Twitter is about to IPO and everyone is talking about the potential of this giant social network, so I thought I would add some quick thoughts on content marketing strategy via Twitter.  This post is not comprehensive, but hopefully provides a bit of food for thought as Twitter is on the hot seat.

First, a bit about the platform.  Twitter has become one of the world’s biggest niche “interest graphs” and an incredibly important traffic referral platform for brands.  The Guardian, for example, now sees Twitter driving more referral traffic for key breaking news stories to its site than other social media platforms.

Indeed, it is interesting to watch developments around “news” on Twitter–especially with consumer time spent on smartphones growing fast. Below are a couple of stats & recent developments that caught my attention:

  • 47% of all Tweets are news related. Twitter hired an exec this month to be its head of news & journalism partnerships
  • Business executive in the UKs now turn to Twitter for news ahead of stalwarts like the Financial Times
  • Twitter was “born mobile” with its 140 character limit; it’s “SMS-like” & perfectly suited for mobile devices

Clearly, a good chunk of people who use Twitter like to tweet/discuss news and, in turn, they expect news related content.  And, Twitter is nicely positioned to lead the mobile content revolution we are currently going through.

From what I’ve seen out in the European market recently, some brands are doing a great job of using Twitter as a “push focused” distribution platform–driving Twitter users to content they’ve created elsewhere (e.g. blog posts, infographics, YouTube videos, etc).  Others have adopted Twitter as a customer service channel and have devoted resources to caring for consumers. Still others are starting to experiment with Twitter’s new ad products–though this seems to primarily be happening in more mature Twitter markets (e.g. US, UK)

So what is missing?   

Today, a large chunk of brands out there (especially in the B2B space) don’t have a significant follower base on Twitter and arguably aren’t leveraging the platform fully yet–which is why I’m bullish on Twitter.  Without an engaged follower base on Twitter, brands are missing the critical network effect needed to fully drive their content marketing strategy. For platforms like Twitter to really work for brands–content needs to “move” and get shared.  And, sharing won’t happen unless brands have an active and engaged audiences.

How can I find and an audience that’s interested in my content on Twitter?         

First, you need to define the niche topics you want to own as a brand on Twitter and then start hunting inside Twitter to find like-minded people.  Perhaps you are a new B2B startup in the world of predictive analytics and you simply want to own the  predictive analytics topic.  Finding like-minded folks is not super-hard (you can use Twitter’s advanced search). BUT, categorizing them and creating a system to track and consistently engage these Twitter users can be a challenge. This is why I would recommend hiring a specialized consultancy group  with access to a Topsy premium account and a disciplined, systematic approach to finding and engaging a community.

Then, you need to start finding ways to engage these people and (hopefully) get them to follow you back. 

This is where the idea of leveraging consumer interest in news on Twitter comes into play.  By combining software that helps you curate industry “news signals” and track who is responding to your signals, you can start to build a follower base and gain an understanding of your audience on Twitter.  Engaged people in your industry find news content helpful and engaging–so they are typically open to receiving more frequent content updates from you.  This approach requires a consistent, day-in, day-out news focus as well as a systematic approach to follower management.

News content marketing combined with a system of strategic influencer engagement can help develop an audience with the ability to share your content.  Unfortunately, the majority of brands struggle to take a systematic approach to building an engaged audience capable of spreading the word–and then they wonder why Twitter is not working for them.

Even more benefits 

Adding systematic news curation to your integrated mix of communications on Twitter can even help in a couple of additional ways–namely SEO, as you generate more inbound links and see your website indexed more often by the search engines.  Additionally, as you systematically engage influencers who like your content and share it, your brand’s reach improves significantly.  Finally, over time, you become a thought leader, building valuable brand equity.

As Marc Schaefer notes in his excellent blog post 10 Reasons Why Twitter is Content Marketing’s Best Friend

“Twitter offers the best approach to building an audience of relevant followers for your content. The primary reason is because you have an opportunity to interact and engage with the right people for your business even if they don’t follow you back (you can’t do this on Facebook or LinkedIn).”

This is why Twitter should be a central social hub for your content marketing–not simply a customer service outlet.