Your email subscribers probably don’t want to know where you and Samantha from accounting went for lunch, or to see a picture of cake at the summer intern’s going away party. Inexplicably though, this sort of content finds an audience on Twitter. How can a channel as casual, fleeting and irreverent as Twitter have a place in B-to-B communications? And how could we possibly learn anything about email by following the daily life of Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) 140 characters at a time?
Twitter may be the most misaligned of B-to-B communications channels. Yes, you can lose a good chunk of the day to conversations about #rappernames. But let’s be fair – emails from Groupon and GiltGroup.com claim their fair share of productivity as well. The relevant truth about Twitter is that your customers use it. As marketers, it is our job to be available to our customers in whatever channel they choose. You don’t have to tweet about lunch or your intern’s cake (and in fact you probably shouldn’t), but there is a case to be made for almost any business to be on Twitter, with a content strategy that is consistent with the brand’s current positioning and still takes advantage of Twitter’s unique conversational qualities.
Today’s column, however, is not why to be on Twitter for Twitter’s sake. Instead, I’ll look at some of the ways your organization’s Twitter experience can improve your email program.
The soul of wit: Sure much of what you see on Twitter is at least supposed to be funny, the real soul of wit, according to Shakespeare, is brevity. With Twitter you have 140 characters to work with. Many emails are over 1000 words. Learning to craft messages in a shorter format takes practice, but given the narrowing windows of inbox attention, brevity soon promises to be the soul of ROI as well. Tweeting, and reading other people’s tweets, can help you think in more concise thoughts. Not only will this improve your subject line writing, but it will also help with those messages you use to promote a number of different features, such as a bullet point list of the key attributes at an upcoming conference, or a catalog of reasons to renew a membership.
Topic testing: With email, you get one chance to send your message to your subscribers. But on Twitter, it’s not uncommon (or bad etiquette) to tweet the same or a similar message several times throughout the day. Tweets are fleeting and audiences are transient, so each individual tweet only reaches percentage of your followers. Try tweeting the same topic but with a slightly different tweet throughout the day, and monitor the number of clicks each generates. This may point to a phrasing of subject of the tweet that resonates, and gives you a hypothesis to work with as you craft your email (and its subject line) on the same topic.
The audience is listening: Personal email is usually a conversation, but the email your business sends out is one-way. Your metrics will let you know who opened and read and clicked it, but sometimes without the two-way dialogue it is easy to forget that your audience is listening. Twitter can be much more conversational. Whole Foods, for example, makes a point of using Twitter to interact directly with customers, with 85% of its tweets part of customer conversations. When so many of your tweets are part of a dialogue, it is easier to remember that your audience is listening to your email as well. Will that change what you write, or how you write it? It could, particularly if your emails are too focused on what your business needs, instead of what your subscribers want.
Crossover audience behavior: Many of your Twitter followers might also be your email subscribers. There is no way to learn someone’s email address from their Twitter name, but many people put their full names on their Twitter profiles, making it possible for you to identify them in your subscriber list. Doing so, and then adding each of your subscriber / Twitter followers to a separate group within Real Magnet, is a manual process and could be onerous if you have thousands of Twitter followers. But the insights available could be eye-opening. Once you create this group of your crossover customers, send the email messages you would normally, making sure to also include this new group. Compare the metrics from your whole list to this group to see if your Twitter followers are more or less engaged with your email than your general subscriber list. If they are more engaged, ramp up your efforts to promote Twitter to your subscribers – you’re doing something over on Twitter that makes your subscribers like you.