How should I make the most of Twitter?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

CONTENDER

Dane Miller?
President and design director, Azure Marketing Comms. Inc., more than 20 years' marketing experience?

The buzz surrounding Twitter use has grown exponentially, driven by recent news stories such as then-presidential candidate Obama's use of Twitter as a direct-to-voter communication vehicle, and earlier this year, by the story of actress Demi Moore's Tweet-inspired intervention to save the life of a Los Angeles-area follower threatening suicide.?

To be sure, within the realm of dedicated social media vehicles, Twitter enjoys a unique degree of hype, because of its quirky functionality and celebrity user base.?

However, behind the hype, inclusion of Twitter as a key element within a larger social media marketing strategy provides a method for fulfilling serious and valuable communication goals for companies of all sizes. Like most media choices, strategic communication goals must be defined. A combination of communication vehicles — like Twitter — can then be aligned to achieve those goals.?

Central to social media marketing tactics is need for cultivating a more direct, personalized connection with a buying audience, along with ability to quickly gather focus group-like insights to fine-tune potential offerings well before mass distribution.?

Serving in this marketing-centric role, Twitter users have available a huge potential audience of "followers" for rapidly spreading word of a company's latest news and developments. However, like so many social media vehicles, using Twitter successfully in this guise requires an investment of time to cultivate a reputation built on credibility, plus personality to attract followers, thereby growing the available audience.

CONTENDER?

Dirk Shaw?
Social media strategist, Vignette; more than 12 years with interactive strategies?

Twitter is much more than people updating what they had for lunch. It is a real time discussion on the latest trends, a place to gain market insights and a place where word of mouth rules. If you are not sold on Twitter, consider the cost of ignoring it: $1 million in sales for Dell (corporation); 200 copies of Steampotville sold in 15 hours (individual); increased reach (by 40,000) new people in a campaign for Vignette (midsize business). ?

Size does not matter as much as participation. A simple Twitter evaluation formula might look something like this: Opportunity cost minus HR cost equals return on participation. As with any formula, a value must be assigned to missed opportunities. The sum of these in both hard- and soft-costs will help you realize the possibilities. ?

Social media cannot be automated. Twitter is about building relationships by actively listening, learning and participating with the community. To do this effectively, a person or team needs to be assigned to manage the tool.

Several tools exist for measurement. Trackable urls like bit.ly provide insight to the number of links clicked, Tweetreach measures reach of tweets, and with Web analytics you can determine how many referrals came via Twitter. This real-time feedback allows you to optimize campaigns in real time.?

Twitter is great for building buzz, driving traffic and managing brand perception, but companies must be relevant or else they will be ignored.

DMNews' DECISION?

Both experts agree that time must be devoted to developing relationships with the wide Twitter audience before it can become effective as a marketing tool. Miller suggests that Twitter be used as a market research while Shaw has the more direct approach ?of measuring its reach and impact as a referral tool.?

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