Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Twitter Business GuideWritten or posted by Jimmy Martin on November 18th, 2009
Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Now, people are turning to Twitter as an effective way to reach out to , too. From local stores to big brands, and from brick-and-mortar to internet-based or service sector, people are finding great value in the they make withbusinesses on .
When people working in the New York local chain Tasti D Lite was there to listen and meet their need. When electronics buyers look for good deals, the Dell Outlet Twitter account helps them save money with exclusive coupons. When Houston’s coffee drinkers decide where to get their daily dose, many choose Coffee Groundz, which lets them order via Twitter. Read on to learn whatTwitter is and to get detailed examples of how companies are using it. On these pages, we’ll also reveal how Twitter can help right now.twittered that they were craving ice cream delivery,
So what does Twitter do for businesses?
Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business,use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.
So how does it work?
A brief history of Twitter
Initially inspired by the concept of an ‘away-message’ merged with the freedom and mobility of SMS, Twitter began as an experiment in 2006. When value as an instant Today, Twitter is a privately funded company based in , CA.during shared like earthquakes, conferences, and festivals emerged, Twitter began to grow—Twitter, Inc. was founded in 2007.
Twitter lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters, or the very length of this sentence, including all punctuation and spaces. The messages are public and you decide what sort of messages you want to receive—Twitter being a recipient driven information network. In addition, you can send and receive Twittermessages, or tweets, equally well from your desktop or your.
When you combine messages that are quick to write, easy to read, public, controlled by the recipient and exchangeable anywhere, you’ve got a powerful, real-time way to communicate. And real-time communication is turning out to be ground-breaking for users and businesses alike.
Tip: To listen in on the conversations happening right now, searchTwitter for the name of your company, product or brand. If you have a Twitter account already, your home page has a handy search box on the right side. If you don’t yet have an account, try typing in the box below or go to search.twitter.com.
So how do businesses use Twitter?
What’s up with the name?
Twittering is the sound birds make when they communicate with each other—an apt description of the conversations here. As it turns out, because Twitter provides people with real-time public information, it also helps groups of people mimic the effortless way a flock of birds move in unison. On these pages, we’ll show you a few examples of that powerful Twitter characteristic.
Twitter connects you to your customers right now, in a way that was never before possible. For example, let’s say you work for a custom bike company. If you run a search for your brand, you mayposting messages about how happy they are riding your bikes in the French Alps—giving you a chance to share tips about cyclist-friendly cafes along their route.
Others may post minor equipment complaints or desired features that they would never bother to contact you about—providing you with invaluable customer feedback that you can respond to right away or use for future planning. Still others may twitter about serious problems with your bikes—letting you offerthat can turn around a bad situation.
You don’t have to run a bike shop or a relatively small company to get good stuff out of Twitter. Businesses of all kinds, including major brands, increasingly find that listening and engaging on the service leads to happier customers, passionate advocates, key product improvements and, in many cases, more sales.
A key benefit
One of Twitter’s key benefits is that it gives you the chance to communicate casually with customers on their terms, creating friendly relationships along the way—tough for corporations to do in most other mediums.
But Twitter isn’t just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers. Plus, the platform lends itself to integration with your existing communication channels and strategies. In combination, those factors can make Twitter a critical piece of your company’s bigger digital footprint.
For instance, let’s say you run a big retail website. In addition to learning more about what your customers want, you can provide exclusive Twitter coupon codes, link to key posts on your blog, share tips for shopping online, and announce specials at store locations. And you can take things a step further by occasionally posting messages about fun, quirky events at your HQ, giving others a small but valuable connection with the people in your company.
Why 140 characters?
SMS (i.e., texting on your phone) limits each message to 160 characters. Twitter takes that limit and reserves 20 characters for your username, leaving you 140 characters to play with. That’s how it started and we’ve stuck with it!
Tip: Twitter can be “ground-breaking” for businesses—a big claim. We truly believe it because we’ve seen lots of examples, many of which we share here. But if you’re new to Twitter and still wondering what all the fuss is about, hang around the site (or a good third-party client) for a week or two and give it a few minutes a day. Twitter almost always delivers “Aha!” moments for people, but it can take some getting used to before you have your moment of enlightenment.
These are just a few of the ways Twitter is helping businessesserve customers; you’ll discover more. If you’re new to Twitter, head over to Getting started for tips on twittering successfully. If you’re already on board, check out Best Practices and Case studiesfor ideas to get the most out of Twitter.
One of the cool things about Twitter is that it gives you a way to have friendly, public conversations with customers. You’ll make the most of those casual conversations if you do a little planning first. In this section, we’ll suggest a few strategic things to think about before you dive in, and then we’ll give you some pointers to start twittering smoothly.
Before you post your first message
Before you get started, it’s important to understand that onTwitter, people choose to view your updates by searching for specific keywords or by following your account. This recipient-controlled model means that if you are compelling to people onTwitter, they’ll choose to view your updates. The reverse is also true—people may choose to un-follow you just as easily.
Dry, boring feeds rarely draw many people. Successful Twitterbusiness accounts, though, can take many forms. They may be personal and chatty or they might even have mostly automated information. But no matter the style, the key is to post messages that your followers will find compelling.
So making your posts on Twitter interesting is key, but what are you going to post about? That depends on your goals. Do you want to build deeper relationships? Get on the radar of potential new customers or partners? Or do you want to provide more responsive and immediate customer service?
You can meet several communication goals simultaneously by thinking about your Twitter account as a friendly information booth or coffee bar. It’s a place for people to ask you spontaneous questions of all kinds—a spot to share intriguing company insights they might find interesting. When you hit stride with these exchanges, they often lead to unexpected, valuable relationships.
Of course, you can have accounts that focus exclusively on specific goals, like providing customer service or offering deals to move inventory.
Tip: Companies sometimes worry that twittering might require a lot of staff time or even hiring new people to maintain an account. In fact, Twitter works best for businesses when you start slow, devoting a few minutes a day to see whether and how it’s valuable to you.
Regardless of how you plan on using Twitter, you should figure out how to integrate it with your existing communication channels. For instance, if people make enquiries on Twitter that should be handled by your customer service team, how will you connect those customers and staffers? Or if your R&D department does your twittering, but your marketing department wants to share info on a promo, how will they do so?
The answers will depend, of course, on things like whether your company is run by three people or thirty thousand and how you already handle similar cross-platform issues. But don’t hesitate to have multiple accounts that serve different purposes, and check out our Best Practices and Case studies for additional ideas.
To get a sense of what Twitter can do for your business, spend a little time listening in on the conversations happening right now (you can use Twitter search whether or not you have an account). Listening will help you quickly learn what people are saying about your company, and it will also give you a feel for the flow of conversations on Twitter. In addition, it can give you insight into how other companies handle Twitter exchanges (ourCase studies can give you more ideas).
Once you’ve got a sense of how you want to engage on Twitter, you’re ready to dive in.
If you haven’t yet signed up for an account, it’s easy, and it takes just a few minutes. Here’s how to get started:
1. Sign up
Head over to the sign-up page, and fill out the four fields. If you’re creating a company account, use the “Full name” field to type in your company name. That’ll help people find your company on Twitter. (You can add your own name in the Bio field, as described below.)
Tip: We don’t allow name squatting on Twitter. So if somebody who doesn’t work for your company is holding or using your brand name inappropriately, contact us to get it sorted out.
After you’ve signed up, the site walks you through a couple of screens to help you find people on Twitter you know or might be interested in. The process is quick, but if you want to jump directly to your account page, just head to the bottom of each page and click “Skip this step.”
2. Fill out your info
When you first arrive on your account page, it’ll look something like the picture on the right. Before you do anything else, clickSettings to get a page where you can fill out a few more details to help people recognize your company. Most of the fields are self-explanatory. But pay special attention to the Bio, which gives you 160 characters; this is a great place to list the person or people twittering for your organization (if individual staffers have their own Twitter accounts, you can list their @usernames here).
Before you leave Settings, check out the Picture tab, which is the place to add your company logo or photo of yourself. On theDesign tab, you can upload a background image for your Twitter home page and tweak the page colors.
Tip: Because the Bio gives you just 160 characters, companies often use the background image to share additional contact info.
3. Find highly relevant people and companies to follow.
Whether or not you chose to follow anyone in the sign-up process, now’s a good time to search for people and companies of specific interest to you. Use the search box on your Twitter home page to look not only for people talking about your company, brands and products, but also for partners and mentions of key terms in your sector. When you find interesting messages, consider following those accounts. No need to worry about the number of people you’re following—just follow a few whose updates you really want to read, say hello and let conversations grow. Also look at the Find People section.
Tip: By default when someone follows you, you’ll get an email from Twitter saying so with some basic information about the user. Anyone can turn off those notifications, though (under Settings > Notices), so don’t assume people will know you’re on Twitter just because you’ve followed them.
4. Post your first message.
This is where the real fun starts. On your Twitter home page, in the box at the top, type in a message. As you type, the counter on the upper-right corner of the box guides you down from 140 characters. When you’ve got a message ready to go, hit Update to post it (pressing Enter won’t do the trick).
If you’re thinking, “Sounds easy, but what should I say?”, consider trying something like, “Excited to start twittering. Let us know what you want to hear about from Our Company.” Or you could go with, “Hello! Is this thing on?” A conversational, playful tone flies beautifully on Twitter, so don’t hesitate to add some fun into your messages.
Once you’ve posted that first message, you could follow up with some hellos to people you know on Twitter, and perhaps post a link to an interesting news story about your industry (just copy the link and paste it into the update box).
Tip: Once you’ve set up your account page, add your mobile phoneto your account so you can Twitter from the road. Customers can also follow you from their mobile phone by texting “follow YourUsername” to 40404. If you have a smart phone, like an iPhone or a Blackberry, download any of the numerous Twitter clients for those platforms.
Learn the lingo
On the one hand, Twitter is pretty simple: send and receive short messages. On the other hand, what’s with all the symbols and strange terms? In this section, we explain the weird stuff that’s important so that you can use Twitter like a pro.
Some of the most useful conventions on Twitter—including retweets (RT), hashtags (#), and @username messages—were user innovations. When people wanted features Twitter didn’t provide, they created their own, and we later incorporated them into the system. We assume new features will evolve from users in the future, so feel free to experiment!
The key terms
To receive messages on Twitter, you follow other people and companies you’re interested in—which means you get their messages as they post (put another way, their messages show up in your incoming timeline on your Twitter home page). Conversely, people get your messages by following you.
Users refer to an individual message as a tweet, as in, “Check out this tweet about our CEO dancing on the sidelines of the Phoenix Suns game.” People sometimes use it as a verb, too, as in, “I tweeted about the stimulus package this morning.” If “tweet” is hard for you to use with a straight face in a business context, try “twittering” as a verb instead. Alternatives include “post,” “message” and “update.”
For companies, one of the most useful things about Twitter is that it lets you exchange public messages with individual users. Simply start a message with @username of the person you want to reach, like this:
“@Ev Glad you liked our vegan cookies. Thanks for twittering about ‘em!”
If Ev is following your account, your message will appear directly on his Twitter home page. (If he’s not following your account, your message will appear in his folder of @username mentions.) People who are following both you and Ev will also see the message on their Twitter home page. Finally, the message will appear in search results, and people who come to your Twitter home page will see it among the messages in your outgoing timeline.
Tip: On Twitter, @username automatically becomes a link to that person’s account—helping people discover each other on the system. Put another way: when you see an @username, you can always click through to that person’s Twitter page and learn whether you want to follow them.
To find the public messages that are directed to you (i.e., those that start with your @BusinessName) or that mention you (i.e., those that include your @BusinessName elsewhere in the tweet), head to your Twitter home page, and then on the right side of the screen, click the tab labeled your @BusinessName. For businesses, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on incoming @mentions, because they’re often sent by customers or potential customers expecting a reply.
DM, or direct message
Direct messages—or DMs—are Twitter’s private messaging channel. These tweets appear on your home page under the Direct Messages tab, and if you’ve got email notifications turned on, you’ll also get an email message when somebody DMs you. DMs don’t appear in either person’s public timeline or in search results. No one but you can see your DMs.
The one tricky concept with DMs is that you can send them only to people who are following you. Conversely, you can receive them only from people you’re following.
You can easily send DMs from the Direct Messages tab by using the pull-down menu to choose a recipient and then typing in your note. To send a DM from your home page, start your message with “d username,” like this:
“d Ev Sorry those cookies gave you food poisoning! Would you prefer a refund or a new batch?”
Tip: If you’re communicating with a customer about something potentially sensitive—including personal information, account numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, etc.—be sure to encourage them to DM or email you. As we mentioned earlier, @mentions are public, so anyone can see them.
RT, or retweet
To help share cool ideas via Twitter and to give a shout-out to people you respect, you can repost their messages and give them credit. People call that retweeting (or RT), and it usually looks something like this: “RT @Username: Original message, often with a link.” Retweeting is common, and it’s a form of conversation on Twitter. It’s also a powerful way to spread messages and ideas across Twitter quickly. So when you do it, you’re engaging in a way people recognize and usually like—making it a good way to connect.
On the right side of your screen and on the Twitter search page, you’ll see ten Trending Topics, which are the most-mentioned terms on Twitter at that moment. The topics update continually, reflecting the real-time nature of Twitter and true shifts in what people are paying attention to. A key feature of Twitter, Trending Topics aggregate many tweets at once and often break news ahead of the mainstream media. (Note that the trends often include hashtags, described below.)
Twitter messages don’t have a field where you can categorize them. So people have created the hashtag—which is just the # symbol followed by a term describing or naming the topic—that you add to a post as a way of saying, “This message is about the same thing as other messages from other people who include the same hashtag.” Then, when somebody searches for that hashtag, they’ll get all of the related messages.
For instance, let’s say you post, “Voted sixty times in tonight’s showdown. #AmericanIdol.” Your message would then be part of Twitter search results for “#AmericanIdol,” and if enough people use the same hashtag at once, the term will appear in Twitter’s Trending Topics.
A tweetup is simply an in-person gathering organized via Twitter, often spontaneous. Companies use them for things like hosting launch parties, connecting with customers and introducing like-minded followers to each other.
With just 140 characters at your disposal, Twitter doesn’t give you much room to include URL links—some of which are longer than 140 characters themselves. If you post a link on Twitter via the website, sometimes we automatically shorten the URL for you. There are also a number of services—URL shorteners—that take regular links and shrink them down to a manageable length for tweets, and some even let you track clicks.
Every company has its own experience on Twitter. But whether a business has been here for a couple of years or just a few months, its twitterers tend to find that certain approaches lead to success. In this section, we share that wisdom, which falls into a couple of big categories.
Think about Twitter as a place to build relationships
Instead of approaching Twitter as a place to broadcast information about your company, think of it as a place to build relationships. Put into practice, that means you could do things like:
Include in your Bio and/or custom background the names (or @usernames) of the people twittering from your company account. It’s also a good idea to include additional contact info, like email addresses.
Tip: In addition to keeping an eye on your @messages, you can use our Saved Searches feature to easily track mentions of your product, brand, company, etc. From your Twitter home page, simply run a search, and then at the top of your results page, click “Save this search.” A link with your search term will appear on the right side of your page, and whenever you click it, you’ll get real-time results for that query. To delete a search, just head to the top of your results and click “Remove this search.”
Use a casual, friendly tone in your messages.
While you shouldn’t feel compelled to follow everyone who follows you, do respond to some questions or comments addressed to you.
If you like a particular message, retweet it. People often appreciate the sharing and amplification of their ideas, so look to retweet cool stuff.
Make sure your tweets provide some real value. You know better than we do what is valuable, but here are few examples to spark ideas:
- Offer Twitter exclusive coupons or deals
- Take people behind the scenes of your company
- Post pictures from your offices, stores, warehouses, etc.
- Share sneak peeks of projects or events in development
Don’t spam people. Twitter’s following model means that you have to respect the interests and desires of other people here or they’ll unfollow you. The most common way to run afoul of that understanding—and to thus look like a spammer—is to send unsolicited @messages or DMs, particularly when you include a promotional link.
Of course, if you run an account that focuses explicitly on sharing exclusive coupon codes or sale information, you’re probably just fine posting promos. But tread carefully, and consider explaining in your bio or background how the account works.
Tip: You can test the waters by sending just a few promos to start, and then continuing only if people show interest.
To make sure you’re not spamming folks, we also suggest you avoid the following:
- Posting duplicate updates to an account: Posting the same update over and over throughout the day is considered spammy and a possible violation of our terms of service.
- Cross-posting duplicate updates to multiple accounts: If you post the same update to multiple accounts, you could violate our terms of service.
- Following churn: Following and unfollowing the same people repeatedly, as well as following and unfollowing those who don’t follow back, are both violations of our terms of service.
Tip: Think you’ve encountered a spammer? Let us know, and we’ll look into the account. You can alert us to spam profiles by sending a direct message to @spam! In addition, you can block the spammer by heading to their account page, and on the right side, clicking the block link (they won’t know you’ve blocked them).
Understand the real-time nature of Twitter
- You can ask questions, float ideas and solicit feedback on Twitter—and expect pretty quick replies most of the time.
- If you’ve just launched a product, ask users what they think or search for real-time tweets from people talking about your product. You can also ask or search for feedback on new ad campaigns you’ve launched, stores you’ve opened or murky issues you have to handle.
- When people raise customer service issues on Twitter, they generally expect a quick reply—within a day, if not within a few hours, depending on the nature of your business. Keep an eye on your @mentions.
Measure the value of Twitter
Before you set up measurement tools, focus on the quality of your engagement, and use your gut to check how things are going. How’s the feedback and interaction with your followers? Are you responding to most or your @messages? Are most tweets about you positive? Or if they started out largely negative, are they coming around? Are more people beginning to engage with you and mention your company?
Next, think about quantifying your experience. Although it can be tricky to add up the value of relationships, Twitter does lend itself to measurement in a few ways—especially if you’ve already defined what you hope will be different for your company in three months, six months or a year if you succeed on Twitter. Tactics like these can then help you assess your progress in meeting that goal:
- Keep a tally of questions answered, customer problems resolved and positive exchanges held on Twitter. Do the percentages change over time?
- When you offer deals via Twitter, use a unique coupon code so that you can tell how many people take you up on that Twitter-based promotion. If you have an online presence, you can also set up a landing page for a promotion, to track not only click-throughs but further behavior and conversions.
- Use third-party tools to figure out how much traffic your websites are receiving from Twitter.
- Track click-throughs on any link you post in a tweet. Some URL shortening services let you track click-throughs.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Third-party requests for certificates of insurance, additional insured status and other demands have escalated out of control. For many insurance organizations, certificates have become a costly black hole, creating unnecessary expense and increasing their E&O exposure. In the November 2009 CPCU eJournal article,“Certificates of Insurance, Insurance Agents and Rolling Stone Syndrome,” Bill Wilson, CPCU, ARM, AIM, AAM, explains why agents may be unable to comply with requests and explores solutions.