Social Marketers beware. Tapping in to highly vocal, critical, loyal, active and chatty network on Twitter may seem like a great opportunity - but it isn't for the faint of heart. Further, you can't just take traditional marketing tactics, throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks - or you may wind up with egg on your face.

Best practices for the use of Twitter are emerging. These confront the mindset of many traditional marketers .... as well as the poor practices of social media snake oil salesmen, follow weasels and link baiters. In short, there are things you need to know. So to start things up, here are 10 tips to ensure your Twitter outreach is a success:
1. Define What You Will Contribute .... This isn't Forrest Gump speaking, and social media is not about what "Yer gonna git" it's about the value you plan to add, how you will contribute and what you're giving to others.

  • Commitment .... This isn't like taking out a billboard. Once you decide to establish yourself on Twitter, you're there for the long-haul .... unless you want to break relationships with the network you've built.

  • Engagement - Twitter is about conversation, and it's ongoing. Once you're in it, you need to figure out how to stay engaged at the appropriate level. That means tweeting enough to engage your network, and figuring out how you'll follow up once a campaign is over.

  • Accessibility - The more highly engaged we are with our networks, the stronger those networks and relationships become. People need to know others are listening and responding proactively. Therefore Twitter demands daily (at least on business days) oversight, monitoring and response. Active engagement on Twitter may alternate days -- depending on the size of the business and its network. Whatever the case, consistency is critical, and being agile and flexible to respond to inquiries and issues that may arise in a timely manner reflects positively on the brand.

  • Service - Even if the idea of using Twitter originated from a Marketing department or campaign, companies must look well beyond marketing with regard to the use of Twitter. This isn't just true because your brand will be forced to bridge the gap between "surges" of activity (e.g. campaign-driven or "hot topic" interaction). The truth is, the most successful brands on Twitter not only engage regularly, they engage within the scope of providing helpful service to their networks of prospects and customers. This means they are tied in with the customer service function. Some are tied in with product development, as well. Take a look at @jetblue for a great example.

  • Dialog - You can't push one-way messages through Twitter like poop through a goose and expect people to love you. This is especially true if you are tweeting for a Brand. In fact, it can be a HUGE mistake to assume people want to be a friend of your brand to begin with. The fact is, people are more interested in people. They only become interested in people because of what they contribute to the conversation .... both in terms of words and insight– and (see next point!).

  • Personality - The unique personality of your brand should be reflected and enhanced by the community manager(s) tweeting for you. That personality must resonate with the target audience the brand wishes to reach. In general, most active tweeters appreciate individuals who seem genuine or authentic, personally engaged, responsive, insightful and helpful. Want an example? Take a look at @comcastcares, which is actually a profile for Frank Eliason, the Director of Comcast Digital Care. The profile features his happy face rather than a staunch corporate logo. Want more examples of personality included? Here are just a few companies and people who do this well:

  • Value - Build social equity by focusing tweets to provide value to your network. Sometimes, service and responsiveness to individuals is enough. But you can also use Twitter to provide value in other ways. Consider the following:

    • Brand-relevant service updates (e.g. bug fixes, service/outage notifications, sales)

    • Tips, tricks, links to cool stuff (e.g. downloads, fixes, expert knowledge)

    • Insider knowledge (releases, launches, alpha tests)

    • Good will (charity, fundraising, donations)

    • Schwag (goodies, etc.)

NOTE: If you do not want to commit, engage, dialog, serve, and give to others, do not pass "GO." Do not collect $100. This post is not for you. Twitter is not for you. Move along. If you do .... keep reading.

2. Determine Your Desired Outcomes. Be realistic. There are a million types of outcomes you can drive on Twitter - but most have to do with fostering open dialog, gaining a new, active and engaged network of prospects and customers, and driving participation at a few levels. For marketers in social media, there's a goal of creating brand advocacy. That starts with their experience with you - but you also need to figure out how you're going to showcase the values, features and benefits of your product and measure whether you accomplished that, or not!
It's also necessary, since this is a word-of-mouth campaign, what messages you want others to convey about your brand or program? What conversations do you anticipate having? Is your goal reaching a new audience or better serving your existing audience? How should Twitter tie to traditional response channels, like your web site or call center? How will you measure success in the short and long term? Think through it all in advance.

3. Define "Influence."
Last week, DiGiorno / Kraft launched a campaign for Flat Bread Pizza with a Twitter component. As a part of this campaign, DiGriorno was targeting "influential Tweeters" to provide pizza for tweetups in LA, Chicago and New York. Unfortunately, when asked by Ad Age, they didn't articulate how they'd measure influence. Companies must clearly define what "influence" means within the goals and constraints of the campaign.
In defining "influence" it's necessary to think beyond number of followers: Any veteran on twitter will attest to the sheisters out there who have numbers but LITTLE dialog or influence. Brands should look at followers against the backdrop of other elements, like overall voice (on Twitter, other social networks and blogs), reach (comments, re-tweets, links in), affiliation (e.g. social media club, DMA, others) and activity (travel, conferences, speaking where word may be spread) and social media engagement.
4. Establish Your Angle(s). Beyond influence and geography, it's important to think about specialization/demographic. Social Media makes it easy to target individuals with specific areas of influence. It's important to define the angle whether the brand is most interested in the angle economics in alignment with some of their recent advertising), making mom or dad's life easier, or great tasting pizza... or all of the above. This may influence the decision to reach out to frugal living experts, mommy or daddy bloggers or foodies. Choose a mix that matters most to generate the best word-of-mouth!
5. Challenge Geographical Constraints. Don't assume you'll find the best and most influential tweeters for your brand in LA, New York or Chicago - there are plenty of active, chatty hubs in other areas of the country, as well. If your product is aces for middle-American housewives - go get 'em! Targeting is not dead -- in fact it's even easier and can be more effective with social media. As a plus, the word-of-mouth spreads rapidly in a global manner!
6. Make it Easy to Engage. If you're promoting free schwag, contests or have other campaign elements that require sign-up of some sort, prepare the way BEFORE the press release. Put a page on your website for enrollment. List an available URL and make it easy for people to sign up and tell others. One popular way to drive additional dialog is to allow interested parties to sign up transparently in comment fields of a blog post. Another smart idea might be allowing people to nominate themselves or others -- and enabling the community to vote on who wins. Think about how you'll engage people, and be sure manage the windfall of participants in a way that doesn't make them feel "let down" if they don't "win."
7. Be Tweet Friendly. This resonates with item #6 above. Going back to the DiGiorno campaign, the Ad Age article didn't reference one Twitter profile for the benefit of interested tweeters. I looked into this and found that Kraft was relatively unprepared to meet people from a brand perspective on Twitter. Unfortunately, @kraft pulled up a person's profile with a link to an article about dead man's sperm. (NICE!) When I looked up @digiorno two accounts were listed -- without any followers, branded icons OR tweets. The good news is, just a few days after my initial post, DiGiorno rapidly fixed the problem. They also thanked me for feedback and are tweeting with great form now!
The lesson here is to establish your Twitter profile and include a background, attractive icon and profile information. Then, start tweeting .... all before you issue the press release.
Important note: Do not use Twitter to BROADCAST your brand message and be really careful using follow bots or issuing "bot spam" to people. This is bad.
Instead, simply tell people about the promotion, ask them what they think and create an open line of communication with the Twittersphere. Push out those value-driven tweets and information .... reach out to those influential tweeters you've identified and engage in some dialog. Get a few pages of tweets going before you push out the press release.
Further, as you drive out your campaign or promotional messaging, think about how to create messages in about 120 characters. This will help other tweeters easily "retweet" your message to their own networks, allowing space for their comments or other tweet handles. Retweets are denoted with a "RT" usually at the beginning of a post .... and can be automatically generated using tools like Tweetdeck.

8. Consolidate #Results.
Do you want to demonstrate participation and make it easier to track word of mouth and discussion regarding your campaign? Why not create a hashtag to track buzz and centralize dialog about your promotion? Just assign a "tag" to your promotion, and ask people to retweet buzz with a simple request like this: "Participants will merely be asked to include "#digiorno in their tweet updates during the event". This not only helps consolidate results in search but helps with trending and visibility of your campaign.
9. Drive Buzz Beyond Twitter This extends beyond Twitter. Just because the campaign component is Twitter focused, your scope should not be limited to Twitter alone. Keep your eyes open for blog mentions, follow-up posts and articles on popular sites. Make sure you comment on posts, and respond to tweets, as well. If you get criticism, respond kindly. Retweet feedback, links and the rest. Thank people for interest and feedback. The results of your campaign, interesting aspects of dialog can be the subject of additional press releases, blog posts and articles.
10. Open Your Kimono. Take a page from Dell or Zappos and celebrate success publicly and openly. You don't have to tell all -- just tell enough to communicate success or how you have learned. Plenty of influential tweeters will be keeping an eye out for updates. "Shout out" the quick wins and results on the fly. Encourage follow up posts and mentions. Reward the people who volunteer but don't get selected with consolation prizes, like coupons or schwag. Own any missteps or mistakes with gratitude. Publish a post or rich media case study to highlight lessons learned and celebrate success.
These 10 steps to Twitter UN Marketing should help pave the way to success. Remember that the twitter crowd is active, chatty, vocal and fiercely loyal. When you get us together, life gets more interesting. We like great ideas. Do things well and we promise to push good news up the flagpole. We that are about to tweet salute you!

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image of Leigh Duncan-Durst
Leigh Duncan Durst (leigh at livepath dot net) is a 20-year veteran of marketing, e-commerce, and business and the founder of Live Path (