Given how few B2B Twitter case studies there are out there, I documented some key metrics and insights from the first 30 days of Business.com's B2B online marketing Twitter account in a previous blog post. We're still going strong and learning a lot about how our target audience on Twitter, B2B online marketers, agencies and related publishers, use the site to find and share information.
First, some quick facts and stats for our @B2BOnlineMktg Twitter account for the first 60 days since my initial post (March 3, 2009). Following this are several insights and actionable suggestions for B2B companies exploring Twitter for business use.
Tracked clicks on tweets: 3,008
Top 10 @B2BOnlineMktg tweets by number of clicks over the last 30 days:
- Best way to describe a Twitter user? Information junkie. New research from @MarketingProfs. http://ow.ly/4621 (126 clicks)
- Free social media competitive analysis from @MoreVisibility http://ow.ly/46i2 (109 clicks)
- ExactTarget launching ability to track email campaign sharing across social networking sites. http://ow.ly/47AM #b2b (95 clicks)
- Must read for businesses posting content online - Making Negative Press & Flame Wars Work for You. http://ow.ly/4dv4 From @outspokenmedia (93 clicks)
- What factors affect web site landing page conversion rate? Great model from @dericloh http://ow.ly/1UgB#ppc #seo #wa (82 clicks)
- You know Twitter, but would you manage tweets for a B2B company? Take our quick poll! http://ow.ly/3GHh #socialmedia #marketing (56 clicks)
- 24% of interactive marketers now using behavioral targeting / BT - summary of new Forrester report http://ow.ly/4HEI (52 clicks)
- Web site traffic data all a blur? Sort it out with some great tips for visualizing web analytics data. http://ow.ly/3rmD #wa #b2b (52 clicks)
- B2B Twitter example - The Current Network's @jkretch posts RFP for full service ad agency on Twitter. http://ow.ly/4aez #TwitteRFP (52 clicks)
- Learn to monitor social media conversations across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube & more. Free Vocus webinar http://ow.ly/2WbG (50 clicks)
What have we learned in our first 60 days using Twitter for business? Plenty, to say the least. After the first 30 days I became a Twitter convert, found a couple great resources for those just starting on Twitter, and learned the importance of having a clear business purpose for using Twitter, clear metrics and frequent tweeting. The next 30 days reinforced these lessons plus the following:
Use Twitter Tools to Make Your Life Easier
At Business.com we have three Twitter users covering two accounts - @B2BOnlineMktg focused on delivering B2B online marketing insights and best practices to Business.com's advertiser audience, and @whatworksfocused on delivering the best how-to advice for managing and growing businesses for Business.com's advertiser audience. Here are some of our favorites:
HootSuite has been very useful as a shared Twitter platform allowing multiple users, pre-scheduled tweets (great for when I'm traveling and the stat/fact I'm posting isn't time sensitive) and click statistics including charts and your most popular tweets.
TweetVolume helps in those situations where there are several possible keywords you could use in a tweet but want to figure out which one is the most popular on Twitter.
TwitterCounter provides a nice chart showing Twitter follower growth. However, it will only show stats from the first day you use it to look-up your account followers.
Twinfluence is the best tool I've found for measuring the combined influence of your Twitter account and followers. I'll admit it, Twinfluence speaks to the geek in me because it uses some core concepts of social network analysis I recall from grad school. The site offers clear definitions of key statistics, though, and provides valuable benchmarks for B2B Twitter users to track regularly.
Business People are Both Excited & Confused by Twitter
Thanks to coverage on Oprah and the race between Ashton Kucher and CNN to be the first Twitter account to pass one million followers, there's been a major inflow of new Twitter users in the last month. This rush of excitement is tempered by confusion about what to do on Twitter when you get there, something I covered why business people are confused by Twitter in a prior post.
When people start investigating Twitter for business purposes - building thought leadership, quickly communicating with their customers, soliciting or searching for advice on business issues, etc. - one of the biggest sources of frustration stems from Twitter's original purpose as a way to let people know what you're doing. As I've heard over and over again from B2B marketers just starting to investigate Twitter, the apparent obligation to tell people what you're doing (e.g., I'm having X for lunch; I'm at the airport waiting for my flight to Boston, etc.) makes little sense to them in a business context, and following the most popular Twitter users with their constant "here's what I'm doing" updates quickly becomes overwhelming.
My advice - if you're going to use Twitter for a business purpose, understand what the media has to offer and find your own way. Don't feel obligated to use it only, or even primarily, to send or receive real-time updates on what you are doing. Which leads me to my next point...
Give Your B2B Twitter Audience What They Want
Our target Twitter audience is B2B online marketers, agencies and related publishers looking for the latest facts, stats and B2B-specific insights across a variety of online marketing domains including paid search marketing, SEO, banner advertising, social media, email marketing, lead gen and more. I've talked to a lot of these folks about social media over the last year or so and the #1 thing they care about is relevance - if social media can connect them with valuable audiences or information, they're all for it. As a tool for letting people know what you had for lunch? No way. So, here's what we do with our @B2BOnlineMktg tweets to meet their needs:
All tweets are facts or stats useful for B2B marketing (see above for examples) - no "what I'm doing" tweets
Tweet the cream - we aggregate a huge volume of news and research across multiple online marketing disciplines and pick out only the most interesting and actionable pieces to tweet about.
Include links- Twitter's 140 character limit is essentially equivalent to a long headline. You can't say much of business value within this limit, but you can write a great intro to a more detailed online piece. We focus on writing those great headlines/intros.
When retweeting, give credit but rewrite to highlight relevance - there is an amazing amount of great B2B marketing content on Twitter that's doomed to obscurity by what amounts to poor headline writing. When I find this content, I'll cite the original source (often using "via @..." at the end of the tweet) but feel its my job to better describe the relevance of the content on the other end of the link to our target audience. To become a better tweet writer, and better marketer overall, read "Made to Stick" by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.
Leave the live tweeting for others - we tried live tweeting our presence at the recent Web 2.0 Expo but it just didn't work. Follower growth stagnated and this tactic just didn't seem right for the editorial purpose of our @B2BOnlineMktg account. Not for our audience, so not for us.
No auto-reply to new followers - While there are tools that allow you to automatically send a standardized direct message to new Twitter users that follow you, we don't use them. Frankly, it seems odd to send a standardized, and often irrelevant, message to someone in a medium like Twitter that's supposed to be a community messaging platform. If you want to thank someone for following you, that's great, but if you care about quality followers and meaningful interaction then take a minute to look at their profile and tweets, and send a more personal thank you.
Don't worry about forcing engagement - I'm happy to respond whenever someone asks a direct questions or follow up on something we tweeted, and will occasionally search for and respond to questions posed by other Twitter users, but I'm not constantly asking questions to try drive interaction within Twitter. This interaction and engagement will come over time.
The Most Popular Tweets are About Twitter & Social Media
Not a surprise, really, but people interested in social media and Twitter tend to seach for and get most excited about tweets that mention these topics. This presents an interesting challenge for us - we know we can get more followers and retweets from social media topics, but also know that B2B social media is only one of the B2B online marketing topics we cover.
To maintain our editorial focus, we've chosen to maintain a reasonable balance across B2B online marketing topics rather than heavy-up on social media content to quickly boost our popularity. Other B2B companies working to grow their Twitter followers need to make their own choice on this issue.
Follow Other Users With Interesting, Relevant Tweets
This is another one of those areas where I disagree with Twitter norms...I don't follow everyone who chooses to follow @B2BOnlineMktg. Why? Our goal with the account is to be a leading B2B online marketing information source on Twitter. If another user follows @B2BOnlineMktg simply to get a reciprocal follow, that does nothing to help us achieve our goal - that user is unlikely to read our tweets, find value in them, and pass them along to others interested in B2B online marketing.
If this approach leads to slower follower growth, that's fine. Our focus is on quality followers over quantity. If you want thousands of Twitter followers just for the numbers then its relatively easy to do (I've seen at least one example of 1,000+ followers in 24 hours simply by putting out a huge number of tweets on a variety of topics). The quantity over quality approach, however, rarely works in any B2B marketing domain.
Tweet Frequently, but Give Your Tweets Room to Breathe
We've found that 5-6 tweets per day, spaced out across Twitter prime time for business - 7-9am and 11:30am-1pm local time - is related to a higher click volume per tweet. This is where the ability to schedule tweets that aren't time sensitive really helps. Without scheduling, you'll be tempted to post multiple tweets whenever you have the chance, stacking several on top of each other which will cause people to focus on your most recent tweet to the exclusion of the others.