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If you’re using social media solely to promote your business, then you’re missing out on a whole other facet of the channel. Utilizing social media listening tools will help your brand improve in many different ways, including product development and industry tracking.

Social monitoring is the tracking of keywords and phrases relevant to your brand. It’s likely you’re already doing this and responding in real-time to public comments. Social listening takes it a step further by looking at your monitoring with a birds’ eye view and analyzing all the data. This combination is utilized by companies around the world and isn’t limited by the size of the company. In fact, smaller companies may find it easier to execute social listening since the online conversation isn’t as difficult to track.

In this guide, we’ll review the benefits of social listening, specifically on Twitter, and how you can execute this for your own company.

For an overview on social listening, check out our social listening guide and our article on the ROI of listening.

Value of social listening on Twitter

Twitter is a prime platform for social listening. Its users are active, socially aware and aren’t afraid to speak up when they’re unhappy with a company or product.

In the 2018 Sprout Social Index, we found that 57% of customers who reach out to brands have a question and 45% have an issue with the product/service.

But what about those who don’t mention the brands at all or are merely discussing general trends in the industry? Social listening picks up on these trends and informs your company’s next steps.

Listening is not limited to only your brand. It includes everything from your competitors to major discussion points on Twitter. For example, your hotel might need to drive up interest in a certain city. By listening in on geographic micro-influencer conversations, you’ll glean tips on the best new restaurants and shops nearby. You’ll also be able to use listening to find new influencers.

In a 2017 survey, Clutch found that 25% of business use social listening to improve their products, 24% for attracting customers and 21% for providing better customer service.

One thing to keep in mind as you explore social listening is that each network is different and that social listening is only a slice of the overall listening pie. Other listening channel options include tracking press articles, forum discussions and review sites. As you begin listening, you’ll learn how your customers and competitors utilize each network. Twitter may be used more for customer service while Facebook is for recommendations.

But you won’t know anything if you don’t put get your social listening strategy in place.

Using Twitter listening tools

To execute Twitter listening at a basic level, you need to determine what types of terms you want to search Tweets for. Twitter allows you to save searches and a tool like Sprout has built-in listening features.

However, it can be difficult to keep track of searches for every term you need to stay on top of, even for a relatively simple topic or query. Imagine you own and run a restaurant. Let’s say that it’s in Sprout Social’s home city of Chicago and, unsurprisingly, is focused on selling pizza.

With social media listening you can create specific queries that will track almost every variation of Chicago pizza. Below is a simple query that would start to pull these insights for you.

Instead of individually searching each term, you can keep a pulse on conversations, sentiment and themes around:

  • Chicago pizza
  • Chi-town pizza
  • Chicago deep dish

Then, once your social listening query is at work you can discover new trends. You’ll be better equipped to answer questions like:

  • Are there new flavors Chicagoans crave?
  • Are there under-served locations we can branch out to?
  • Are we really better than New York slices?

A tool such as Sprout listening will automatically compile and analyze this data for you. In one report, you’ll find what your brand sentiment is on Twitter while another one will tell you what type of content is resonating with your audience.

Sprout’s set of listening tools is a spectrum that is designed to give you feedback on everything from keyword monitoring to listening topics. The Sprout Inbox is designed for you to quickly respond to brand mentions and keywords while the Keyword Report will take those search parameters and give you insight on how they’re being discussed.

In the Trends Report, you’ll find topics and hashtags that are frequently mentioned with your brand on Twitter. This report is used to identify what’s most commonly said about your company. If you’re managing Twitter for a coffee shop, you may have seen a few mentions that included words like “great service” or “oat milk.” But without tracking the number of times these appear together with your brand, you won’t know if they’re actionable insights – such as clear requests for new menu items – or just one-off mentions.

The Twitter Keyword Report takes the Trends report a step further by tracking individual keywords and their corresponding volume, days and influential Tweets.

In one glance, you’ll be able to see when certain keywords are most popular and identify the influencer accounts that are discussing them.

If you want to delve even deeper into listening insights, Sprout’s advanced listening features are designed with you in mind. Here, you can set up both basic and advanced queries to distill the information you want the most. Each report comes with toggles per network.

Being able to filter via network is important because you’ll learn what customers on each one discuss the most. Maybe customers on Twitter are more into social customer care while those on Instagram are interested in product promotions. Without this filter, you won’t know these deeper insights.

Taking action from Twitter listening

Now that you’ve set up your search parameters and queries, the next question is “what now?” What do you do with all this new data?

Product improvement

Hopefully, during your search setup, you were able to have some focus on your parameters. For example, your product-specific searches will likely create results that include customer feedback, feature requests and some brand sentiment.

Use this data to understand how to improve your product and identify new use cases for it.

For example, a new yoga tank top you just released can be tracked to reveal how people feel about it. If more people are Tweeting about a flaw in the design, use the data to quickly respond before it blows up.

Industry monitoring

It’s likely that you’re already following the top influential brands in your industry or that you’re one of those brands. But discussions move fast on Twitter and monitoring what other industry voices are talking about will help inform your content strategy.

Tweets surrounding a local or national industry conference is an easy way of tracking what’s an emerging trend.

Whereas Tweets that discuss a scandal might affect your sales strategy in a region. For example, if a product reseller was involved in an event that directly conflicts with your brand values, social listening will identify this conversation point. The more people talking about it will tell you how important it is to respond immediately. In a company absent of social listening, your sales team might not be aware of the scandal for days. But one that incorporates social listening will know within hours and give the sales team a heads up.

Inform content strategy & campaigns

There are many ways to use social listening to inform your content strategy. The first is to use your Twitter analytics reports to see what type of content is resonating with your audience. Perhaps your audience engages more with questions that you Tweet, or more frequently reshares educational content.

Step two is looking at what your competitors are putting out and what’s resonating with their audience. Is it worth it to imitate what’s working for them? Where and why are they failing so you can fill that need? Are you dominating the conversation topic in your industry more than your competitor?

And finally, social listening reports can drive your next campaign. What are customers talking about the most online? Identify their needs and create a campaign around them. You can use the listening results from one campaign to inform your next one, ensuring you precisely meet your customers’ needs.

Identify new partnerships

A byproduct of the social monitoring you put into place is that listening will surface new marketing opportunities. You’ll likely find new influencers for your product and co-marketing partners for your next campaign.

The Engagement report of the Listening section will help you out here. Those who are interacting with your Tweets through Replies, Shares and Likes are those who are more likely to be interested in being an influencer.

In addition to identifying the influencers, listening will also help you focus on hot topics in those spaces. Is there a trend of coffee bars in boutique hotels? As a travel company, you can ask your influencers to push that discussion point more.

Conclusion

Including social monitoring and listening in your marketing efforts will enhance your overall brand strategy. Utilizing Twitter’s search parameters with a robust social listening tool helps you distill information into actionable items.

To execute social listening well, you need to first understand its value for your brand, then set up an effective listening tool and finally, look at the overall data. Social listening is a constant task that requires active tweaking of parameters and an analytical mind. Twitter is a powerful source of real-time reactions that allows brands to see how new product campaigns are performing as well as track what the hottest industry topics are.

How do you use social listening on Twitter for your brand? Tweet us @SproutSocial with your ideas!

This post The complete guide to Twitter listening originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Not only is shopping more digital than ever–it’s also more social. Mobile-first shopping grew by 20% from 2016 to 2017 and in 2018, consumers ranked social as their number one source of inspiration for purchases.

To no one’s surprise, social buzz around shopping reaches its peak during the holiday season. And while Cyber Monday may have outpaced Black Friday as the largest shopping day of the year in 2017, shoppers are becoming increasingly accustomed to deals and specials that last for the entire week of Thanksgiving or even span the month of December. Whether holiday social media campaigns offer limited-time deals or tap into people’s holiday decorating aspirations, social is claiming more of a stake in shoppers’ routines each year. This prolonged and hyper-social holiday shopping season means it’s more important than ever for retailers to be ready for the influx of messages this time of year will bring.

Sprout Social analyzed more than 2.9 billion messages across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to find out how retailers fared in previous holiday shopping seasons and what brands can expect for 2018.

A look back at holiday 2017

Retailers know it’s never too early to start planning holiday social media campaigns, and recent years’ trends only further support those strategies. Compared to an average of 1,768 messages received per day by retailers in January through October 2017, retailers received an average of 3,385 messages per day in November and December 2017—that equates to a 92% increase in average messages received a day during the holiday season.

Data also shows the socially-engaged retail season begins ramping up as early as Q3, when back-to-school shopping swings into high gear, with an average of 2,005 messages per day.

Consumers want to talk to retailers of all sizes during the holiday season

Social messages during the 2017 holiday season also grew significantly across most segments, serving as a reminder for retailers of all sizes to stay present and active on their social channels even as the year winds down.

  • Small retail businesses (50 employees or less) received an average of 925 messages a day in November and December 2017.
  • Mid-market retail businesses (51-1,000 employees) received an average of 5,229 messages a day in November and December 2017.
  • Enterprise retail businesses (more than 1,000 employees) received an average of 6,055 messages a day in November and December 2017.
Facebook leads social platforms in volume, but Instagram leads in growth

When it comes to the various social platforms, Facebook continues to be the platform of choice for consumers looking to interact with retailers. In fact, the number of Facebook messages retailers received per day on average grew 83% in 2017 compared to 2016. Looking specifically at holiday 2017, the numbers only increase, with retailers receiving nearly double the amount of Facebook messages per day on average in November and December than in January through October 2017.

However, this doesn’t mean retailers can afford to shift attention away from other platforms. Instagram in particular saw explosive growth during the 2017 holiday season. Fueled by features such as “swipe up” and “shop now” ads, consumers are increasingly turning to this highly visual platform for their shopping needs. On average, retailers received 120% more Instagram messages per day in November and December 2017 than 2016.

Gearing up for projected growth in 2018

Last year was the best holiday season for retail sales since 2011, and much of that growth occurred through mobile ecommerce. Since consumer attention is already on mobile screens to catch exclusive deals through a variety of retail websites and apps, it’s becoming second nature to jump over to social and continue researching and posting about holiday finds.

With this in mind, the need for retailers to prepare their teams for the holiday message influx and develop more sophisticated holiday social media campaigns has never been greater. It is becoming more difficult to cut through the noise on social around the holidays and 2018 will be no different.

The Sprout data science team projects retailers can expect on average 32% more social messages per day this holiday season than they did in 2017. In terms of how the 2018 holiday season stacks up with message volume so far in 2018, the team projects retailers will see 75% more messages per day this November and December than what they’ve seen so far in January through October 2018.

Growth expected across retailers of all sizes for holiday 2018

Breaking the numbers down by business size, this translates to a projected increase in messages received across the board for retailers during the 2018 holiday shopping season.

From a mom and pop shop to a global brand, retailers can make the most out of increased visibility this holiday by leveling up their social strategy.

Digging in by segment, it’s not enough for small businesses’ social strategy to simply publish deals and gift ideas. Without engaging their audiences, small businesses will miss the opportunity to create the connections that build loyalty and repeat purchasing.

In the mid-market segment, social marketers might have the basics covered when it come to engagement, but now is the time to double down on holiday campaign messages and leverage creative social activations to stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, the more your business grows, the less patience consumers have for slow or lacking responses on social. Make sure your social team is equipped to handle the increased volume of messages by following social customer care best practices.

Looking to take it a step further? Enterprise businesses especially can benefit from a robust social listening strategy to tap directly into what customers and competitors are saying, and glean advanced insights to craft a more targeted approach.

Engagement will be key on social platforms in 2018

While Facebook is expected to be the leading social platform in messages received by retailers yet again, Instagram is still a force to be reckoned with as it is on track to lead the social platforms in growth for a second year in a row. The Sprout data science team projects retailers will receive 65% more Instagram messages per day on average in November and December 2018 compared to 2017.

And while it’s clear social marketers will be pressed for time with these increases, tinkering with both paid and organic strategies will give brands an extra boost in penetrating the market with their holiday messages. Pair that with an Instagram stories strategy which creates enviable online experience and prompts action by consumers, retailers will be positioned well for the best holiday season yet on social. Of course, all businesses are unique and understanding where your audiences are and what their needs are should be step number one in a successful social strategy.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring the buzz

Although online shopping habits have evolved and led to sales that are diffused throughout the holiday season, there’s no doubt Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still major tentpole events. There are high concentrations of users online on each of these days tracking and posting about deals—or simply updating friends and family on their shopping experiences.

Using Sprout’s listening data to hone in on Twitter conversations during Black Friday and Cyber Monday for 2015, 2016 and 2017, Sprout found there’s no shortage of chatter around these special shopping days.

Comparing Twitter messages in the charts below on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the average daily message volume from each corresponding week, it is clear that even though consumers may be extending their shopping season, they’re still highly tuned in to these one-day events.

And despite revolving around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have also become a global shopping event. The UK, Brazil, Canada and France have all seen consistent Twitter engagement over the past three years on these days.

Finally, while Black Friday and Cyber Monday get a fair amount of negative press each year, consumer sentiment is still generally favorable. Of the Twitter posts analyzed on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, about 25% had a discernible positive or negative sentiment. Out of these, about 60% of Tweets showed positive sentiment for either holiday throughout the last three years—so it looks like excitement for these sales isn’t going anywhere soon.

‘Tis the season to bring your social “A” game

Retailers know how important the lead-up to holiday is for planning and executing on marketing campaigns and promotions. Take advantage of the fact that customers are ready to shop this time of year, and use social to drive offline sales. Download our free guide here.

But beyond sales, your approach to social engagement and customer care across platforms is crucial during the busiest shopping season of the year. Make sure you’re giving your customers what they want for the holidays: compelling social content, great deals and real-time social responsiveness to tie the experience up with a bow.

About the data 

All referenced data on social messages received and projected is based on 861,000 public social profiles (231,000 Facebook; 504,000 Twitter; 126,000 Instagram) of active accounts between January 1, 2015 and October 31, 2017. More than 2.9 billion messages sent and received during that time were analyzed for the purposes of this report. The 2018 holiday message volume was estimated via segmented year-over-year and year-to-date ratio projections.

The messages analyzed included Facebook posts and Tweets directed to a brand via tagging or @message, posts and business reviews on public Facebook pages, comments posted on brand-created Facebook and Instagram content, and retweets with comments.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday data was pulled from publicly available, global Twitter data using the Sprout Social platform. Learn more about Sprout’s social listening offerings.

If you’d like to use the charts from this report, you can download them here.

For questions about the data, please contact pr@sproutsocial.com.

This post ‘Tis the season: Retailers can expect 32% more social messages this holiday season originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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As a small business owner, you only have so much time to focus on social media. Marketing is rarely given full-time focus in a small business. Instead, it’s wrapped up into other necessary coverage like sales, content development and design.

Where do you draw the line of knowing what’s necessary and what’s not? In this guide, we’ll provide a selection of Twitter tips all geared for a small business.

To get an overall understanding of using social media as a small business, check out our thorough guide here.

Is Twitter useful for small businesses?

So is Twitter useful for small businesses? The answer is that it depends on your industry, your audience and your available resources. Twitter’s own study explored their audience’s behavior and how it impacts brands.

It found that Twitter users, compared to the general online population, were more likely to discover new things, were more open-minded and they like being the first to try new things.

In addition, when it came to products and services, Twitter users in the US had a positive influence index across most demographics and topics. So if your small business’ target audience fits within Twitter demographics, then it’s probable that Twitter could be useful for you. You’ll be able to get in touch with an audience that values experiences and influences their network of follower, which can make them receptive to your brand and potential advocates for it.

Let’s move on to how you can get the most out of Twitter as a small business.

Pick three goals

Setting social media goals is necessary for any network that you take on. If you don’t have goals, then you don’t have metrics and that leads to sporadic posts. Choose three to focus on. Any more will divide your time and affect your focus.

The more common goals for Twitter include:

  • Increase direct sales
  • Become a customer support channel
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Track industry trends

Once you have these in mind, write them down and determine your metrics, such as mentions or link clicks. These metrics will come in handy later when you’re taking a look at your analytics reports.

Use social monitoring to find customers

Social monitoring is tracking what people are saying about you (or someone else) online. It can be used to find new sales leads, track customer sentiment and even check in on what your competitors are doing.

Social monitoring also helps improve your content sourcing, one of the most time consuming parts of social media management. Learn how to use Twitter advanced search to set up parameters for your brand that will help you stay on top of even indirect mentions of your business.

The Sprout Smart Inbox feature comes in handy here for searching across multiple networks. Enter brand keywords and common search terms associated with your brand and the messages will display right along with any @mentions. So even if someone doesn’t mention your brand by name or misspells it, you’ll still be there to help them out.

For small businesses, you might have only one or two locations to focus on. Another handy search function is searching location tagged Tweets with a set mile radius. If you’re a burger restaurant and someone Tweets about “need burger rec” within 2 miles of your zip code, the message will come in and you’ll be right there to offer your restaurant up.

Takeaway: Automating your social monitoring comes in handy because you don’t have time to chase down every lead. Have the leads come to you.

If you’d like to try out these search parameters but don’t have Sprout Social, you can save your searches in Twitter or sign up for a demo.

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Take advantage of native Twitter media

Twitter favors media that is uploaded to its own platform over sharing from another. If you have a photo that you want to share, it’s better to upload it than to post a link. Twitter photos and videos receive a larger preview treatment while photo links have smaller ones. A native video may automatically begin playing for a user while a YouTube link still requires someone to click through.

Wild and wise, Muthonjo is a powerful, deep coffee layered in ripe cherry sweetness, and lingering savory, mineral complexity. Read more about the story behind this coffee at the link in bio, or tap to buy. pic.twitter.com/f4zGOqW7s6

— MADCAP COFFEE (@madcapcoffee) November 8, 2018

An eye-catching photo or video goes a long way when you’re scrolling down your timeline. Madcap’s photography is used in most of their Tweets. You can’t miss them.

Marketers are planning to spend more on video ads because they work. Even without the ad part, video Tweets are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photo Tweets and three times more likely to be Retweeted than GIFs.

One study examined Twitter ad video lengths and placements. It found that regardless of length, in-feed video ads were effective in communicating a brand’s message, being informative and creating a buzz.

Takeaway: Upload your media natively to Twitter. Adding video ads to your Twitter strategy will help increase brand awareness. This is great for new product launches or informational campaigns.

Reuse & repurpose your content

As mentioned before, sourcing content takes time. Make it easier on yourself by repurposing your existing brand content. Due to the nature of a fast-moving timeline, a Tweet doesn’t last very long on Twitter. This means that your followers might not have seen what you Tweeted even five hours ago.

To combat this, don’t be afraid to Tweet the same content several times over the course of a week, month or even year if it’s evergreen. For each Tweet with the same content, switch up the featured media or text that’s accompanying it.

Using an easy scheduling software like Sprout cuts down on time. You can queue or schedule your Tweets on Monday and rest easy for the rest of the week.

Recent changes at Twitter mean that they’re cracking down on spam and spam-like content.

4/ So, we’re working on providing you with an easily accessible way to switch between a timeline of Tweets that are most relevant for you and a timeline of the latest Tweets. You’ll see us test this in the coming weeks.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 17, 2018

The new Twitter timeline features “In case you missed it” and “best Tweets” sections that favors Tweets from accounts you’ve interacted with before or Tweets that Twitter thinks you’ll like. This section might help out your business but don’t count on it to be your only tactic. In fact, Twitter already responded to user feedback by offering an option to turn this section off.

Takeaway: Tweet your content and tweet it often, again.

Set aside time for content sourcing

Your content does not have to be solely branded. Separate your content sourcing and your scheduling time. Content sourcing includes finding relevant industry news, blog posts and learning industry trends.

Identify the news and publications that are most relevant to your industry. Set up alerts for these sources or add them into your RSS reader. For your brand, set up keyword alerts. And for the hot topics of your industry, take a look at your timeline to see what everyone else is talking about.

The easiest way to see what today’s topic is is to add every new follow to a list. Do you have some major influencers in the food industry? Add them to a private list. Check this VIP list often for new content to Retweet.

Sprout makes it easy for you to find content. The Find Content feature highlights the viral pieces of content in the major industries. Use this to see what people are talking about, how popular it is and compose without ever leaving the window.

If you use Feedly to connect your RSS readers, you can easily use one of their integrations, including Sprout, to schedule your Tweets.

Takeaway: Use automation like an RSS reader or keyword alerts to get content relevant content delivered to you instead of searching for it. Set time aside to source this content.

Decide on your brand voice

Your brand voice is what will make you stand out from the crowd and compete with the bigger brands. Our guide here will help you develop your unique brand voice. This strategy only takes commitment. You don’t need to Tweet often, you just need to stay consistent.

We have been informed that the agricultural cycle of nuts and legumes is NOT what this month is about and we are deeply, profoundly sorry. https://t.co/HmKqBlx1z4

— Berkeley Bowl, Friend to Persimmons (@BerkeleyBowl) November 5, 2018

Look, sometimes you gotta squeeze 'em before you buy 'em. If your touch becomes a fondle though, you're gonna have to leave the store. https://t.co/YGHGEURRHo

— Berkeley Bowl, Friend to Persimmons (@BerkeleyBowl) October 9, 2018

Berkeley Bowl is a supermarket that is known for its snarky and funny Tweets. You wouldn’t think a supermarket would have a brand voice, but theirs handles it well.

Takeaway: Creating a brand voice will help you stand out in the timeline. A little snark and humor goes over well on Twitter.

Match your profile page to your goals

This may sound like a generic Twitter tip but it’s especially important for small businesses. Do you want to increase your sales via Twitter? The make sure people know who you are, what you’re selling and how to buy it. You can put your shop link into your bio or pin it to the top of your profile page. Don’t forget that your cover photo and profile photo provide ample room for you to get your message across.

Do you want people to Tweet more about your brand? Add your branded hashtag into your bio like Braxton Brewing Company did. The company also pinned an upcoming event at the top of their page. It’s a direct sale page for tickets and will be there for anyone to easily see when they visit their profile.

Takeaway: Brand your profile page out and put your goals front and center.

Conclusion

Small businesses are low on time and resources. The best ways to combat this and still get what you want out of Twitter is to invest in software that improves your efficiency and take on a few strategic improvements at a time. Twitter moves fast so it’s okay try out a few different strategies. Once you find one that works for you, stick with it until the next change that Twitter makes affects it.

We’d love to know more about what you’ve found to be successful on Twitter. Tweet us @SproutSocial with your ideas, or let us know in the comments below.

This post Twitter tips for small businesses originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Twitter has grown quickly since its inception. With its crisp 140-character limit (since increased to 280), and the variety of quality content, it was an instant hit with users.

However, it’s not enough to just send out an occasional tweet and expect audiences to find you.

Your brand needs to stay consistently engaged to connect with your audience and drive conversation.

Why Twitter Engagement Remains Relevant

There’s a reason why Twitter is still one of the top 5 social media channels and continues to thrive. Its 330 million monthly active users are proof of that. From a marketing perspective, the immense user commitment is a great opportunity for brands.

Read on to learn about the opportunities Twitter presents to connect meaningfully with your audience.

1. Engage With a Targeted Audience

This vast base of active users is one of the biggest perks of Twitter. It allows you to target a dedicated niche audience – one that will be more willing to engage with your brand.

Targeting on Twitter is a lot different than on Facebook. You may find the platform less granular, but there’s huge opportunity thanks to the unique characteristics of Twitter.

The openness of the platform increases the viral potential of your content. Even with an audience of 100 people, a retweet from a major influencer can help you reach thousands of users. This can give a major boost to your Twitter engagement rate.

While your content still reaches all of those people who are most likely to leverage your brand’s services via your followers, an added benefit is that you can also reach the followers of the people who retweet you.

2. Reach Your Audience Immediately

The immediacy of Twitter also works in favor of it as a platform to engage customers.

If you have something new to share with your followers, you usually share it on your blog. But the information may take a while to trickle through your intended audience. You could send out an email newsletter, but the reach or immediacy may still be limited.

But with Twitter, you can get that information out as fast as you can type 280 characters. It’ll appear immediately in the feed of anyone online at that point and can be discovered by those who check later.

Brands can leverage this to share news on product launches and updates, or keep customers updated on service outages or other widespread issues.

Additionally, you can also use Twitter to share live videos of events you’re hosting or taking part in. Pair that with coverage of the event using live Tweets. Live Tweeting makes for a great strategy which will result in soaring Twitter engagement rates during an event.

Just look at General Electric’s coverage of their 3D Printing Summit, earlier this year.

They live-tweeted the happenings of the event by leveraging the #IndustryIn3D hashtag to drive further engagement on Twitter. Primarily, they shared what industry experts had to say about 3D printing in additive manufacturing. The unique hashtag helped the niche audience for this content stay up to date throughout the event.

3. Respond to Customers Quickly

Twitter’s immediacy is especially well-suited for customer service. People expect brand Twitter handles to be monitored regularly.

It’s one of the best places for customers to directly interact with businesses. No wonder 85% of SMBs leverage Twitter to provide customer support to their patrons. Twitter knows this and does its part to facilitate this. Take their Quick Replies functionality, for instance.

Take a look at Intel’s dedicated support account for ideas on how to implement this. They use it to promptly address questions from customers.

4. Chat with Audiences Directly

When it comes to customer-brand interactions on platforms like Facebook, most readers assume the responses are meant to be public-facing and not completely personalized to each user. While it make seem like a small distinction, on Twitter the replies, although public, are hidden by default.

This gives people the impression that the conversation is more personal and direct.

Brands like Wendy’s demonstrate a good understanding of the personal nature of the conversations brands can have on Twitter. Wendy’s well-received wit and sarcastic humor translates well on the platform, and the engagement in likes and RTs shows their unique brand voice reaches an audience outside of just the accounts involved in the conversation.

5. Build Exposure & Boost SEO

Twitter is a great place for widespread free marketing – all the better to help you with your link building efforts. People frequently link websites in their Tweets. Now, while backlinks from Twitter don’t really impact your search rankings, there’s still some advantage to be had here.

How? Well, many bloggers and high authority sites use Twitter and may come across your content. If they like it, chances are they might cite your content as a reference in their own posts, giving a boost to your SEO in turn.

Similarly, you might find ideas or references to use for your own articles. Twitter is a good tool to research any bloggers or influencers you want to reach out to in connection with your brand. It’s something I’ve done personally and always found very useful.

6. Establish Your Expertise

Several companies do this and you should too: host regular Twitter chats. Twitter chats are open scheduled conversations users conduct as a means to interact with their audience. Typically, they center around a single unique hashtag created by the brand for that sole purpose.

This kind of conversation is pretty unique to the platform. It allows industry leaders and interested parties to come together and discuss relevant industry topics. Taking part in and hosting such discussions is a good way to establish your expertise and credibility in the domain. An added bonus is the regular Twitter engagement it rakes in.

Take Sprout Social’s weekly Twitter chat, #SproutChat, which takes place every Wednesday between 2-3 pm CDT. The conversations focus on topics and challenges that social media marketers and brands face. These chats are a great way to bring together experts and influencers and build your brand authority around an easily identifiable hashtag.

Image via Twitter

How to Improve Your Twitter Engagement

We’ve seen why Twitter engagement is a powerful tool for brands. Which brings us to the next point of our discussion – how to improve your engagement rates on Twitter.

1. Experiment with Posting Times

To earn the maximum amount of Twitter engagement, the simplest trick is to tweet during peak hours. This guarantees the maximum exposure your tweet can earn. However, peak times vary with industry, location, and audience demographics.

Experiment by scheduling your tweets for different times to try to figure out the best time that works for you. Alternatively, Sprout Social’s post scheduler can help you with that using our ViralPost technology.

2. Include Visuals

This applies to Twitter as well as other social media platforms. Adding images or videos to your Tweets will add to their visual appeal. Words won’t grab the attention of a user scrolling through their feeds as well as a post with an eye-catching photo or video. Of course, engaging multimedia content also increases your chances of getting retweeted.

Visuals help provide a storyline and context to your content, which can be more difficult to achieve with text alone. The key to driving Twitter engagement rate is providing useful, value-providing content to your audience.

Starbucks keeps things interesting and fresh by regularly mixing up their content on Twitter. You’ll find plenty of appealing photos, videos, and GIFs that reflect their brand identity.

3. Make the Most of Retweeting

Twitter’s algorithm factors in the number of likes and retweets to determine the popularity of tweet. Retweeting and liking your own posts can increase your exposure.

If you have a tweet that’s resonated well with your audience, why not keep breathing new life into it every few hours or couple of days?

This is good for your Twitter engagement as the tweet will still have its previous engagement visible. You can keep the discussion going and your audience growing as the previous RTs and likes will only encourage others to engage.

Additionally, it’s always a good practice to retweet on-topic posts from your audience, since it will make them more inclined to reciprocate. And, while you don’t want to overuse this tactic, you might want to encourage your audience to retweet your content on occasion.

4. Add Links in Your Tweets

Tweets containing links to your blog content are a very valuable asset for brands looking to drive site traffic. You can think of these tweets as links with a headline.

Now, while these types of posts can earn you a lot of retweets, it’s not their only benefit. They also drive your Twitter engagement with the link clicks they earn you.

Like I said, the best way to improve your engagement rates on Twitter is to share content that adds value to your audience.

Adding a link that redirects users to a blog post that provides them with more information is a great way of adding this value. Not to mention it adds to your credibility and helps with your search rankings.

Conclusion

There you have it. Twitter continues to be as relevant a tool as it was when it first came out. This relevancy is exactly what makes Twitter engagement essential for modern brands.

There’s much to be gained from having an active Twitter account for your business, which is precisely why it’s crucial that you strive to improve your Twitter engagement rates.

What’s your take? What are your top strategies for building Twitter engagement?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

This post Why Twitter Engagement Is Essential for Brands Today originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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