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Is Twitter the ultimate customer communication channel?

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5th Dec 2013
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A lot of company prospecting, lead-generation and customer relationship management for b2b companies takes place on email. However, the days in which email and phone conversations were the only way to reach prospects and customers are over. The social web is here to stay and over the past year, businesses – both b2b and consumer-facing– have wised-up to how it can be used effectively as an alternative channel for reaching out to and engaging with a business audience.

LinkedIn is often thought of as the truly business-focused social network; however Optify found that while LinkedIn drives 9% of all the social media leads for b2b businesses, 82% come from Twitter. Twitter can be used for early stage precision prospecting and lead generation, for ensuring you maintain a personal and active relationship with your audience, and for managing customer and partner relationships. It can be used for large scale, targeted communication and for speaking to someone one-on-one. Below is some practical advice and best practice on how to do this.

Precision prospecting

An effective way to use Twitter for early stage lead-generation is to use keyword searches to tap into those already talking about relevant topics on the social network. You can then use this information in a variety of ways, from following that person and adding them to a relevant Twitter list, or taking direct action by tweeting to them. This works for both keywords in the tweets and keywords in Twitter bios. Getting a relevant person to follow you back does more than just boost your ego; people are actually 67% more likely to buy something after following the brand on Twitter, according to market research firm CMB and iModerate Research Technologies.

A simple but effective example of this is Dove’s engagement with anyone who mentioned “hair” (in a relevant context) to promote its #hairtherapy campaign and range of products. That meant that anyone relevant who tweeted about getting their hair cut, having a bad hair day, or asking the Twitterverse in general for advice on hair, was pointed in the direction of Dove. Brands could easily put these hair enthusiasts into a Twitter list like ‘beauty advice’ and so be easily connect with them at a later date too.

Businesses can use this tactic quickly and easily – all it needs is a few keywords that you’ve decided to target (which could be an event that’s relevant to your customers or a problem they’re having) and some content as an answer to that keyword. The content could be an invite to your stand at the event where they’ll get a free coffee (and a chance to chat to you), and for the tweeters with an unsolved problem it could be a link to a top tips piece you’ve drafted for people dealing with that issue. In a pretty short space of time you will have not only gained a follower on Twitter, but also positioned yourself firmly in their minds as a trusted source of information that can help their business out.

Engage at the right time, not all the time

Once you’ve found the right people to be engaging with on Twitter, either from precision prospecting or from mapping your existing contacts such as your email and CRM database onto Twitter, you need to decide how to engage with these people on an ongoing basis. While you may have made your Twitter friend at an event by offering them coffee and a chat, if you don’t keep engaging with them on Twitter you will soon be forgotten.

Twitter can seem like a constant stream of noise and people get used to tuning in and out of it instinctively. A few mis-targeted or mis-timed tweets are unlikely to turn people off your tweets forever, however if this becomes a habit people will just see you as part of the ‘background noise’.

The key to success here is engaging at the right time, not all the time. By analysing the tweets, retweets and click-throughs of the people that you follow or that follow you, you can find out when people are more receptive to contact, when they are most likely to reply or click-through, or when they are most likely to retweet and spread your message even further. This task can be made manageable by automating it using a tool such as SocialBro.

Partners in success

So hopefully now you have a relevant and engaged Twitter following that you can chat to with confidence, knowing that you are speaking to the right people for your business. While you’ve been doing this, you’ve also probably noticed that Twitter is a pretty good place to do a bit of gentle showing off.

Every day Twitter is full of people tweeting about what a great day they’ve had or how well a presentation went. While we don’t advocate boring your followers with a #humblebrag (i.e. “Such a busy day today as we’ve so many new prospects coming in to see us!”), we do know that positive news goes down well on the social network. But rather than talking about yourself, remember conversation rule number one – people like to talk about themselves. So link to your customers and talk about them! We’ve called this ‘partners in success’ as this is a chance for you to take other people with you on your ride to the top, using them as examples of best practice or just leaving them with a warm fuzzy feeling after working with you. Doing this in such a public forum will make those customers feel recognised by you.

As well as the strong customer relationships you’re building, this Twitter activity also has another benefit: it allows you to shout about how good you are, and all the different services you offer, without looking too self-serving. It will give you a chance to up-sell and cross-sell, as customers will see how you are helping other businesses achieve good results or work together in innovative ways.

Social media has given business a platform to do scalable, personal prospecting, to talk directly to customers and prospects on social networks, and promote partnerships, tying your name to innovative projects or exciting brands, for free. Twitter has the potential to become the ‘glue’ that holds other communications channels together, in the same way that email does for business at the moment. If you approach this channel with the strategic thinking and resources that you would another communication channel or tool, such as CRM and email, it won’t be long before you’re proving the ROI of the social business channel.

Javier Burón is CEO and founder of SocialBro.

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