Social Media as a Business Research Tool: Part 2
Using Twitter for business research doesn’t just mean finding out facts on Twitter or becoming a Twitcher (a British slang expression for a birdwatcher whose main aim is to collect sightings of rare birds). It means that you, your company and your products should be researchable too. The best strategy involves starting out with focused branding. This will quickly allow you to research the impact of your own brand within Twitter, as well as your competitors’ brands.
Step 1. Brand Management
Don’t leave your branding to chance. Following a plan is more likely to help you quickly attract and secure the minimum 1,000 followers you really need in order to gain accurate tracking results.
You can use both native and third-party Twitter tools like HootSuite or Buffer to help manage your brand and find out what people are saying about it, as well as how your brand is perceived. Before this will work, you need to make sure you’ve created a strong Twitter presence. Fill out as much of your profile as possible, using your audience’s most popular search keywords, and brand with your business name.
Register using your name in the “Full Name” field and your company name as the “Username”… unless you are branding individual products. In that case, register as your company name in the “Full Name” field and use your company name plus product name connected by an underscore, as Guy Kawasaki did for his Alltop content aggregator (which covers multiple niches) and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream did, to brand each of their flavours.
This not only makes it easy for you to measure Twitter stats for each product or niche; it makes your product or niche Twitter accounts searchable.
Use common sense and keep your target audience in mind when creating company Twitter accounts. For example, “Benandjerrys_Strawberry” would be too much of a mouthful and too many characters, so they registered the Twitter Full Name to this account as “benandjerrys” (to ensure all searches concerning their ice cream would display all account results). They then used “BnJ” as the common part of each flavour account username, plus each individual flavour for the latter part of each username.
If your business involves more than a handful of clients, make sure you create a customer service Twitter account too. According to research, 50% of all customers follow a brand for customer service.
List your business Twitter account in Twitter directories such as Twellow. Make sure you place yourself in the correct category to increase your chances of showing up in search results for those categories.
Use your best keywords and in your Profile speak directly to the people you want to attract – not about yourself.
Don’t forget mobile users…
Twitter’s own official blog reported high engagement from mobile users, who find Twitter easier to handle on mobiles than other social networks.
The blog study’s conclusion: Mobile users follow brands and almost half these users recommend brands they follow. If your target market members are mobile users, you can’t afford to be casual about your Twitter presence.
Once you have set up strong Twitter Profiles for your company accounts, researching activity around your own brand becomes much easier, with more accurate results.
Step 2. Topic Research
Finding topics by checking out the “What’s Trending” widget doesn’t often result in a relevant match for your business.
People who throw references to currently trending celebrities into business blogs are more often than not doing themselves no favours at all since they are likely to attract:
- Zero business searchers
- Annoyed searchers looking for news about their favourite celebrity – only to find one skimpy reference along the lines of “Lady Gaga has the right idea about marketing”.
To find trends relevant to your business: Use Twitter’s own Advanced Search page.
This is a great tool for using Twitter for business research. Simply enter your keywords and view the results.
Notice the wide, practical and useful varieties of search parameters the Advanced Search function offers:
- Words – includes hashtags, exact phrases, any or all of “these words” and “written in”
- People – you can search particular tweets to and from specific accounts, as well as search tweets mentioning specific accounts
- Places – use geo-targeting by searching tweets mentioning specific places and nearby locations
- Other – you can also specify the posts you are searching for by positive, negative or questions. And you can include retweets.
Other Top Tips for Topic Research:
1. If you want to be counted among Twitter’s top influencers, you need to know that Twitter itself measures this by the number of retweets you generate.
- One quick way to increase your retweets: Keep your tweets shorter than 100-120 characters
- Ask your followers to “Please retweet”.
2. If you want to track your own retweets an easy, free way is to use HubSpot’s latest tool, Who Tweeted Me.
In addition to Quick Stats, the report generated when you enter a Twitter URL also reports on the URL’s most influential retweeters, as well as potential reach and timelines. (However, it determines influence by the number of followers per each retweeter.)
You can also quickly drag the “Analyze in WhoTweetedMe” bookmarklet to your browser bar.
Keeping track of who retweeted you and what they retweeted can not only help you monitor your brand but give you valuable clues as to which subjects (via your tweets) are “hot” for your followers (and target market). Also which ones make them interact with your tweets and which ones leave them cold?
Step 3. Finding New Audiences
You don’t even have to leave Twitter to find new audiences. In addition to all the usual prompted ways to connect (searching your email accounts, for example), there are third-party sites and apps you can use, as well as searching hashtags and using Advanced Search.
There are a few key actions that top Twitter users seem to take. Before chasing off after the latest app, make sure you have these set in place:
1. Tweet focused, fascinating content
People are tired of serial retweeters and spammy marketing messages. Make sure that whatever you share – whether or not it is personal or promotional – speaks directly to your target listener, firmly hooking into their areas of interest. Keep your company mission or goal as central to every tweet. Before hitting the button, ask yourself “does this detract from what I want to portray… or is it in alignment?”
Make sure your tweet is unique and personal (in that it doesn’t sound as if it was written by a robot).
Here’s a powerful example of why you should take that extra time to create great tweets.
This tweet was chosen by Twitter as a “Top Tweet” – meaning that out of all the tweets created to promote, in this case, a particular hashtag, this one was the tweet retweeted most – and, if you remember, retweeting increases your Twitter status.
Now you’re ready to find a bigger, targeted audience – and they are ready to find you.
2. Search through authority blogs you regularly read. Look for people who comment or guest-author.
Follow the blog administrator or creator. Particularly follow the Twitter Advertising Blog, since this tells you what makes money for Twitter – and therefore will be important for your own Twitter research.
3. Join Twitter Chats.
This is a great way to become known and find quality people to follow. There are several sites like TweetReports displaying the latest TweetChat schedules – both multiple subjects and niche-specific.
4. Create a Chat.
Don’t just wait to find the right one – create a regular, weekly TweetChat specifically for existing subscribers and ask them to share it.
Put your TweetChat name and hashtag right in your Profile Summary, as author/editor, Julie Isaac, has done below.
5. Join Groups:
LinkedIn Groups are usually strictly for business; Facebook Groups are for a wide selection of special interests and Yahoo Groups are for hobby niches.
Groups allow you to become known – which lead to “follows”. So be sure to include your Twitter handle in your Profile and posts or post signatures (if allowed).
6. Join Forums or Membership sites
Particularly those built around your niche. Provide quality comments, answers and questions. Be there – daily and regularly.
And, again, include your Twitter handle wherever it’s allowed within those sites.
Step 4. Managing Your Followers
Another thing that can hurt you in today’s online climate is going for numbers of followers over quality. Every spammer you leave on your account will hurt it in Twitter’s eyes.
Get into the habit of also checking for new followers daily through your “@Connect” menu tab.
By all means, add people when they follow you – but do it manually. Check them out first to make sure you haven’t inadvertently added an auto-spammer who never personally engages.
Go through your account and get rid of anyone who doesn’t fit your niche or actually engage with you. You can use a free tool like Just Unfollow (now known as Crowdfire App) to monitor who has followed you back or isn’t active.
Step 5. Searching and using Hashtags
Hashtags can be a powerful tool when it comes to letting your ideal follower know you exist and allowing you to find quality people to follow.
Surprisingly, a recent report released by Business Insider Intelligence on factors affecting follower growth cited the use of hashtags (along with tweeting negative emotions and talking about oneself) as one of three factors adversely affecting account growth.
The real message here is “don’t overuse hashtags”.
Hashtags can be a powerful tool when you use them in a focused way for a specific purpose (e.g. alerting all the members of a forum to the weekly Google Hangout; letting interested readers know there is fresh news about your upcoming book: “How to Speak Orang-Utan”.)
Who overuses hashtags? Anyone who inserts more than two in a post – and uses hashtags in every post. It’s easy to become guilty of doing this – I know I have 😳
Two hashtags should be the maximum you ever use in a post.
Where to find hashtags
Where do you find strong hashtags? Look for them everywhere!
- Blog posts
- Author Profiles
- Social network Profiles
- Social network posts
- Third-party sites
- YouTube (and other rich media sites)
And if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, visit Hashtags.org. (This is also where you should register hashtags you create.)
Twitter is fast, powerful, streaming – and a goldmine of information if you take the time to mine its gems.
Are there other ways that you’ve found of using Twitter for business research? If so please do let me know in the comment box below.
Next week I’ll take a look at using Facebook for research.