Millions of people are connecting through social media, so it's no wonder that advertisers and marketers are hustling to get in on the action. In the past year, we've seen many brands step into this new world only to fail miserably.

After one analyzes many of the marketing flops on Twitter, the underlying issue becomes apparent: To be an effective marketer on Twitter, you must first stop thinking like one.

Marketing on Twitter requires a shift in your mindset. Twitter is all about simple conversations; you can't use press releases, marketing copy, or other one-way communication tactics and expect results.

Customers want interaction—with you and with each other. Tweeting is one-to-one, with the benefit of being in a public space where other customers may read your conversation and interact with each other on your behalf.

Below are seven tips for brands looking to grow or establish a Twitter presence.

1. Know the rules: Get to know your neighbors

It's important to remember that Twitter is a community and that every community has its own set of rules. Before you jump into the conversation, spend some time watching and learning. You'll find that most people are very friendly and supportive, but it's best to understand the ground rules first.

The easiest way to jump in is to ask for help. That may seem strange, as brands are used to being in the driver's seat, typically telling consumers what to do. You may think asking for advice makes your brand vulnerable, but the fact is it's one of the things that makes social media great.

2. Connect person to person: People don't talk to brands, they talk to people

It doesn't matter how large your company is. On Twitter, people want to connect to a person. They are not interested in talking to your "brand." Make your updates personable and human, not scrubbed and polished like a press release. It's fine to be a little rough around the edges.

If you can, identify a real person to write the updates to give a face to your tweets. For example, Comcast's Twitter account @comcastcares is headed by Frank Eliason, director of Digital Care. Eliason even lists his direct email and personal website on his profile, which not only gives a human face to the company but also helps build trust in the conversation.

By using Twitter, Comcast is offering an alternative, less-corporate outlet for customers to receive support. Customers are able to ask questions and can be communicated with on their own turf—no more having to wait in long lines, no need to press 4 for more options!

3. Create a conversation: Twitter is a two-way street

Some companies might eye Twitter as another "channel" to conquer. That kind of thinking is dangerous with interactive marketing. Social media is not about building a channel; it's about creating a conversation. Your job should be to get people talking by posing questions, asking for input, and connecting them as a trusted third party.

Creating a conversation requires something that many marketers are not used to: actively listening to customers. That is what makes social media wonderful. Since consumers now have more choices and are able to jump from brand to brand in an instant, that relationship has become more crucial than ever.

4. Promote a dedicated ambassador: Make social media part of your plan

Social-media outlets such as Twitter work best when they are frequently updated. The most prolific companies on Twitter have tens of thousands of updates. That may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be; the updates tend to be short, quick, and off the cuff.

We find that it works best when our clients designate a single person internally to act as a social-media liaison, or ambassador. Doing so ensures that the updates occur more frequently and result in less clutter. The social-media ambassador can then begin to build relationships with key customers, and those customers are then able to act as brand ambassadors.

Be sure to also establish some "rules of engagement" for your ambassadors. They will need guidelines to help them decide which conversations they should participate in and which should get escalated within your organization.

5. Have something to offer: Give people a reason to follow you

People love to pass on information, and if people are following your brand they are already showing a proclivity to your message. So why not reward them? Offer inside information, special offers, or one-to-one conversations with customers who follow you through social media.

Once you have been using Twitter for a while, you'll notice key people who like to talk about your company (aka "Influencers"). They are worth more than you can imagine!

Encourage users by converting them into brand ambassadors: Invite them to your private product launches, let them contribute to new feature requests, and ask them how you can improve. Not only will you gain firsthand, unfiltered information on how your products are used in the real world, but you'll also activate a network of ambassadors to give you the best thing you could ask for: positive word-of-mouth.

6. Link Twitter to your website: Integrate your messaging

Twitter is a very flexible technology, which is what makes it so powerful. That Twitter can be set up to automatically update your followers every time you post a blog entry or that any RSS feed can be rebroadcast through your Twitter postings are examples of Twitter's strengths. However, be careful not to abuse those strengths: Too many automatically generated posts will make you lose that all-important human factor.

Another great option is the ability to add buttons, badges, and widgets to sections of your other sites (articles, pages, etc.) so that visitors are able to tweet your content. Each article or page can be linked with a button that allows customers to send an update to their followers with a quick blurb and a link to your page. Again, keep in mind that people generally tweet only interesting or compelling content, and a list of products or features may not be very intriguing to them.

(Find awesome add-ons here: and

7. Track conversations: Listen and learn

By using the @reply feature, it's easy to discover people talking about your brand. The Twitter search function also allows you to search by your company or product name. Use those tools to discover the things being said about you in real time. Stay on top of what's being said about you by frequently checking your @replies; you might be surprised by what you find.

More-sophisticated tools allow you to graph conversation activity over time, as well as monitor positive and negative sentiment among users. Using those tools provides you with a more in-depth understanding about what people are saying; that, in turn, will help you develop more-relevant conversations.

Social media-focused agencies offer more robust monitoring tools that can provide a dashboard view of conversations around a brand.

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I hope those tips help inspire you to jump into the social-media conversation. If you have questions or comments about this article, I'd be happy to connect with you via @thisisMojave.

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Robert Gourley is the creative strategist at Mojave (, a participation marketing agency that uses social media to build community around brands. Follow Mojave on Twitter @thisisMojave.