Medium 9781449309114

#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community

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"OK. I’ve got my Twitter account…now what can I do with it?" Sound familiar? #tweetsmart provides the answer with 25 creative projects to help your business, cause, or organization grow. But this isn’t just another social media marketing book—it’s the anti-marketing how-to community-engagement book.

Twitter is not a marketing channel (and should never be used as such) but it is a community of interested, engaged, and influential people. Meeting and getting to know these people can help you build your own community. In this useful guide, you’ll find projects to help you approach your Twitter audience in ways that are strategic, measurable, and fun.

  • Put a new wrinkle on an old contest: "be the 10th person to tweet"
  • Create a hashtag game around your company or products
  • Instead of polling, ask your followers to help you make a product decision
  • Make MadLibs out of your marketing copy or mission statement
  • Hold a scavenger hunt, and relay clues via Twitter
  • Organize a weekly Twitter chat on various subjects
  • Solicit funny product shots, using Twitter’s photo-sharing utility
  • Spontaneously tweet from a store location: "Meet me now and win!"

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25 Slices

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1. The Radio Contest

ePub

Tweet this Project

This is the first project in the book for two reasons: it is simple for beginners; and it is special to me. This project explains how to run the same contest on Twitter that provided me with my A-HA! moment. Like many people, I was originally skeptical that business and social media could mix. Like I said in the Introduction, I still shudder when I hear or use the phrase social media marketing. This contest proved to me that the two worlds could collideand that the result can be spectacular.

This contest is a adaptation of the old Be the 10th caller-style contest radio stations have been running for decades. However, instead of asking people to call in, were asking people to send tweets. So, in effect, this is a Be the 10th tweeter-style contest.

For the price of some sort of prizea coupon, a product, a free hour of service, etc.you can use this contest to directly engage your audience with your products and servicesand in doing so, recommend you to their followers.

 

2. The Tweet & Eat

ePub

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Ive had the idea for this project bouncing around in the back of my head for a few years. It first came to me when I was probably hungry, and watching the Inspired Burrito restaurant chain Boloco (@boloco) interact with their audience on Twitter. Boloco is a relatively new burrito restaurant chain that started in Boston, Massachusetts, and they do a great job of customer care on Twitter.

I went to school in Boston for a few years and even though Twitter didnt exist when I was in school, I thought it would have been cool if such a restaurant used social media to get Bostons huge and hungry student population out of their dorms and engaging with their food out in the world. Hence, this idea for the Tweet & Eat was born.

This project can work with any number of different types of businesses, but I always see it working most effectively with hungry college students, and therefore I will use a fictional burrito place as an exampleNOT Boloco, of course, as I dont want to play favorites. (Hi @Boloco!)

 

3. Hashtag Games

ePub

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Twitter uses a system of hashtags to organize the millions of conversations that are all happening simultaneously. A hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded by the pound sign: #.

Twitters system of hashtags is an organic creationinvented not by Twitter, but by Twitter-user Chris Messina in August of 2007to help users organize their conversations around topic areas. There is no hashtag registration process. There is no monitoring service. People create and insert hashtags into their messages as they please for a number of different reasons.

If youve spent any time on Twitter, youve no doubt seen them in the wild already. People sometimes append them to their messages to indicate the type of message.

Or, sometimes people work the hashtag into the text of their message:

Either way, the authors of these messages are using hashtags to ensure that their messages show up in a larger stream of messages devoted to the topic represented by each included hashtag.

 

4. Twitter Market Research

ePub

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Your Twitter audience can offer you far more than just sales and community. If you put aside your sales goals and profit and loss statements for a moment, you should begin to see the not-so-obvious benefits that come from having a collection of thousands, or tens of thousands, of instantly contactable people at your disposaleach of whom is familiar with your company.

You work every day to make great products or provide great services. Its a struggleI know!and you have to make decisions every day that will impact your customers. Often, the right answer is not obviouswould folks prefer a red option or a green? Chocolate or strawberry? This title or that title?

Many companies spend millions of dollars polling, polling, polling the general public hoping to find an answer that will recoup the millions of dollars theyve spent in asking the questions. Its a risky proposition. However, while large companies will always find reasons to spend millions of dollars on market research, you dont have to. You have a targeted and engaged Twitter audience packed with your ideal customers. Therefore, when youre faced with making a tough decision that will affect your customers (and your sales), you have the luxury of being able to plain-ol ask them for their preference.

 

5. Twitter AdLibs

ePub

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MadLibs! You know em. You love em. Those outrageous and compelling fill-in-the-blank games always lead to the funniest (and usually grossest) places. Lucky for us, the games short format translates well to Twitter and can be a ___________ load of fun!

To prepare for this game, create a list of quotes or sentences or one-liners that relate to your products, services, company, or topic area. You could also grab a full paragraph of text from your website, your mission statement, your company bio, your product descriptions, etc. Strategically remove a few key words from every sentence where you think substitute words could have the funniest effect.

For example, heres an excerpt from my bio on the website for Catalyst Webworks. (Ill use my own so as not to risk offending anyone else.)

Jesse has over 12 years of experience as a web designer, programmer, and web strategist. He speaks about web marketing at conferences across the country. Jesse is the author of eight books about conducting business on the web.

 

6. Twitter Haiku

ePub

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Haiku! The ancient form of poetry that has thrilled 8- and 80-year-olds for centuries has found a new fan base on one of the worlds newest communication platforms. Haikus short format has made haiku the poetry of choice for folks limited to only 140 characters.

Haiku, as you may know, is a form of poem consisting of three lines with 17 total syllables, in a 5/7/5 syllable configuration. These strict rules make writing good haiku wickedly hard. But, it also makes writing bad haiku wonderfully fun. Tossing around topic-based haikus is the perfect Twitter pastime, and its a great intellectual exercise with which to challenge your brilliant Twitter community.

To get started with this project, first define your hashtag. It should be a word or short phrase that is easily recognizable to your audience, followed by the word haiku.

For example, if your business is selling ugly Christmas sweaters to the seasonally jovial, you could use the hashtag: #uglyxmassweaterhaiku. Or, if you run a pet store, you could appeal to the common experiences of pet owners: #whenmydogwasapuppyhaiku. Or, maybe you run an airline: #thingsnottodowhileflyinghaiku. Try to find a fun theme for your haiku project that will encourage your followers to play along.

 

7. Photo Caption Contest

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People love eye candy, brain teasers, lighthearted competition, and belly laughs. This next project combines all those elements into one engaging Twitter project: a photo caption contest. This is a great project because it provides you with plenty of opportunities for both driving web traffic and targeted product promotionall while having a great time with your followers.

To start this project youll need a photo. The photo you choose will determine the goals of your project.

If youre pressed for time and would just like to run a quick and lighthearted caption contest, you can grab any old image off the web that appeals to your audiencea chef making a funny face, an upside-down puppy, a sneaker in a mud puddle. If you spend some time combing Google Images or Flickr or iStockphoto, youll be able to find a curious or funny image to use.

If youve got some time to play withand a camera at your disposalI recommend taking some time to create your own photo. This photo could be a shot of one of your products in a curious setting, or your CEO making a funny face, or a manipulated image of King Kong sitting on top of your office building. This image should, in a fun way, incorporate your topic, products, company, location, or brand. Take the extra time to make it stand outit will only help you with referrals.

 

8. Treasure Hunt

ePub

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Want to know whats more fun than a treasure hunt? Well, Ill tell you. Nothing.

This project is a favorite of mine. Itlike all my favoritescombines the power of Twitter with action in the real world. Theres something so satisfying about turning tweets into motion. Whenever I watch a Twitter treasure hunt or some similar project thats got people running all around, Im always reminded of being eleven years old and talking to my brothers and friends over our cheap walkie-talkies. Even though we were just playing in the woods behind our suburban house, with these global communication devices, we could inspire, organize, and mobilize great imaginary campaigns. We would hunt for treasure, storm distant battlefields, and perform clandestine reconnaissance missions to save our little sister from the sandboxall before it was time for our olive-loaf sandwiches. #omnomnom

This project captures that spirit of youth and combines it with cut-throat consumerist bargain-hunting. What could be better?!

 

9. Twitter BOGO—Buy One, Get One

ePub

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Heres a simple project you can do with your audience that will directly spur sales AND free promotion of your products. This project leans a bit toward the conventional marketing side of the social media marketing spectrum, which makes it somewhat riskier for you than the projects focused exclusively on community-building. But, if you make this one funny or fun, I dont think youll run into any pushback from your audience. Plusremember the golden rulepeople love freebies.

Discounting is a great way to grab attention and move product. Buy one, get one free sales (or BOGO) are pretty easy in a retail store: the customer buys a pair of shoes, and you hand the customer another pair. On the web, however, it can be difficult to pull off. E-commerce platforms and shopping cart software are expensive to customize, and rarely have advanced selling techniques built-in. Your options for running a sale are usually limited to defining a category, a time period, and a discounted percentage.

 

10. Discussion Groups

ePub

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As I mentioned in my Introduction, the skeptics will tell you that it is impossible to have a worthwhile conversation in 140 characters or less. And, while I agree that at first glance this would appear to be true, the reality is that millions of Twitter fans find the platform an easy and effective way to have meaningful conversations.

One of the best examples of an organized discussion group Ive seen on Twitter is run every Friday for one hour by Charlotte Abbot (@charabbott) and Kat Meyer (@katmeyer) under the hashtag #followreader. Follow the Reader is a blog that curates an ongoing discussion about, and exploration of, the book industry. Every week Charlotte and Kat invite their web community to gather on Twitter for an hour to speak, in real-time, about the issues of the day.

To participate in the organized chat, people need only to add #followreader to their tweets. All the folks watching that stream will then see the messages and respond using the same hashtag. In this way, folks can throw messages back and forth in rapid-fire at one time, publicly.

 

11. Tweet Bombs

ePub

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Tweet Bombs have been a part of Twitter since the very beginning. They are fun to do and can be very effective at grabbing a lot of quick attention, but I should caution you before I explain how to do it: Tweet Bombs need to be done carefully. Ill-fated or ill-spirited Tweet Bombs could damage your reputation with your audience, or label you as a spammer with Twitter. Youll see why.

A Tweet Bomb is dropped by a Twitter community on one of its unsuspecting members in the form of an avalanche of Twitter replies (or mentions). Hundreds, or thousands, of folksat a coordinated momentsend tweets containing a particular users username. The recipients Reply (or Mention) stream is quickly inundated with messages. For folks who are used to seeing 3 or 4 mentions a day, seeing hundreds crashing down in a single minute can be startling. If done correctly, however, it is hilarious. Recipients of Tweet Bombs attest that the experience feels as though the whole Internet is looking straight at you.

 

12. Web Scavenger Hunt

ePub

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When I was a boy, every year on a chilly October morning, in preparation for hosting all the neighborhood kids at my birthday party, my parents would sneak around the yard of our brown saltbox suburban home stashing small plastic prizes and scribbled clues. The clues were scratched out in garbled cursive, so as to look old and mysteriousan effect created, Im pretty sure, by my dad writing with his left hand. My parents were, of course, putting together a scavenger hunt.

The first clue was always placed under a frisbee in the center of the front yard. A group of us kids would bounce excitedly around the frisbeemostly in anticipation of cakeuntil my dad called out from the front steps of the house, GO! Wed flip the frisbee, decipher the first clue, and scatter to the wind, very unstrategically scouring the yard for the next clue. We were off and runningour little heads occupied with the frenzy of the momentand so my parents took the opportunity to go inside and ready the house for a dozen screaming eight-year-olds.

 

13. Random Retweet

ePub

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Heres a really simple way to keep your audience on its toes. This is a simple and quick project that I like to pepper it into a larger strategy when things get stale. This is the Random Retweet.

One of the best ways for your Twitter messages to reach the largest number of people is for your followers to retweet (or forward) your messages to their followers. The number of people following you directlyor, your first order followersis puny when compared to cumulative number of people following your followersor, your second-order followers. It is this audience youre hoping to reach. They are the audience that represents exponential growth.

There are two ways to go about earning retweets from your followers. The first is to send out excessively interesting, valuable, and insightful tweetsall the time. If you can do this, youll be fine. The second way is to encourage retweets by dangling the odd carrot or two out in front of your would-be retweeters. Heres how.

 

14. A Picture is Worth 7.14 Tweets

ePub

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If youve been shopping at any major retail site in the last year, youve probably noticed the Share your Photos links that sites have now integrated into product pages. Companies and merchants have taken a cue from the social media world and begun soliciting user-generated content for the sake of product promotion. The most popular form of which is the user-generated product shot.

Product shots take many forms: a laptop on a clean desk, a t-shirt in a bar, a stuffed bear on a ski lift, and so on. They can be funny or illustrative or exciting. But no matter style or tone of the photo, they all show products being used by happy customers out in the real world. This is a valuable community-building and marketing asset, and therefore, companies mine their customer communities for this photographic gold all the time.

You, however, can go a few steps beyond simply putting a request for product shots on your product pages. You have an active and engaged Twitter audience at your disposal, and having fun with product shots is a great way to build enthusiasm and community.

 

15. The Star in the Crowd

ePub

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I used to dream of being a rock star. My older brother was a musician and I wanted to tour the country rocking out every night and relaxing every day. I dreamed of throwing giant concerts in packed stadiums with tens of thousands of people waiting to hear me play.

My thought was that Id put on a hat and glasses and mill about in the crowd before the show. Moving through the crowdsdisguised and sheepishI would listen in on what people were talking about, see who was in the crowd, and get a feel for what it was like to be in the audience. If I was ever discovered, I thought, Id hand out some backstage passes and all would be fine.

Finally, in fifth grade, when it came time for me to choose an instrument to play in the student band, I told my mother I would be learning the drums. She told me I would be learning the violin. And so it was. No concerts. No crowd. But twenty years later I can still bang out a nasty Mary Had A Little Lamb on the ol horsehair.

 

16. Digital Hide & Seek

ePub

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Cover your eyes. Count to ten. Call out Ready or not! Here I come!, and run frantically around the house searching for all the children you will need to rescue from your cabinets and laundry baskets. Its a silly and familiar game, but it passes the time with laughter and surprises.

This project is the same thingonly you play it online and instead hearing the magic of a childs laughter, youll be reading the underwhelming acronym, LOL. But while this version of the game pales in comparison to playing it with real-live kids, it does do a good job of getting lots of people scouring through your online store hunting for something youve hiddenbut instead finding amazing deals along the way! #groan

To get this project started, find a goofy photo that, in some way, relates to your company. If you run a pizza shop, it could be an animated GIF of a dancing pizza. If you run a kennel, it could be a photo of a puppy napping upside-down. If you work in applied logisticstake a picture of yourself making a funny face. The world has no funny photos of applied logistics. Lets say, for the sake of example, that you run a motorcycle shop in Massachusetts called Mohawk Cycle Sales.

 

17. Smile. You’re on Camera.

ePub

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Two of the most common forms of contests online are photo contests and video contests. Even before the Internet made the creation and sharing of multimedia easy, companies were exchanging cash and prizes for compelling multimedia involving their products. Obviously, the Internet and the proliferation of cheap, high-quality cameras have only made this process easier. Now, nearly anyone can create multimedia content if properly compelled to do so. For little work and not too much expense, this style of project will help you create a social media marketing war chest of user-submitted content.

Do some research and strategic planning before striking out on this project. Come up with a contest that will target and engage your ideal customers. You may need to experiment a bit before you find an approach that strikes a chord, but grant yourselfor your employeesthe flexibility to do so. Dont assume that youve got it right (or that you have been as successful as is possible) in your first attempt. There are many ways to approach this project, and the approach you take should account for your audience, your products, your company, your branding, and your personality.

 

18. Half-Off Hangman

ePub

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Ive made no secret of my distaste for coupon campaigns on Twitter, and it is with some reluctance that I include a coupon code project in this book. My distaste stems from the sheer laziness of the general practice. It take no effort or creativity to simply tweet out coupon or discount codes. People do not join Twitter for discounts! People join Twitter for engaging interactions with the people they know and meet. Coupon campaigns tend not to be engaging nor interactive.

And yet, Twitter coupon campaigns happen so often that people tend to come to think of Twitter marketing as nothing more than sending out coupon codesand then, the followers who arent interested in marketing begin to regard these tweets as spam. Its bad news bears.

Remember, theres only one way to get unfollowed on Twitter, and thats by annoying your audience. Even being silent is better than being annoying, and repeatedly tweeting out coupon codes runs the risk of annoying your followers. Approach with caution.

 

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