Michael Kahn: Relevant Brands Need To Have A Presence on Twitter

Twitter was meant to be a social communication service that enables people to inform friends and acquaintances about what they are doing. The micro-blogging platform has since its launch grown into a service that is increasingly used by businesses and success stories are published every single day: smart marketers and entrepreneurs have used Twitter to grow their businesses exponentially, service their customers and even sell a lot. Most success cases are known.

What many of them have in common, besides smart thinking, is a clear focus on the customer experience and the human dimension of a brand. Twitter has found its way as an ideal medium in cross-channel interactions. And it is also increasingly finding its way as an advertising medium.

But there is much more. Think about search engine marketing for instance. Recent events and announcements have made Twitter more important than ever before in that perspective (read “Official”: Facebook & Twitter DO Influence Natural Search Rankings on Smart Insights). Before these announcements I interviewed Michael Kahn, Senior Vice President, Client Services, at performance markting specialist Performics (Publicis Groupe/VivaKi) about the role of Twitter, amongst others from the search engine marketing viewpoint.

Michael Kahn of PerformicsFirst of all, Michael, gave his opinion on Twitter as a marketing instrument: “Relevant brands have to have a presence on Twitter. Brand name Twitter handles are far too valuable to your brand to let them sit out there for squatters to scoop up. If someone else grabs your handle, they are controlling your brand’s message. People are searching for brands within the social networks; and the search engines rank Twitter pages highly for brand name searches. Social sites within the search engine results pages (SERPs) are here to stay. If brands do not control their Twitter page, they risk losing control of their brand’s message on Twitter and in search. A user searching for a brand on Google could easily come across a Twitter page that may look like an official brand page, but is really a consumer complaint page or a page controlled by that brand’s competitors”.

Branding, search engine marketing, reputation management, avoiding that squatters scoop up your brand name Twitter handle etc. All good reasons. But what does Michael think a brand should do on Twitter to make the whole experience valuable for the company and, most of all, its (potential) customers?

Michael: “Once you get on Twitter, you need to stay active to build a following. Hone in on your sweet spot and then start tweeting about it. People who are interested in what you have to say will start following you—your followers self-select themselves and thus are highly qualified prospects. Have a brand personality, but also offer people valuable content”.

He continues: “Build a following by holding contests and offering giveaways. Encourage consumers to talk about your brand. For instance, Chicago T-shirt company Threadless encourages its Twitter followers to tweet what Threadless shirt they are wearing that day. People who tweet the shirt are entered into a drawing to win a free shirt. Using this approach, Threadless starts massive conversations about their brand and has gained over 1.5 million followers. Dell has also been very successful using promotions on Twitter, driving millions of dollars in sales by tweeting weekly discount offers to its legion of followers”.

Engagement, commitment, listening and identifying brand influencers

But Michael warns that it requires an ongoing engagement: “On the other side advertisers should not take a ‘launch it and leave it’ mentality to pursuing a presence on Twitter. Brands need to make a firm commitment to managing their presence on this platform whether it is to drive sales, service customers or listen and learn. Otherwise they risk being perceived as out of touch or not finishing conversations they started”.

Until now Michael talked a lot about Twitter as an advertising, SEM and branding tool but in his last answer the magic words appear: ‘service customers’. So what is Michael’s view on the relevancy of Twitter in CRM, customer service, lead generation, marketing automation etc.?

Let’s start with managing customer relationships and gathering insights about customer behaviour and identifying brand influencers.

Michael:Twitter allows marketers to listen to how consumers are talking about their brandSocial listening can inform other marketing strategies like: advertising and paid search copy (learn how consumers talk about your brand to improve copy relevancy/CTRs), search keyword lists (grow keyword portfolios with trends/topics your target market is interested in),  landing page strategies, reputation management campaigns (get on top of negative chatter), competitive strategy (how do consumers perceive you vs. your competition?), display and offline campaigns. Social listening also helps a brand identify brand influencers—fans of the brand who are highly influential because consumers trust their opinions. The brand can reach out to these people through Twitter, keep them happy and keep them talking positively about their brand. Social listening can be done manually by monitoring Twitter Search. There are also automated social listening tools to help brands break through the clutter, mine and compile the relevant chatter”.

Managing your reputation and servicing your customers

When asked about his view on Twitter as a reputation management tool Michael has this to say: “Twitter allows a brand to take control of the conversation quickly before negative media stories about the brand come out during a crisis. For instance, when a hole opened in a Southwest Airlines plane, Southwest quickly informed its Twitter followers that it would be inspecting every plane overnight and that there would be minimal disruption in the next day’s schedule.  Additionally, Twitter profiles can be used for SERP domination. Search engines only show 2 natural results for a native Web site per query.  But what about the content you distribute to Twitter? Twitter profiles rank highly for brand queries. This is a great way to dominate the SERP for your brand, manage reputation or push competitors down”.

In all the answers Michael Kahn gave to my questions it is obvious that he sees that Twitter is – on top of everything else – also an excellent customer service tool.

Michael gives an example: “Twitter allows marketers to monitor and respond to customer service issues. Customer service reps should be listening to Twitter chatter and jumping into the conversation to help customers solve problems. Comcast increased its customer satisfaction score by 9.3% using this tactic”.

Twitter and lead generation

And then it’s time for the big one: can you acquire new customers through Twitter? Can it help you in generating leads?

For Michael the answer is clearly ‘yes’: “A Performics Social Marketing Study found that consumers are open to brand messages on the social networks. Brands should be tweeting deals and promotions to their followers (see Dell example above), especially during the holidays. A brand’s following is a self-selected list of people that are saying to the brand: ‘we are interested in what you have to talk about’ or even ‘we are interested in buying from you.’ Don’t spam your followers, but recognize that they are open to your promotions. Test which times of day and types of messages drive the most clicks and conversions from Twitter and optimize your promotional tweets. Twitter can also be used to drive in-store traffic. For instance, tweet something like: ‘get a free gift when you mention this tweet in one of our stores today from 1PM to 5PM!’”.

Conclusion? According to Michael, from a marketing perspective Twitter is about spreading relevant information, content, brand messages, promotions etc. to those who decide they want to follow us.

Without relevance and an ongoing conversation and engagement it will not work but most of all I conclude that Twitter is more about listening than about speaking (or tweeting). Isn’t that what marketing is about in this digital era?

Twitter is a great platform for many marketing purposes.

And for search engine marketers it is nothing less than a must.