So, you want to start your Twitter presence

NOTE : Twitter is not for sending ads. I was asked the other day how someone could set it up to broadcast ads across the web cheaply. That was definitely a “you just don’t get it” or “you have the completely wrong idea” moment.

Twitter is covered in hype, filled with spam, and generally used poorly. That being said, there are a number of companies rising above the junk and succeeding: Dell , Comcast , Starbucks , and more.

WHY SHOULDN’T YOUR COMPANY BE ONE OF THEM – To be honest with you, the only reason that I see for some companies to not be on Twitter is if they lack the commitment to learn how to use it and to check it at least once each day.

If you are trying convince your boss why you should be on Twitter, bring this to his/her attention – If a customer calls you, asks you a question in the store, or sends you an email, he wants you to respond as a human being…he doesn’t want an automated phone system, nor does he want to be directed to fill out a customer inquiry form, nor a generic email response. He wants customer service . You can’t fake that on Twitter, and a big bonus about interacting with your customers/clients/audience on Twitter, the time commitment for similar tasks performed through email, phone, or in-person is much greater and is usually only one-to-one. Why not reduce the amount of time you have to spend helping someone fix an issue while keeping the quality constant or increasing it and also having that help visible to everyone that cares to see it?

OKAY, WE’RE ON TWITTER. WHAT DO WE DO NOW – Get yourself a background, a Twitter handle that relates clearly to your business, an avatar, a bio, and a link to your website (or better yet, a link to a Twitter landing page on your site). If someone will be using Tweetdeck, Seesmic, or a related Twitter application, awesome. No schedule needed. If not though, set a schedule. Have someone check your Twitter account once each day, respond to your @ replies and direct messages, AND check Twitter Search to find engageable content.

Twitter is a great information channel and opportunity to connect with current and potential business partners, clients, etc, but unless you reach out and engage with people, the most likely followers you’ll get will be bots. Be active about growing your base. Find influencers in your industry and follow them. Then, find people talking about you, your products, and your competitors, and follow them. Most people on Twitter do not receive notifications about new followers though, so make sure to reach out to people you are following and tell them why you wanted to make the connection.

SET YOUR TWITTER GOALS – Once you’re rolling on Twitter, you really need to set some goals. Try holding a giveaway contest that requires people to follow you, and afterward, calculate the total cost to you against the number of new followers…BINGO – cost per new follower.

Now and then – weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever frequency works best for you – measure the amount of content you have sent out against the response you have received (@ replies, DMs, retweets, link clicks, etc). This will give you a response rate that helps you gauge whether you are getting a higher or lower return for your investment…of course, what is the ultimate goal of most things a company does? Driving revenue, so you cannot just focus on your response rate, but nevertheless, it is important.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN – To be 100% truthful, Twitter seems odd at first, but there is not a lot to learn. It’s a pretty simple system, and the overall importance of Twitter to your organization should be small. That being said, the benefits of Twitter far outweigh any potential drawbacks – in my experience – and given that, there is no reason to not at least jump right in, consult a tutorial, or reach out to someone with experience in this area to see if your company could be start its own Twitter presence.

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