Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter as a Brand Expression: 5 Tips for Effective Branding Using Twitter

This is a topic I’ve been mulling over for some time, but how to begin? 

The most useful place to start is to talk about the term “brand” so let’s begin with that.

What is a brand? 

A generally accepted definition of the term “brand” is “the emotional relationship a product, company, organization or even person has with their customers, audiences, consumers, community.” 

This is a definition modified from several sources including Marketingspot.

B-to-B Branding
In terms of business-to-business marketing, a brand elicits thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and responses from business customers. 

Responses are based on many key elements such as the product/service itself, the company reputation, the company history, the logo, the website, product packaging, the company employees, news articles, etc. 

(Quick side note – remember that logos are not the same as brands.  In fact they are design representations of a brand.  In a way, they serve as a brand “symbol” when they are created effectively.)

Twitter as a Branding Tool
So how can business-to-business marketers use Twitter as a branding tool?

A previous blog post about the basics of Twitter etiquette made the case that “a brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of your prospect. A Tweet stream contributes to that perception.  It’s wise to operate within the constructs of common courtesy to lock in positive branding. Your Tweets are a reflection of your brand!

5 Tips for Effective Branding
To explore this concept more thoroughly, here are 5 Tips for Effective Branding via Twitter.

1)    Do the hard work first.  A Twitter or social media program can only reinforce your brand if you’ve taken the time to develop one in the first place.  Is your organization striving for a “thought leadership” brand?  If that makes sense for you, then Tweets can reflect cutting edge information, leading industry trends, and other materials supporting that brand image.  But you can’t be effective until you have a sense of the brand.   Are you hoping to brand the company as a leading edge innovator?  Then Tweets should reinforce that brand image by directing followers to innovation success stories, accolades and awards for innovation, breaking news of other innovators in the marketplace, etc. Again, this only makes sense if that branding work was done beforehand.

2)    Be Consistent.  Branding must be consistent across all media and programs.  As an example, a financial consultant might use print and online ads and its website to portray a conservative and trustworthy brand. Thus it wouldn’t make sense for the financial advisor to Tweet goofy jokes or off color comments, personal observations about the weather, Charlie Sheen or unrelated topics.  Be human, yes, but don’t go off-brand. The advisor’s tweet stream should reinforce a consistent brand image that relates to other programs.

3)    Use common sense. Courtesy goes a long way.  This was covered in another post, but it is worth repeating.  Mind your manners!   Don’t be reckless, use profanity, or insult.  That makes a terrible brand impression! Don’t Tweet or post when angry. Refrain from being intoxicated when Tweeting, as many organizations have learned.

4)     Be timely.  This is a pet peeve. What does it say about a business consultant’s “brand” when the Twitter feed hasn’t been updated in over 12 months?  It doesn’t say anything good that is for sure.   If you start a social media marketing program, by all means maintain it in a timely fashion.  It is a detriment to the brand if a blog, Twitter account, or Facebook goes through a ‘set it and forget it” process, and the last post was over a year ago.

5)    Be thoughtful.  It is a mystery to me why so many business to business companies don’t take time to draft an effective Twitter biography profile.  Many also neglect to include their website’s URL. Other relevant followers search Twitter bios using keywords when looking for folks to follow.  If a corporate trainer, for instance, leaves the bio blank, or doesn’t use keywords in the bio like “training’ “corporate training” “learning workshops”, they are missing out on a great branding opportunity.

 Parting Thoughts
A brand is the foundation of all marketing activities. 

It takes thought and effort, but social media marketing can effectively reinforce your brand, and deliver a favorable perception in the mind of your prospect.

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