WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

What It Is

Twitter is one of the premiere channels: part social network, part microblogging platform. In a nutshell, it lets you share messages of no more than 140 characters.

Twitter users “follow” other users in order to see their tweets in their feeds. Reports find that as many as 50% of Twitter users are primarily focused on “listening” — following trends, tracking prominent figures and browsing content — while tweeting very little themselves.

Twitter is accessible via both the web and various official and third-party tools (details below).

Who’s Using It

According to a late 2015 Pew study, 23% of internet-using adults over 18 used Twitter. 25% of men and 21% of women did so. 38% of those users report engaging with the site daily.

According to a 2016 comScore report, the biggest demographic using Twitter is the 25-34 group, accounting for 22% of usage.

What the Audience Expects

Audience expectations vary; the best way to gauge them is to monitor which content your followers are engaging with the most. If you’re just getting started, refer to the platform-wide demographics above as a starting point, but keep in mind that your specific audience may look different.

Consider the purpose of your account. If it’s a sales channel, fans will expect deals and discounts. If it’s a news channel, the content team should act like a news outlet, breaking news, adding context, and keeping followers informed.

CREATING AN ACCOUNT

Username/Profile

Email address – This must be an address that is not used by any other Twitter account.

Choose a username – This is the @name you will be known by. It should be brand-appropriate and memorable. If the account is being used for a specific purpose, you can represent that here; for instance, @BrandName may be the primary channel, while @BrandNameCS might be a dedicated customer service account.

Choose a name – This is the actual name displayed alongside your username, so the username might be @BrandName while the name of the profile is Brand Name.

Customizing Your Profile

Upload an avatar – This is the square image that appears on your profile and next to all updates you publish. It must be at least 400×400 pixels.

Upload a cover photo – This is the larger image that appears at the top of your profile but is not visible in others’ update streams. It can reinforce the profile’s branding and be updated frequently to reflect current campaigns or promotions. It should be 1500×500 pixels and no bigger than 5MB.

Write a short bio – The profile bio is an opportunity to make a value proposition as to why people should follow your account. It should contain basic information about the brand and a short explanation of the account’s purpose.

Add a site link – This can be the main corporate website, the official blog, or some other important link. Some brands use a short link here (e.g. a bit.ly) to track the number of clicks, but we recommend that you stick to a long, unhidden link here for transparency’s sake.

Building a Following

Suggested Follows – When you setup your account, Twitter will suggest other accounts to follow, typically a mix of generic celebrities and accounts with similar names or bios. Twitter will prod you to follow at least five profiles, so choose wisely and plan ahead.

Other Accounts to Follow – Before setting up the account, develop a list of profiles to follow. This can include corporate partners, sister divisions, company executives, industry trade pubs and journalists, and influencers. Following other profiles is key to spreading awareness of the account, so cast a reasonably broad net. Twitter also offers a Connect tab containing suggestions on accounts to follow that are based on who you already following, what kind of material you frequently engage with and other features.

Promotion via Existing Accounts – If your brand already has other Twitter accounts, use them to promote this new profile. You can write Tweets that explain what the new account is or simply retweeting the new account to surface its tweets to a wider audience.

Engagement – Engage with the people you follow: Respond to their questions, retweet important stories, and “like” select tweets.

Provide Value – This is most important of all. Each Twitter profile should offer distinct, obvious value to both the company and the audience. Are you there to inform, entertain, sell, or promote? Whatever the answer, make sure it comes through loud and clear in your content.

Other Best Practices:

  • Develop relationships with key influencers and companies that have large followings. Then ask them to share your content and recommend your account to their followers.
  • Feature links to your Twitter and other profiles on all your communications materials, both online and offline.
  • Consider paid placements to grow your following within specific demographics.
  • Create Twitter lists relevant to your industry to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Directly mention people and other companies by using the @ symbol before their username.
  • Use hashtags to align your content with popular topics and events, but tread with caution. Make sure your tweets are still easily readable and that your tweets are genuinely relevant to the conversation around specific hashtags.
  • Embed tweets: Tweets can be embedded in blog posts and external pages. These embeds include any photos or videos attached to the tweet, as well as the username and a button to follow that account.

POSTING AND PUBLISHING

Types of Tweets

Text Only – Just <140 characters of text.

Text with Link – Keep in mind that a link will use up ~24 of your allotted 140 characters (including the space before the link).

Text with Photo – Photos can be uploaded natively to Twitter through the web and through most apps and tools. Those photos will appear in the stream. Uploaded photos or GIFs do not count against the 140 character limit, and should be no smaller than 375 x 375 pixels. You can attach up to four photos to a single tweet.Enable the “compose image description” option in Twitter’s accessibility settings to unlock the ability to add a description to photos. This description will be read aloud by screen readers used by visually impaired users.

Text With Video – There are several ways to display videos within a tweet:

  1. Linked Video: Linking to a YouTube or Vine video will display the video within the stream on most apps. Embedded videos will display at 435 x 244. Embedded Vine videos will usually autoplay, but YouTube videos will not.
  2. Native Video: Uploading a video directly to Twitter will cause it to autoplay in the stream.
  3. Periscope: A stand-alone app that integrates with Twitter, Periscope allows for live streams that are only available for up to 24 hours after the stream ends. These videos are viewable either within the Periscope app or on the web. People can like videos and leave comments. People can also take and share screenshots, and Periscope will track how many people do so and provide the broadcaster with data. Periscope also offers a status button that can be embedded on a site to indicate whether or not an account is currently broadcasting. Viewers may fast-forward through videos they’re watching by pressing down and swiping right. Videos are also indexed on a map of current broadcast locations. Comments on Periscope can be moderated by the viewing audience, who can mark comments as spam or abusive. Such comments are no longer seen by the broadcaster and the comment in question is presented first to a small group then to a larger group to determine whether it truly is abusive. If so, the commenter is disabled from leaving further comments on that broadcast.

Polls: Simple two-question polls live on the profile for 24 hours. Other users’ participation in polls is not visible on their own profiles.

Location: Through a partnership with Foursquare, location can be added to any Tweet. Specific information, like the name of a business, may even be available.

Content Organization

Hashtags – Hashtags are useful for grouping tweets on related topics, but they are not the only way to search on Twitter. “Batman” does not need to be “#Batman” to be indexed in search results. Instead, unique, focused hashtags are best, organizing content around a topic like an announcement or event.

What To Publish

Align your content with your program’s overall editorial mission and with audience expectations. Monitor engagement on an ongoing basis to understand which content performs best, and adjust accordingly.

A 2014 study by Twitter indicates that adding photos, videos and hashtags to tweets helps boost retweets.

When To Publish

According to a 2016 Hubspot report, the best time to post to Twitter is weekdays between noon and 3:00 p.m. Of course, results will vary according to a few factors:

  • When is your audience online? If you’re running a U.S.-centric program, plan Twitter publishing accordingly. If you need to reach international audiences then do likewise, and resurface earlier breaking news in a timely manner for those readers.
  • When are people engaging? This is a finer balancing act, since it means looking for high-engagement times to share important news, without creating a feedback loop where the best content is only published during a certain window, leaving the rest of the day without much of interest. If the channel is news-focused, don’t sit on breaking news while waiting for the next optimal window.

Contests and Promotions

There are a few ways to run contests on on Twitter, which lists here some guidelines and its official terms of service for contests. Some other best practices:

  • Create a unique hashtag for entries: This allows you to track how many people have entered and creates an immediately identifiable pool of entries. Tools like TweetReach can help with hashtag tracking.
  • Link to terms and conditions: You don’t need to include all the T&Cs in a single tweet. Instead, create an on-domain blog post or page with the full rules and link to it from some of the related tweets.
  • Create a unique message for people to tweet: You can control the messaging more closely by giving people a specific message (e.g. “I just entered to win a prize pack from @companyname”) to tweet in order to enter.
  • Include a clear call to action: If you want people to take a picture or tweet a specific message, make sure you spell that out. The action you want people to take should be specific and obvious.
  • If appropriate, use a randomizer: If the contest calls for a random winner to be chosen, use a tool like Random.org to select that random winner.

Other Best Practices

  • Don’t automate content. Users should be able to recognize the voice behind the posts as a person. This doesn’t mean “don’t schedule Tweets to publish later” as that is an important tool to use. It just means to keep the posts authentic to the brand style.
  • Keep your posts short and sweet. Twitter limits posts to 140 characters. That said, people will decide if they are interested in your content within the first few words. So don’t start with your organization name or information about you. Start all your posts with whatever information will provide the most value/benefit to your followers. Remember: They don’t care about you or your news. They just care about how it impacts their lives.
  • Test posting at different times of day and days of the week and track what works best.
  • Experimenting with voice and tone in a way that is in line not only with what is appropriate for the brand and corporate culture but also with what will resonate with your audience can be a great way to increase engagement and interest.
  • Post regularly, but don’t go overboard. In general users tolerate right around 10 tweets per day on the high end.
  • Post a mixture of types of content. Don’t always just post text updates. Include photos, videos and links. Updates with media have been shown repeatedly to have higher engagement rates than text/link-only updates.
  • Ask questions. Not surprisingly, people are more likely to respond to a question than a statement. Show a genuine interest in their responses.
  • Keep it light. The vast majority of people who like companies on social media don’t want to hear marketing messages. They actually want to talk to the people behind the company. Think about what you would want to chat about with a colleague or friend and try the topic out on the community.

ENGAGEMENT

Audience Engagement

  • @ Reply: A response to someone else’s update. Will need to be less than 140 characters since the @username of the person you’re responding to takes up that many characters.
  • Retweet: There are a couple different styles of Retweets
    • Native Retweet: The Native Retweet does not add anything to the update but just re-publishes someone else’s update under your profile.
    • Quote Retweet: Allows someone to add a comment up to 116 characters to someone’s original update, with that original update then appearing as a card-style image that can be expanded if someone clicks on it.
  • Favorite: Essentially “Liking” an update. Favoriting a tweet does not create a new update, but the person whose update has been Favorited will see an alert. When you view an account profile you can see how many updates they have Favorited and what they are.
  • Direct Message (DM): A private message to an individual user. People have two options: 1) Only receive DMs from those you follow and follow you back or 2) Receive DMs from anyone. All platforms/apps support DMs. DMs are no longer limited to the same 140 character count as status updates.
    • Group DMs: Allows people to create groups of people and send DMs to all of them at once, creating a group conversation, even among those who don’t follow each other.
    • Send to DM: At the bottom of each Tweet is an envelope icon that allows users to quickly send a tweet to someone via DM.
  • Mute: a “mute” button that was meant to allow users to silence an account that has become annoying without completely unfollowing that account. While it was billed as a feature for one individual to apply to another individual, brands could of course be muted, something that could have an impact on reach and engagement without changing metrics like total follower count.

It can be helpful to make use of Twitter Lists, particularly if the account is following over 500 or so other profiles. Lists are collections, either publicly available or private to the creating user, of profiles, usually around a single topic of some sort. So someone may have a List of “PR Bloggers” that breaks out selected individual profiles so just their updates are visible. If the List is public, others can choose to follow the entire list, meaning it will be added to their profile as well. When you view an account profile you can see how many Lists they maintain. Many third-party apps like TweetDeck and Hootsuite support Lists so they can be easily viewed and managed.

Other Publishing Best Practices

  • Be transparent about who is representing the company. Use the photos and names of the community manager(s) if applicable.
  • If multiple people are responding from the company profile, sign the replies with your initials and give followers an easy way to find out who those initials stand for.
  • Stay away from cookie-cutter responses and automated feeds.
  • When answering questions, don’t fake knowledge. If you don’t have the answer handy, buy time by saying “We’ll look into that” and then reply again later.
  • Either go all-in on community responses or avoid them entirely. Selective listening may earn you negative attention.
  • If you don’t want to answer a question on Twitter itself, direct the individual to an outside resource — link, email address or phone number — where their concerns can be appropriately handled.
  • Twitter has tools in place to transfer public conversations to a DM to handle customer service issues.

MANAGEMENT AND REPORTING

Apps and Sites You Need

Publishing CMS – Most corporate content marketing programs use a more full-featured CMS rather than Twitter.com or the native desktop app. There are lots of options out there — Hootsuite or Tweetdeck for simple programs; SocialEngage, SproutSocial, Adobe and others for more complex programs — so it’s important to fully evaluate feature sets when deciding which one to use. Look for:

  • Workflow and tracking
  • Bit.ly integration
  • Reporting
  • Lists support
  • Native media uploads
  • Other CMS integrations

URL shortener/tracker – Bit.ly is recommended; it both shortens the URL and tracks click-through numbers. Many CMS packages offer Bit.ly integration, but others prefer to use their own.

Bit.ly offers custom short domains that allow for branding to be carried through. So instead of a YourDomain.com link being turned into bit.ly/ABCXYZ, it will be shortened to something like yrdmn.com/ABCXYZ. Users can also customize bit.ly short links to something like bit.ly/campaignname, assuming no one else has used that same shortlink code.

In Twitter’s web and native apps, links can be shortened to use a t.co domain, but this does not provide as detailed analytics as bit.ly does.

Tweetdeck features teams functionality that allows account managers to add team members to an account without having to share login credentials and set permissions levels for each member. That functionality is also available in the official Twitter mobile app.

Cards – Cards can help promote site content on Twitter in a more engaging and interactive way. When a page with a card is linked on Twitter, the tweet appears with a rich-media preview of the page. Cards come in several formats:

  • Summary Card: Default Card, including a title, description, thumbnail, and Twitter account attribution.
  • Summary Card with Large Image: Similar to a Summary Card, but with a prominently featured image.
  • Photo Card: A Card with a photo only.
  • Gallery Card: A Card featuring a collection of four photos.
  • App Card: A Card to detail a mobile app with direct download.
  • Player Card: A Card to provide video/audio/media.
  • Product Card: A Card optimized for product information.
  • Lead Generation Card: Allows brands to offer a short lead-generation form for people to submit with just one click after pre-populating the individual’s username and email address.
  • Video App Card: An advertising unit that allows companies to promote their apps with a video demo and then offer an “install now” button for immediate action

Advertising Options

Twitter’s advertising options include:

  • Promoted Tweets: Promoted tweets are pushed to a wider group of users. As of February 2015, Promoted Tweets can also be syndicated elsewhere, increasing their potential reach.
  • Promoted Accounts: Promoted accounts appear in users’ suggestions for accounts they might want to follow.
  • App Installs/Engagements: A full suite of products that enables advertisers to drive installs of their mobile app and re-engage existing users. With mobile app promotion, advertisers can drive users to download or open mobile apps directly from within a Tweet. Ads are priced on a Cost Per Click model.
  • Promoted Video: Similar to Promoted Tweets, these are natively uploaded videos that can be promoted to increase reach.
  • Twitter Offers: Offers are coupons that can be redeemed using a credit card connected to the Twitter account and then claimed in a physical retail location by paying with the same card.
  • Objective-Based Campaigns: With these ads, advertisers only pay for actions that meet a defined objective, such as clicks or conversions.
  • Event-Based Campaigns: Allows advertisers to find relevant upcoming events and use ads to become part of the conversation around those events.
  • Promoted Moments: Allows advertisers to create their own curated moments around a major news event. These are available for 24 hours and can be embedded on-domain.
  • Conversational Ads: These ads include a call-to-action button that gives the viewer the option to share a customizable message that contains the preferred hashtag and text. After sharing, users receive a thank-you message with encouragement to find out more.

Information on setting a budget and more can be found here. Twitter allows publishers to promote Tweets on the fly using Quick Promote, which can be found within an account’s analytics. Twitter also offers “Audience Insight Analytics” that give advertisers a robust look into their ad audiences so ads can be more finely crafted and targeted.

A January 2015 study showed that 21% of social network users clicked on a Twitter sponsored post at least weekly. 15% clicked at least once a month.

Reporting and Analytics

A number of engagement actions can be used to gauge the reach and popularity of your account. Twitter offers the following metrics natively:

  • Tweet Metrics:
    • Impressions: The number of people who saw a tweet
    • Engagements: The number of times a tweet has been interacted with, including clicks anywhere on the tweet (including hashtags, links, avatar, username and Tweet expansion), Retweets, Replies, Follows and Favorites
    • Retweets: The number of retweets of an individual update or to all an account’s updates over a period of time
    • Replies: The number of replies to an individual update or to all an account’s updates over a period of time
    • Engagement Rate: A percentage; the number of engagements divided by the number of impressions
  • Follower Metrics:
    • Interests: The most common interests followers have listed on their profiles
    • Location: Top countries and states your followers are from
    • Gender: The percentages of your followers that are male and female
    • Your followers also follow: The most common other accounts your followers also follow
  • Twitter Card Metrics:
    • Number of links to your site that you’ve shared
    • How many impressions and clicks those tweets have received over time
    • How each type of installed card compares to the overall activity rate
    • Top-performing links
    • The influencers sharing links
    • Top tweets that include your links, showing which tweets drove the most impressions
    • Which apps (Twitter.com, Tweetdeck, etc.) drove how much traffic

Third-party services like SimplyMeasured provide deeper Twitter analytics. Each measurement service will have slightly different numbers available, so evaluate these tools based on your program’s needs.

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