When ‘Following’ Fails: A lesson in using Twitter for business

Twitter follows are a standard part of any marketing team’s arsenal. Follows allow individuals and brands to communicate their interests through the following choices they make (see my recent blog on brand partnerships and how to make the most of them), and that can be invaluable. Plus, we have the opportunity to learn a lot from/be entertained by the accounts we follow.

And here ends the tutorial on when to follow. No, seriously. The two points I’ve made above are really important, sure, but it’s the engagement that happens after the follow that’s really going to help a brand succeed (particularly when it comes to buying and selling through Twitter).

Last week, I used Twitter to search for web design agencies in the Seattle area for a project I’m doing at work. Here’s the tweet I posted:

how to make the most of twitter follows

Almost immediately, my email inbox started filling up with ‘new follower’ notifications – all from web design and development agencies, not all in Seattle. I looked at the first few, but I quickly came to the realisation that if the brands responsible for the follows couldn’t put in the effort to engage with me, I didn’t value them highly enough to engage with them either. I needed them to show me their social media expertise and customer centricity by proving it to me in practice and those who simply ‘followed’ and nothing more had failed.

A couple of weeks before this, I’d used Twitter to search for social media analytics programs as my colleague wanted to research available options. So I tweeted my request (and was met with the usual onslaught of follows), but the brand that really stood out to me was this one:

Good example of twitter engagement

Not only did the account follow me, they actually responded to my request by messaging me directly (first in public, then DM after I followed them back). It was the engagement that happened after the follow that caught my attention and showed me that this brand took a customer centric approach and that they’d understood what I was asking for and replied to it. I subsequently recommended the brand to my colleague; I’m not sure if anything came of that for TheRobGrant, but their ability to tweet in an engaging way certainly got their ‘foot in the door’.

This type of engagement needn’t be limited to social media monitoring brands like that shown above. All brands should be able to engage with their customers through Twitter – be that through follows that lead to conversations, tweets, retweets or DMs. Twitter is a communication tool and it’s so important that brands remember that if they want to use it to engage their customers.


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