Optimizing Social Media: Getting More from Your Tweets

Posted: 11/20/2015 9:00:42 AM by Miki Rettig (CA)
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As of mid-September 2015 Twitter reported that it had 316 million monthly active users generating 500 million tweets per day. It’s easy for your business’s messages to get lost in that flood unless you use the platform properly to support your business goals. But it’s not a Hollywood-celebrity competition to attract the most followers: a better approach is to select a target audience and plan your message content around their interests.

Working the Calendar
That’s the approach Craig Roers, marketing manager at Newman Long Term Care in Richfield, MN, has taken. He joined Twitter in September 2010 but didn’t become active for several years. During that period the firm was observing the platform and “trying to figure out what we wanted to use it for,” he said. They decided that Twitter could be useful for reaching potential long-term care insurance (LTCI) brokers and the news media; subsequently, they developed a plan focused on those audiences.

The firm follows an editorial calendar that includes several categories. Its outgoing tweets support these editorial themes, which Roers calls “buckets.” The first category is general LTC awareness. September is life insurance awareness month so tweets mention life and LTCI products. October’s messages will highlight government-related topics in the run-up to November elections: how much does Medicare pay for LTC, and so on.

The second bucket highlights the firm’s positions on LTC topics in an effort to position itself as an industry thought leader. Promoting events at which firm founder Deb Newman is speaking is the third category. The fourth bucket highlights the firm’s achievements and the fifth is for more general topics that Roers believes will interest followers. He cites the example of a news article about a local company that built small, accessible mobile homes. These homes could be dropped in a backyard, allowing a family member who needed care to live independently but wanted close proximity to caregivers.

Tracking Results
There’s an adage attributed to advertising pioneer John Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” Social media users face a similar dilemma: Does time invested on Twitter and other social media pay off?

Tom Riekse Jr., ChFC, managing principal with LTCI Partners in Lake Forest, IL, started using Twitter personally several years ago before adopting it for the company. He increased the time and effort spent on the platform after his firm starting using HubSpot to track its social media metrics. “For example, I can look at the last three months compared to a previous time period and I can see that I’m up 50 percent on the number of clicks for messages,” he said. “They show data, for example, that of the total messages that had clicks, we do better than 44 percent of HubSpot customers with a similar number of fans and followers. We’re able to compare our performance to similar organizations. I think that’s really important when you’re doing marketing to make sure that you’re doing the right amount in comparison with similar groups or organizations.”

The tweets that generate the highest response rates are those that relate to something new, said Riekse. He cites a tweet about a comprehensive study that examined the need for and cost of LTC; that message generated the most interactions. Tweets focusing on single products or topics that could have been come from other organizations, such as insurance companies, drew the least interaction.

HubSpot also helps the company measure the business impact of its tweets and other social media messages by linking to the firm’s contacts database. The analysis shows Riekse how many visitors came to the company’s website directly from social media. He can then track those visitors to learn how many eventually become customers. It’s a new process but he’s optimistic about its potential value for measuring social media’s business value. Roers uses Hootsuite software for managing his social media. The program centralizes control of his social media work as well as providing usage metrics.

Tips for Success
Roers and Riekse shared several additional pointers on getting more value from tweets:
Identify your audience: Identify your audience, Roers suggests. Is it consumers? Is it industry? Is it media types? You want to speak differently to different groups. You can gauge your audience based partly on who’s following you, he adds.

Have something to say:Roers said that “there’s a ton of great content out there” including articles and studies. “Find those interesting items, put your own little quick spin on it and then link to that original article because then that author might retweet your mention of them to all their people and that’s another way for people to find you,” he recommends.

Tweet at the best times for your audience:Instead of posting your brilliant message in the middle of the night, use a program like Hootsuite to deliver it at a time your audience is most likely to read it. “There’s nothing worse than having a great idea and then just throwing it out there and nobody sees it,” says Roers.

Write your own tweets: Don’t outsource your tweets’ composition, Riekse cautions. Readers can tell the difference between original, authentic content and bland, corporate messages. The latter become part of the background noise that won’t appeal to readers.
Hit the books: Twitter has spawned a mini industry of how-to writers and consultants. Roers recommends “The Twitter Book” (O’Reilly Media; 2011) by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein as an excellent starting point.