is simple. But be careful: You need time and expertise to use Twitter effectively. SAP.info has put together a guide to the Twitter universe for you and will show you some scenarios for use in a business environment.

Getting started is easy

The first steps involve setting up an account, selecting a profile photo, drawing up a short biography, and adjusting the background.

For the name of the account, it’s best to choose the name of the company and/or the area (help, support, or something similar) to which the Twitter channel should be dedicated. Note that the name should be as short as possible, because a tweet cannot be any longer than 140 characters and the name of the original sender must be included in the tweet if it is forwarded by other users.

The profile image can be a photo or a logo. A photo makes sense if just one person is in charge of the user account. A photo gives the impression of proximity, because you can see a real contact person. If the account is for an entire department, a logo or a symbol is a better choice.

For the biography or description, there are 160 characters available. The background can be customized using .jpg or .png files that do not exceed 800 KB. This is made easier by Free Twitter Designer or TwitBacks.

Next pages:

SAP.info on Twitter: On the left are the tweets from the profiles being followed

SAP.info on Twitter: On the left are the tweets from the profiles being followed

Follow me!

Twitter thrives on viral networking – so it’s best to get as many followers as possible. Ideally, these followers are also highly active and cover similar topics or are related to your company in some way. Followers are other Twitter users who have subscribed to your tweets, which then appear in their profile. Tweets are sorted and displayed in real time and chronologically.

To get your first followers, Twitter combs your e-mail account for other Twitter users. They don’t automatically follow you, but you can follow them. As a result, the users are informed that you are following them, and so they often do the same in return. The reason for this is more information and increasing dissemination.

Their tweets contain information that can be directly “retweeted” to your followers, which improves the quality of your own account. At the same time, every Twitter profile shows a list of followers, so other people become aware of you. And last but not least: The number of followers is a criterion for search engines and rankings of the most successful – in other words, most followed – tweeter.

Strategies to find more followers:

  • Follow everyone who follows you
  • Look for relevant profiles in follower lists and using key words in the Twitter search engines
  • Follow profiles that have lots of followers or send a message to attract attention

So that you don’t lose track, we recommend sorting contacts according to topic once you reach a certain volume. These can be made public or kept for confidential use only.

Twitter abbreviations

Some abbreviations are indispensable for all Twitter users:

  • RT@Username: This comes in front of a retweet, which is a message from a user that another user forwarded to their followers.
  • #keyword: The hashtag – or hash symbol – tags a word as a key word. If you enter the term in the Twitter search engine, you’ll find the right article. In accordance with Twitter etiquette, each message can have a maximum of three hashtags.
  • getTwittername: This finds the last message from a certain user.
  • @Twittername: This is used for a direct message to a user, which all followers can see.
  • dTwittername: This is used for a private message that only the recipient can read.
The vastness of the Twitter universe with its tools and plugins (screenshot: Brian Solis & JESS3)

The vastness of the Twitter universe with its tools and plugins (screenshot: Brian Solis & JESS3)

Tools for the beginner

In the Twitter universe, there’s a myriad of tools and plugins. Most of all users will be interested in tools for administration, media content, and analysis. Here’s a selection of little helpers – which are free of charge, unless otherwise stated.

Make URLs shorter: URLs are long. If you want to link to a page and you only have 140 characters, you’ll often need to shorten them. Tiny.url, bit.ly, and snipurl are perfect for completing this task.

Media content: It’s not only possible to link to videos and photos, but you can also call them up directly in Twitter. Twitpic, flickr, and twitgoo offer this service for photos, while Twitlens and TwitVid provide it for videos. According to the Twitter help center, YouTube videos can be displayed directly in the Twitter details pane. Twileshare can be used for handling PDFs and Word documents. And if you’re looking for pictures on Twitter, PicFog is what you need.

Administration: With Splitweet, several accounts can be managed centrally. However, the allrounders Tweetdeck and HootSuite offer even more options. You can use them to manage accounts and shorten URLs, they have a filing system, and can be deployed on mobile devices. Tracking functions are also included. In addition to Twitter, they can be used to manage other social media platforms, such as Facebook.

Analysis and tracking: Twitter has its own Twitter Advanced Search, which is a sophisticated search engine with many options. Twittercounter and Twitalyzer gather statistics and perform analyses. If you want more functions, you have to pay for them. The advantage of Twitalyzer is that it’s closely integrated with the free Web analysis tool Google Analytics. Twilert, on the other hand, provides e-mail updates of tweets containing your company’s product, brand, and services. If you want to dig deeper and are prepared to pay for it, Alterian SM2 and Trackur provide more specialized tools for social media monitoring.

Real-time search: SocialMention, Topsy, Twazzup, and Bing Social search Twitter and, in some cases, also other social media platforms like a search engine would.

Other tools: Tweetmeme is a plugin for Web sites or blogs that enables visitors to the site to press a button and access twitter content without actually visiting Twitter itself. Twtpoll creates surveys with Twitter, while TweetAdder is available for a fee and looks for suitable followers using key words.

Analysis using Twittercounter (screenshot: Twittercounter)

Analysis using Twittercounter (screenshot: Twittercounter)

Example: Dell Outlet has more than 1.5 million followers (screenshot: Twitter)

Example: Dell Outlet has more than 1.5 million followers (screenshot: Twitter)

Guide to boosting business

But the question of what all this tweeting can bring your company remains. Twitter is communication and information. Companies reach out to their customers, acquire new ones, and enter into dialogs. You can boost your reputation and your profile. If you don’t talk about yourself, others will talk about you – and you won’t be able to influence what they say. At the same time, Twitter is an excellent source of information about trends and opinions – provided that you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here are the most popular reasons for using Twitter in a business environment:

Increasing sales: Vouchers, discounts, competitions, the presentation of new products, or special offers that are only available through Twitter constitute added value that followers appreciate.

Customer service: Companies can react to questions immediately. The answers can be seen by everyone and therefore help other customers who may have similar questions. This often gives rise to discussions and in some industries – especially the IT sector – followers take on tasks and help each other. At the same time, you can find out whether customers like your products and where there might be room for improvement.

Raising awareness: Added value for followers leads to an active community and increases the awareness of brands, products, and companies. If you link your Twitter account to your corporate Web site, blog, and other social media platforms, you’ll create a viral effect that ensures you get greater attention. For such purposes, news beyond your product portfolio is also suitable, for example, about social activities or events. This improves your corporate image and strengthens your relationship with your followers.

Customer acquisition: If you keep a close eye on your competitors and what’s going on in the industry, you’ll eventually find dissatisfied customers venting their anger. And if you can provide them with advice and alternatives at the right time, you may well have a new order in the pipeline.

Official communication channel: Press releases and other official statements can also be disseminated using Twitter. Even press conferences have been held using it, to give a wide audience the opportunity to ask questions. This can be particularly interesting for IT companies, because Twitter enables you to reach a specific – that is, technology-oriented – audience. It’s important to note that, unlike with the classic channels, communication is a two-way thing. If you ask about new products and ideas, your followers will say what they think and you’ll need to react. Otherwise, there’s the danger of annoyance being expressed online and you’ll become less popular.

Personalization: Give your company a face. Employees can become opinion leaders for business topics or they can tweet stories from behind the scenes at your company. But first, of course, you need to determine who does what and clarify what information should not be revealed.

Coming soon on SAP.info: Food for thought: examples of companies who used Twitter to increase sales, awareness, and customer satisfaction.

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