Twitter Marketing ProductsIs your company using Twitter to connect with customers? If not, you should be. There’s no denying that Twitter is becoming more popular as a communication tool for companies – but that doesn’t mean that many companies don’t get it wrong. Having a Twitter account that feels impersonal or doesn’t respond to customers in a timely manner is worse than not having an account at all.

If you’re going to maintain a Twitter presence, then you have to be prepared to think about how – and when — to use it. More and more, customers are expecting compassionate engagement from the companies they follow on social media. With that in mind, here are four great ways to market your business on Twitter.

Put Twitter Customer Service at the Forefront

One of the biggest mistakes that companies large and small make on Twitter is ignoring customer service questions and complaints. It’s important to remember that everybody who follows your company can see that you’re not replying to questions if they take the time to look. Stellar customer service can do a lot to boost brand loyalty and your company’s reputation.

The best customer service on Twitter is personal, meaning that someone monitors your account on an ongoing basis and answers customers directly with @ Tweets. A good example of a big company who uses this strategy is airline Jet Blue. An examination of their Twitter feed shows that almost everything they Tweet is a direct reply to a customer.

While responding to customers is better than not responding, beware of responses that seem cold or impersonal. Some companies try to keep customer service off Twitter by redirecting people who post questions or complaints to call their customer service number. You’re far more likely to engage customers – and keep them in the long run – if you embrace the idea that Twitter is an ideal platform to provide great customer service.

Provide Value to Your Twitter Customers

You might already know that Twitter is not the best place to be bombarding customers with sales pitches. You already know that the people who follow you are interested in what you have to offer, but the most successful companies on Twitter know that sending out a stream of self-promoting Tweets isn’t a good idea. Instead, they find ways to provide valuable content to their customers.

Let’s look at some hypothetical examples. A local pizza parlor might Tweet out fun facts about pizza, or even tips for reheating the perfect slice the next day. A clothing boutique might Tweet pictures of people wearing the clothes they sell. A dentist might link back to articles on her blog about tooth whitening or dental cleanings.

What all of these examples have in common is that their intention is to share information that is relevant and valuable to the customer. Sharing valuable content makes the people who follow you on social media feel a sense of obligation, which in turn triggers a cognitive bias known as reciprocity. In other words, giving your followers something for free can do far more for your marketing than overtly trying to sell them on your services.

Open a Twitter Dialogue with Your Customers

One mistake that a lot of companies make is to forget about the “social” in social media. People follow their favorite brands on sites like Twitter because they want to engage in some kind of communication with them. That doesn’t mean that they want to be your friend, necessarily, but they do welcome the idea of friendly and thoughtful communication.

Let’s talk about some ways to do that. One technique that can be helpful for local businesses is to re-Tweet chosen messages from their followers. You can use a tool like Social Mention to monitor social media activity and find out when your brand is mentioned. When a customer says something positive or memorable about you on Twitter, re-Tweet it. It’s a good way of showing customers that you’re paying attention to them.

Another option is to ask your followers a question. If you do it right, this can actually be a subtle form of customer research. For example, you might ask your followers a question about how they use your product, or why they like it. If you offer an array of products, ask which one is their favorite and why. Alternatively, you could ask an open-ended question. For example, a local restaurant could Tweet “What’s for dinner tonight?” and include a link back to their menu. Yes, the menu is a sales pitch – but it’s a subtle one. If you decide to try this method, make sure to answer the Tweets you get in response.

Host a Twitter Contest or Giveaway

Another clever way of using Twitter to promote your business is to use it to get the word out about a contest or giveaway. Everybody loves the idea of being able to win a contest or get a free product, and Twitter’s an ideal platform to promote such a thing. A contest has the benefit of adding value to customers while also providing you with an easy way to broaden your reach.

One way to get the most out of a Twitter contest is to ask users to re-Tweet the information about the contest in order to enter. Using this method actually wraps several of the other tips in this article, as well. For example, a contest is a good way to add value for customers, and to engage with them directly. Sponsoring a contest is an effective way to find out how many of your followers are truly engaged with your brand, and asking customers to share your Tweet about the contest may help gain you some new followers too.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that Twitter can be an incredibly effective marketing tool if you know how to use it. The keys are to respond directly to customer questions and complaints instead of avoiding them, and to remember that the people who follow you are people, not machines. They don’t want to be hit with a constant barrage of sales pitches. What they want is something that feels like personal engagement and compassion. If you can do that, then Twitter can be a strong part of your marketing mix.