Social Media

4 Rules for Marketing on Twitter

In last week’s “5 Timesaving Social Networking Tools,” I discussed efficient ways to manage your social media engagement efforts.

However, social media is not merely a “tool set” to be used any way we see fit. It is also a mindset. For merchants wanting to use Twitter to market their products, certain rules apply. Most of these rules are unwritten, and many Twitter users run afoul of them. In an effort to keep you on track, I suggest these four rules for raising your influence on Twitter.

Rule 1: You Must Win the Right to be Heard

Twitter is a wonderful tool for meeting new people and breaking the ice. If social media were a house, Twitter would be the front door and foyer. While Twitter serves many functions, that, to me, is its primary role. And to gain any traction you have to “win the right to be heard.” How to you do go about doing that?

  • Follow others, but not indiscriminately.

    Find people that it makes sense for you to follow. The focus should be on relevance, not amassing large numbers. These would include your current and past customers, those who fit your demographic profile, and those in your industry or niche. Think about who should qualify, and follow them.

    That is not to suggest you refuse to follow those who first follow you, but that you be intentional in connecting to people where it makes the most sense from a business perspective. Perhaps you’re connected to others via LinkedIn or Facebook. Strengthen your social graph by connecting via Twitter, too.

  • Don’t use automated functions.

    This is a pet peeve of mine. Many Twitterers use auto-reply and auto-follow functions provided by applications like Tweet Adder. Remember, social media is a mindset, not merely a set of tools to be used indiscriminately.

    These auto-response devices fly in the face of what this medium is all about: human beings relating to one another. Robots and auto-responders have no place here.

  • Interact and converse.

    Those who just broadcast announcements will never garner the same degree of respect or depth of relationship as someone who takes time to interact with others. Participation is the price of admission into the Twitterverse. That is not to suggest Twitter accounts can’t be set up just for the purpose of broadcasting, but they should be ancillary channels, not the main account.

Rule 2: Don’t Follow Just to Pitch

A distasteful trend has developed among newer Twitter users. For example, people are following me and when I respond in kind, their first tweets are frequently to pitch me on a website they want me to visit or a service they provide. This is the typical modus operandi of the auto-response/auto-follow crowd. One bad deed leads to another.

If you want a formula for how marketing via Twitter and other social networks should work, it’s this:

Connect > Converse > Convert

Connect with those you may not know, build a bridge of trust over time, and only then is it permissible to make a pitch. In fact, you may find that no pitching is needed whatsoever. They may seek you out.

Rule 3: Provide Value to the Community

Give people a reason to follow you by becoming a valuable member of the community you wish to influence. One way to do this is by providing good information in the form of links, advice, and answers to questions and special offers just to your followers.

Rule 4: Mix Business with Pleasure

It’s okay to share both from your business and personal side. In fact, it’s preferential. Mix in some fun. That’s the best way for others to get to know you.

Two ecommerce merchants who exemplify these standards very well are travel clothing manufacturer Scottevest and laptop bag retailer Rainebrooke.

In both examples, you see a mix of broadcast-style announcements, interactions with followers via the use of @messages and retweets, and links to resources, both from their own websites and others. By providing a variety of relevant information, both retailers become a key resource to their customers.


To be effective on Twitter, focus on winning the right to be heard by providing useful information to your community. Refrain from over the top selling, and mix in a little fun and personality. You will grow as a respected resource and center of influence among your customers and others.

For more information on using Twitter for marketing, I recommend Twitter Marketing For Dummies by Kyle Lacy. It is a straightforward, practical resource that provides techniques for incorporating a Twitter strategy into your marketing mix.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney
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