What is twitter and how can I use it for my store

Dealer Marketing Magazine- December 2010
By Ed Steenman Twitter: @greenhuman

Usually when a dealer asks about social media, they are really asking about facebook. ‘Twitter’ gets mentioned almost as an afterthought. That’s too bad because, as I have personally discovered, Twitter is a powerful social media tool in its own right. As a starting point, let’s being with a definition of what Twitter is (courtesy of Wikipedia);”Twitter is a website, which offers a social networking and micro-blogging service, enabling its users to send and read other users' messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user's profile page. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets—this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers.”

Think of Twitter as your own personal ‘broadcast channel ‘ where you control the programming in 140 characters. People (viewers) can elect to look at your tweets on a one time basis – or agree to receive your messaging on an ongoing basis. This is a significantly different from facebook because they don’t need your permission to follow you, and, as a user, you can track tweets from places like Ford Motor Company (@Ford) to your friend next door. From a user perspective, it’s a bit like having a newspaper in real time customized with subjects you’re interested in.

Twitter is a very searchable environment (in my view, the Twitter search bar is set up to look very similar to google- simple, clean and to the point and is a real opportunity) and operates much more like a traditional newspaper or newsfeed than other social media. However, keep in mind that Twitter is a very short form world so it’s important to “headline oriented” in your messaging (use links to provide more in depth content). It’s also crucial in setting up your account to have a good ‘handle’ as well as a profile that telegraphs your business, product or service. This is important because users tend to scan your profile and tweets very quickly to decide if you are interesting enough to them to follow.

As far as what to Tweet on an on going basis:

(1) If you can establish yourself as a credible expert source, followers will find you. Whenever possible be sure to use #HASHTAGS which is a feature that unites global Tweets around a particular topic (ie: green cars, Subarus, or whatever). Using #HASHTAGS also adds additional context and metadata to your tweets (good for SEO). (2) Tweet the news! About your dealership, your people and – YES- your inventory! The number of ‘classified car ads’ on twitter is growing daily, as well as lots of car reviews and helpful information being viewed by active shoppers within twitter environment - so don’t be shy to post your inventory as part of your mix of information.

(3) Tweet often. Remember, while your tweets are stored on your home page (and hopefully with #HASHTAG to aid search), most users will see them as part of scrolling feed so they have a short shelf life in that regard.

(4) It’s okay to have fun sometimes, it doesn’t have to be all business.

Most importantly, listen and respond - you’ll be amazed at how fast the conversations start.