Real Magnet

Choosing a Content Strategy for Twitter

Following is an excerpt from the new Real Magnet eBook The Social Starter Kit, available as a free download here.

In some ways, Twitter is a lot like email. It is a channel that allows for broadcast messages, and many people follow other people and brands expressly for the messages intended for a mass audience. But it also allows for one-to-one communication, with the main difference to email being that even the one-to-one communication reaches your entire list of followers. It is as if you are sending a message to one person and cc’ing ten thousand. In email, this practice would be unendurable, but Twitter messages are infinitely more transient than email messages. They do not land in an inbox waiting to be dealt with, but appear fleetingly on a feed before disappearing into the ether. Instead of being roped into someone else’s conversation unwillingly, seeing a conversation on Twitter is more like eavesdropping.

Brands use many different content strategies on Twitter. Here are a few of the most popular:

Example 1: Broadcasting

Perhaps the most common use of Twitter for business (particularly with B-to-B brands) is for content broadcasting. Brands that generate a lot of original content (such as blogs, articles, white papers or research reports), or supplement their online activity with in-person events and conferences will find Twitter a handy channel to keep an audience informed and updated on relevant news.

ForeSee is a B-to-B company serving the digital retail industry. Its twitter account (below) focuses principally on content broadcasting, alerting its audience to new blog posts, research reports it has contributed to, and events where it is exhibiting.

The challenge to this content strategy is to maintain engagement with your audience, as content broadcasting is really just talking about yourself. It is only productive if you have a sizable and engaged audience, so supplement broadcasting with other types of content that help grow your audience, allowing for more profitable and scalable broadcasting.
Example 2: Customer Service

Twitter has become the go-to channel for real-time customer service, in part because pioneers like Best Buy launched high-profile real-time customer service initiatives in the channel, conditioning customers of all brands to expect the same level of immediate attentiveness. wins accolades for its outstanding customer service every year, and was quick to meet customer expectations for Twitter-based service. The company has several Twitter accounts, including the one below expressly for customer service.

You will see in the example that the Zappos staffer who is currently on duty introduces herself in a friendly and approachable way. (There is no point in a customer service channel that is off-putting.) The other two tweets in this example are direct to specific customers, in response to questions to @Zappos_Service that are not visible on this feed.

When a customer sends a tweet to a brand, the tweet is visible on that person’s feed and could be seen by all of his or her followers. It is this public correspondence that compels brands to respond, as ignoring the tweet could well prompt another tweet from the same person, with growing impatience at the lack of a response. Zappos responds to tweets from its customers publicly, which means that all 11,781 of its followers might see its advice to @FeeFiFoMennifer that she should wear the shoes around the house for a while, and its response to @Theresa_is_Dead that she is welcome (presumably for something Zappos told her through Twitter previously).

Why would Zappos include all 12,000 followers on these one-to-one conversations? More importantly, why would 12,000 people follow this account knowing that one-to-somebody-else conversations are the principal content? The answer is that this is both how and why Twitter works. It is a hybrid channel, allowing for broadcasting and personal communication, at the same time. Zappos wants 12,000 people to see it taking care of @FeeFiFoMennifer and @Theresa_is_Dead because all of these people also realize that when they have a problem, they will enjoy the exact same immediate and personal attention that Mennifer and Theresa are receiving. This level of service is a powerful statement to be able to convey to customers and prospects. How powerful? Enough that 12,000 of them would follow this account to witness it.

It is worth noting the volume of service activity here as well. Zappos is a huge retailer, owned by and doing many millions of dollars of business every year. Yet Tanya, who signed on a few hours ago to handle the Twitter volume, only has a couple of tweets to manage in a couple hours. Reviewing a longer duration of activity on the account reveals that @Zappos_Service typically has about 50 tweets per day, or one every 30 minutes or so. Most of these are direct response to service inquiries requiring little or no research, such as “You’re welcome – glad to help!” or “Eep – that sounds rough? Call our customer service at 1-877-927-2332 and we’ll try to resolve it for you.” Opening up a service channel through Twitter does not increase the amount of service your brand will have to provide; it just gives your customers another way to reach you.


Example 3: Engagement

PowerBar uses its Twitter presence principally to deepen its relationship with customers through engagement. Its products are aimed at endurance athletes so much of its Twitter content is not only about competitive events, but indicates also the brand’s (and its people’s) involvement in them. PowerBar uses its Twitter account to demonstrate its authenticity for its market, by showing that the people at PowerBar are athletes (and people) just like its customers.

In the feed sample below, PowerBar tweets an ad hoc contest, giving someone the opportunity to win an entry to an upcoming triathlon. The design of the contest is clever. Many brands will run social contests where the first person or 10 people to tweet or RT win something. PowerBar opens the window for entry for two hours, and asks its followers to reply to @PowerBar with “Pick Me” for a chance to win. Remember that all of these tweets will show up in the feeds of everyone who follows each person who participates, so over the next two hours the PowerBar brand (and its contest) will generate tens or hundreds of thousands of highly impressions among the friends of competitive athletes, all for the cost of a single triathlon entry (about $100).

We see also the tone that PowerBar uses in its tweets, speaking directly to people as if they are friends, using colloquial and relaxed language. Fans can hear a person on the other side of the @PowerBar account, which helps build engagement with the brand through the approachability.

Speaking to a single person on Twitter may seem like a tactic that squanders social’s scalability, but the opposite is true. Every fan who sees a brand interact directly with another fan begins to realize that this is a brand that cares what its customers have to say. The fan does not need to be part of the direct conversation for the impact to register.

For more tips on creating and executing your social media strategy, download our free eBook The Social Starter Kit.