Top Tips for Brands Looking to Leverage the Twitter’s New Functionality

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So now when you are familiar with the new exciting features of Twitter, time to look at some effective ways of applying them. If you missed my previous post, click here What’s New to twitter?

Twitter will start rolling out the new change to Profile Pages to the users over the next few weeks. In the interim, it’s a good time for brands to start thinking about how they will leverage this new . Here are some tips to help get you started:

  1. Plan Your New Profile and Cover Images: There is no better time than now to begin designing and developing your new cover photo and profile image to meet the new Twitter requirements. Twitter recommends dimensions for the header photo of 1500px in width × 500px in height.
  2. Offer Specials with Pinned Tweets: You now have the chance to feature a specific tweet at the top of your profile page to let new visitors get a fuller sense of who you are and what your profile is entirely more or less. One thing for brands to consider is featuring a tweet that offers an exclusive piece of content to visitors. For example, feature a tweet that offers a case study, white paper, infographic or eBook to help get visitor engagement.
  3. Use the Mobile Features for Photo Sharing: Tagging multiple people and posting multiple photos is a great way for brands to better engage with their audience. Consider posting multiple photos that illustrate a story or message to your audience and tag individuals that you think would appreciate the message.
  4. Larger Profile Image: The larger profile image on the new version of Twitter gives users more real estate to set the tone of their page. Consider changing profile photos on an ongoing basis to help keep users coming back.
  5. Make your Photos Count: This new version of Twitter places a deep emphasis on photos and video. Publish photos that are eye catching and entertaining. This will help to increase engagement when visitors choose to filter your tweets using the photo/video filter.

Finally, brands can expect to see more changes from Twitter in the not-so-distant future. Just last week, Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s head of new partnerships shook the “twitterverse” by suggesting that hashtags and @replies are “arcane” and could possibly be a thing of the past. When asked to clarify the remarks, Twitter representatives had this to say: “By bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background, we can increase high-quality interactions and make it more likely that new or casual users will find this service as indispensable as our existing core users do. And we took initial steps in that direction with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions in October, and we’re already starting to see early signs that those initiatives are working well.”

What do you think about the new changes to twitter? Are you, or your brand, looking forward to them?

Is your Twitter dressed to the nines?

Resolutions fail because they are vague, they can be easily achieved if we pin down the actions rather than the goal itself. Most common and apt business resolution is to optimise the Twitter Profile this year, and here’s my new year gift to you all. An action packed list to help you achieve this goal:

1)    Stitch in time saves nine
How secure is your password? Test it here http://howsecureismypassword.net “Change is good” and a periodic change for your password is a security mandate. Can I ask when was the last time you changed your Twitter or any frequently used account password? Ah! I can imagine your wide-opened eyes and dropped jaw for your own answer.

2)    Would YOU follow you?
Check your profile often and keep questioning yourself.  I am sure your profile looks great, it is recommended to enliven it every now and then. How about reviewing your design settings now and refreshing it. https://twitter.com/settings/design This is a wonderful feature. You can even customise the design based on an upcoming event of your business.

3)    Is your Bio up-to-date? 
You were on the drawing board last summer and revised your business’s profile to be in sync with your expanded line of product, services and the new goals. It should reflect accurately at your social footprints as well just like your employee book, website and all the policies. Time to review your twitter bio and re-write, if required.  https://twitter.com/settings/profile

4)    Give it a little swirl
This is an appropriate time to review the people you are following. Unfollow the ones you just started following in the flow, start following a few new and keep the mix right. Twitter profile health checks offered by “Twitter Counter” can be a good place to start.

5)    Get better with a Bitly account
Twitter automatically shortens URLs for you when you compose a tweet. But they use their own shortened and that doesn’t give you any access to the statistics that you may essentially need. Some Twitter interfaces let you to connect to Bitly and that way you can always go back to that site to see which URLs did good.

6)    Get an app
The web interface of Twitter is fine, however its helpful to have an app for your smart devices and see if it helps you operate your social world more effectively. HootSuite, TweeDeck, TweetCaster, Scheduling, managing different accounts and platform at once, statistics are some features of these apps and interfaces that can help you achieve your goals and carve your content and twitter strategy.

7)    Pull the plug for all unwanted apps
This is yet another very important security arena we often miss. The number of apps you have given permission to do mostl everything they want on your account. The number will surely surprise you. Some might still be appropriate, but there might be a few you tested once and never used even for a second time. They are better off if disconnected. https://twitter.com/settings/applications

8)    Flourish with more Followers
Never stop announcing your presence, the excitement and efforts should be as fresh as when you had just started on Twitter. Mention your Twitter handle in your email signature, contact page, sidebar of your blog, Google+ page, LinkedIn profile.. at every social footprint of yours. Are your employees aware of your social footprints? You could be losing on a ready to use followers base. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Employee handbook, newsletter, sen an email to the employees and your customers with a friendly reminder that you are active on Twitter and a few instructions on how to follow you. Try making it visible at the entrance to your office.

9)    Love is a universal language
Twitter wouldn’t be Twitter without the engagements between tweeps. Show some love to your followers and keep the conversation on. Retweets, replies and the stars keep tweeps connected and a bit of the mention goes a long way.

With the above and a few tips from my previous post, your social footprints will shine with the glory.

From Business Leader to Thought Leader

ImageWhen you think of a thought leader as someone recognised as an authority on explicit topics, it is easy to comprehend why so many business people want to be one. Being positioned as the expert in your industry can have great values as well as responsibilities for your career and on your business’s bottom line.

Can everyone be a thought leader?
Although most business leaders could become thought leaders, however in order to be a successful one some hard work is needed. For some the required characteristics may come naturally, and for some conscious practice is needed. Here are three characteristics a potential thought leader should have:

1. Be an expert
Being an expert in your industry or profession is an essential factor to being recognised as a thought leader. You must have great knowledge and understanding of your topics of expertise. Most business leaders will be able to answer this requirement.

2. Be open to sharing your expertise
In addition to having the knowledge and understanding, a thought leader must be prepared to share this expertise openly and have original ideas, distinct points of view and new insights.

3. Be willing to stand out
Thought leaders must also be open to being seen and heard publicly in the media, social media and at events. An approachable personality will definitely benefit you.

If you feel you have the qualities and experience needed to position yourself as a thought leader, then consider the following PR strategies to help you reach the recognition you deserve.

Become the expert the media wants to hear from
The media is always on the lookout for a great story supported by expert thoughts and intelligence. You may want to spend quality time with your communication and PR team and come up with a list of topics for which you should be positioned as an expert available for comments. They may point you to the right people / interactions.  

Treat media interviews as a priority by making yourself available. Also, undertake media training so you can deliver powerful interviews that will make the journalist’s job easier and create the impression you need in order to receive future calls for commentary.

Your communication team should also use all opportunities to offer topical, objective, easy to understand and helpful articles with your byline. These articles can relate to an important issue in your industry, your unique journey as a company director, your thoughts as a leader, or helpful tips and advice related to your expertise.

Write a business blog
Business blogs are a great way to share your expert knowledge and position yourself as a thought leader in your field. The key is to pick a topic and stick to it. As with media opportunities, your PR team should help you write regular blog posts that will spark discussion and share your experiences, ideas and relevant information.

You can also be positioned as a guest blogger on other relevant websites to increase your exposure and build traffic to your own business blog.

Network on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the professional social media platform that allows leading companies to connect with experts, clients and industry colleagues around the world. LinkedIn can also help you increase your visibility and position yourself.

One way of doing so is by ensuring that regular updates related to your field of expertise are made on your profile. You should also find groups in your industry and your clients’ industries, and join relevant and engaging discussions.

Engage on Twitter
Twitter can be a great avenue to demonstrate your expertise and gain a following of people interested in hearing what you have to say. To build your followers naturally, share links to helpful or insightful articles related to your expertise (this includes your own articles and blogs, but also those from other sources), cross-promote your LinkedIn discussions, follow people in your industry and target markets and interact with them.

Most importantly, before you start engaging on social media, consult your PR team to find out more about your organisation’s communication and/or social media guidelines.

Speak at events
Public speaking is an excellent way to position yourself as an authority on a particular topic or industry, while gaining endorsement from the event’s organisers.

Your presentation should be informative and interesting, and be adapted to suit your audience. For example, avoid using technical language when your audience has no knowledge of your topic. As for media training, if you’re not a confident public speaker, get some coaching beforehand to ensure you make the most of each opportunity.

The key to becoming a thought leader is to be open to positioning your expertise in the limelight in every possible way.

‘Tailor-made’ Twitter Content Strategy

What’s your Twitter strategy?

If you are unsure of the answer and with great amount of thinking, your response is, “We tweet often, we are polite, we use hashtags,”. It’s alarming.

To be successful on Twitter – whether you’re an individual owned business, an individual tweeting on behalf of a Fortune 500 or a mid-sized business – you need a well-articulated content strategy that covers the basic 5 WsWho, What, When, Why and in What Way.

Who is tweeting? Who are you tweeting to?

The question of who should be one of the first ones you answer when coming up with your Twitter strategy. You must determine who is in charge of your Twitter account, and who you’re your target audience.

You may be a one-person social media yard, and so you’ll be tweeting on behalf of, well, yourself; or you might be part of a dozen person team representing a major brand. In either case, establish a clear ownership of your Twitter account, and identify other team members who might also participate in content creation, couture and commitment.

Once you’re clear about who will be handling your Twitter handle, you are in more control of your specific campaigns and they are likely to run smoother. You are not prone to multiple conflicting tweets.

Once you have your Twitter team in place, determining your target audience is the next logical step.

This is a two-step process: I) Identify your target market and II) Find your target market on Twitter.

Hopefully you already know who you want to connect with your brand – if not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and figure this out. But once you know that your market is mothers in their 40s with at least two kids and an interest in yoga, you can take step 2: find them on Twitter. Using Twitter’s search or a service like Social Mention, enter keywords that are associated with your target market. You can start following some accounts, lists or hashtag chats this way, to get to know your onlookers thoroughly.

What are you tweeting?

What: what will you tweet?

Here are some types of content you might want to consider:

  • Your own (created) content – including blog posts, case studies, promotions,      etc.
  • Others’ content – including retweets, sharing articles, blogs,      research reports pertaining to your industry and target audience’s      interest etc.
  • Multimedia – including photos, videos, podcasts, interviews etc.
  • Polls, Q&As, Discussion Starters
  • Your Organisations’ highlights / product updates etc.
  • Industry updates / news etc.

Of course, there’s a whole wide world of content out there, you cn come up with a variety of content pieces that represent your brand appropriately.

When will you be tweeting?

You need to figure out the two things here: Timing and Frequency.

When, and how often, you tweet. How much time and effort can you spend on Twitter? When is your maximum audience online? Twitter’s real-time natureis the key here hence you would want to send tweets out when your audience are most likely to see them.

Why are you tweeting?

This is the most important part of your strategy: answering the question “Why am I on Twitter?”

Doing a little contemplation is good for the business and your own good soul both. If you haven’t set you goals for Twitter yet, it’s the time.

You might be on Twitter to because your competitors are, to see your latest launch, to promote your restaurant, to increase social presence of self or business or to provide customer service. Whatever your reason, write it down and be as specific as possible. This will be the guiding light for the rest of your strategy.

What way are you going to be tweeting?

Last but not least, any good content plan needs to plan the tools and tactics it will use in order to flourish.

If you have more than one team member accessing your Twitter account, you might want to consider using a dashboard like HootSuite to manage everything. It’s also great for scheduling tweets and for analytics.

In this part of your strategy, you’ll also want to clarify any short-term campaigns you’ll be running: are you going to do a photo contest? Quiz campaign before you release your latest report etc.

Finally, included your analytics plan. How are you going to measure the success of your content strategy?

No plan is complete without a solid understanding of how it will be implemented and measured hence thinks this part through.

All of these elements will come together to give you the groundwork of a successful Twitter presence, and will help you achieve your social media goals.

2 Dozen Items not suitable to Share on Social Media

The idea was not to compile this list on such a bright sunny afternoon (It’s a rare thing in London). I entered Starbucks to enjoy my favourite hazelnut cappuccino and do some personal social gatherings online (I mean catch up with my friends and family on Facebook during my lunch time). Moment I flipped Facebook on my iPad, the unabridged mood simply got murdered. I am not sure if it’s only me or there are many victims of gems / spices / criminal cases / cows on Facebook requests.

I want my FB page to give me the glimpse of my loved one’s life and not a message that “they don’t have a life!” Seriously, miles away from home last thing I want to know is you need my help in fertilizing your grains and feeding your cows.

What prompted me to write this list sprouted when the few Farmville and other online games updates turned into a stream and then became a furious flood… On Facebook you can actually turn this stream off in the settings section which is a good thing as I have stopped counting lambs, dazzling fake diamonds (Diamond Dash updates) or helping infinite Sherlock Holmes (Intended sarcasm for Criminal Cases players) when trying to catch a break.

This is quite astonishing that The Facebook-platform game FarmVille has over 80 million players. It’s played by people of all genres and is bigger than Twitter. Please, I don’t mean to convey it’s for everyone and by the way I have blocked all such updates hence there can’t be any confusion about what I am trying to convey here.

Well there are settings on Facebook that allow your updates to be made very public or private  and Facebook’s latest privacy changes in the last few months have actually made more information and photos public in its bid to open up the previously very private walled allotment of Facebook (unless you go back to your settings and reset the privacy controls) in its bid to compete with Twitters real time open stream of information in this increasingly competitive social media world as more marketers start implementing social media marketing campaigns like Ford and General Motors.

So to protect your reputation, personal brand, your bank account and your privacy you need to be very careful what you write and post on social media channels.

2 Dozen Items not suitable to Share on Social Media

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  1. What crop you are plucking or sheep you’re feeding on Farmville
  2. How many you have killed on Mafia wars / cases solved in criminal wars or where they are concealed
  3. Party photos showing wasted and pointing an objectionable finger
  4. Sharing extreme views on Religion, politics, race and about public figures (Google the Lord Mc Alpine case now and you will know what I am talking about)
  5. Photos revealing you flirting with your co-workers at annual work Christmas drinks
  6. The party announcement, you may upset uninvited friends and some may just decide to show up too
  7. That you are thinking of a having relationship or it’s complicated
  8. Complaints about your workplace / boss / co-workers – remember what goes on internet, stays for long. Google has amazing memory and reach
  9. Your ill feelings about your job and intentions of leaving / switching – (You may really have to leave your job)
  10. That are you are planning to take a sick leave from work and go for a movie
  11. Don’t share photos or an event that reveals that you were not sick that day at work
  12. Don’t make your four wall social drama public on social media
  13. Passwords (Unless you have more money than brain beans)
  14. Hints about passwords like your favourite word / favourite quote / pet’s names etc
  15. Too many Images and videos of your children
  16. Updates on Facebook after you have escaped from cops and on the run (Believe me, it happens)
  17. Don’t link personal sites to professional business sites like LinkedIn. Don’t mix business with pleasure
  18. Financial information such as how much money you do or don’t have in your bank account
  19. Personal Information
  20. The dates you are away on your holiday (Everyone is online nowadays, yes even robbers)
  21. Your daily routine (Everyone is online nowadays, yes even robbers)
  22. Showing you doing something imprudent, it’s not good for personal branding
  23. Your physical desires and detailed details (A few parts have been named private parts for a reason, understand and respect this fact)
  24. You prefer mustard instead of ketchup with your sausage

The rule is simple, anything you are not sure of / comfortable with, don’t share it. It will have no harm; rather you would do yourself a favour only.

This is an open list: Please feel free to suggest of the things you think that should not be shared on Social Media networks.

Do you ever catch a break from internet?

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How often each day you are entirely disconnected from the internet? If you have a smartphone then it’s probably not very often at all.

If you take a flight then it’s in the cards you might have to withstand some hours without social network updates – though most of airlines are now offering wifi access on board leading to many frivolous Facebook updates saying little more than “I’m on the plane…”

London commuters know that the Tube is a bolt hole from phone calls and Internet access, but the recent addition of wifi at station platforms means that it is possible to quickly punch out 140 characters to 200 million people and grab a few chuckles from Facebook updates each time the train stops.

Last night, I was to enjoy a calm meal with my precious husband (I adoringly address him as ‘Sunshine’ in my Tweets/Facebook updates). Was this too much of information, social networking taking a toll over me guess.

My husband addressed me as ‘wasted’ as I was uploading a photo of the place to Facebook. He was checking the menu and I was uploading a photo of him with the menu. He requested to keep my phone aside for the rest of the meal. Please note he himself keeps flipping Flipcard or news channels on his smartphone (I am sorry for dragging the spouse rivalry here too but it is true, he is no sane either)

I was thinking while I was in the gym this morning that my time drubbing the treadmill is probably the only time I never carry my phone. But then I am sure many of you tried running with a music outlet in your pocket.

I use most of the key social networks and I update them regularly, but I can switch off effortlessly (I would like to believe so) – I still read “real” books rather than just Twitter updates. I use them once a day or at regular intervals on any given day. I have a good reason to share what I’m up to because I live a long way from my family – it’s great being able to share with them what I am up to and what London looks like from my perspective.

But I’ve seen what limits on addiction in some friends. Addiction to the point that they can’t stop sharing all those ‘amusing’ images on Facebook and endlessly checking to see if anyone has commented or responded – even just with a ‘like’. And addiction to the point that they are endlessly appealing for interaction – leaving angst-filled notes online about their lack of purpose or disappointment with life in general.

What addiction has this displaced? Perhaps it was the endless consumption of daytime TV / Newspaper / Writing / Reading a book? Why would anyone sit passively all day consuming trash TV or browse news pages when they can do the same online and be rewarded by people giving them thumbs up?

Technology is converging and creating a perfect storm that will stunt attention extents and mug us of lazy free time to contemplate. When was the last time you actually did nothing at all and just sat thinking about a place you want to visit, a narration you could do better than many, or a story you could write that would sell more than the Almost Single stint?

With every free moment now spread evenly between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, how will creativity work in future? I recently heard a Stanford professor on the BBC talking about pedagogical changes in university education – how lectures are no longer seen as important when they can all be grabbed from the website as a video or podcast. And even those students attending lectures do so with an iPad constantly connected to Facebook.

The use of location-aware smartphones combined with venue services such as Facebook Places or Foursquare creates new possibilities for advertising that make recent science fiction movies look archaic. Right now a brand, such as Marks & Spencer, knows if I like their brand or not, and they know if I’m inside or near to a store. The only reason our phones are not being bombarded with location-aware advertising is because the social networks know how questions over privacy are the one thing that could derail their endless dominance over our spare time.

But I love social networks. I couldn’t stay in touch with my friends and family all over the world as easily as I do without them – my dad is always on Facebook these days and I could never have imagined that a few years ago. I think this ability for every person to shape their Internet use is about to blossom into a new type of experience, making our present use of social networks soon look as primitive as a 1994 web browser.

But when I go out running or even to the gym, I run without my phone and I think about the experiences I want to write, the 5 years down the line plans of my life, and how I can make things better for me, my family, society and of course, what I need to cook for the dinner.

If all we ever did were update Facebook with motivational quotes, none of this wonderful creativity would ever have a life. Hopefully the teens now getting addicted to a life lived online figure out a way through the temptation. When I was a kid, the perceived danger was that we would fritter our lives away playing video games, yet that turned into an entertainment industry bigger than cinema – the kids addicted to games as teens back then are now running giant entertainment corporations.

I’m hoping the same happens again and you thought I would never say something like this.

How to build or improve the social presence of your business via Twitter?

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It’s all about building engagements. Remember this word ‘engagement’, it doesn’t mean selling, not spamming and definitely not proselytization.

What many companies fail to understand is business success on Twitter is ancillary to relationship building. Twitter is a two-way conversation. It’s about engagement. You have to show your human side, you need to go beyond your logo and the name. (This is applicable for the businesses of all sizes and cadre)

You have to get out there and share your views, praise, reply and add value. You should be there to unleash the golden opportunity to share your brand personality with the world. People like people, they don’t like logos. Ask yourself, do you like talking to a wall or a person?

I feel this is the most exciting and golden era to be an entrepreneur. The opportunities to build your presence online and attract attention to your brand using Twitter are boundless. The important key for businesses using Twitter is to understand that followers want to see real people with real experiences.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, is a good example of someone who is raising the profile of the Zappo’s brand by tweeting in a very authentic manner. He uses a great mix of interesting content, business links, personal observations and a pleasant enthusiasm for his life and his business. He connects with his followers on a very human level. The emotional connection is the key to building a powerful brand in the social media or virtual world arena.

It is understandable that all businesses may not  be able to keep a leadership face attached to their company’s twitter and other social media interventions however it’s possible and vital that businesses using business name engage like humans. If you will honestly try to connect with your followers at a human level, they will pick that and appreciate it. For example, show gratitude to your new tweeps, make new twitter users in your arena feel welcomed. Personalised tweets for your followers will take you a long way.

To build your brand on Twitter, you must give your followers a snapshot into your life beyond just being a logo or name. You must be willing to give more than you get – to add value and show support for others’ projects and businesses.

Here are some Twitter Rules of Engagement for businesses trying to improve or build their social presence:

1. Tweet when you have something meaningful, valuable, interesting or humorous to say.

2. Post regularly (at least several times daily).

3. Only tweeting about your business, products and services can actually repel people. Spamming your business down your followers’ throats is the fastest way to get unfollowed. Instead, share quotes, knowledge, industry insight, ideas and resources that will help them.

4. Balance your tweets. A good rule of thumb is no more than 20-40% about your business, and the remaining should be personal and added value, such as links to great resources, observations, quotes, industry insight and articles your target market may be interested in. The key is to offer information that helps, entertains and uplifts your followers. Let’s call it 4E’s approach:-

5. Ask questions regularly. Twitter is about a two-way conversation. Listen.

6. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t tweet it. If you do, it’s out there forever. Remember, tweets are picked up by the search engines.

7. Always remember that deep-down, people want to be acknowledged and recognized for their efforts. Do this every day on Twitter, coupled with creating value for your followers, and you will be well on your way to a powerful presence online.

8. Take time each week to read what others have to say. Reply and compliment someone if you really like something and re-tweet (RT) the most valuable comments and insights. Remember, this is about engagement.

9. Remember to give credit where credit is due. Use the re-tweet symbol (RT) when sharing something someone else has already tweeted.

10. Twitter in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long haul and be persistent, consistent and committed.

By regularly letting your followers know that they have your attention and your support for their success, you are building the all-important “identify, like and trust” factor.

As a pleasant side-effect of following the Twitter Rules of Engagement, you may eventually find yourself and your business presence and engaement solid.