Quora: How can Twitter be used as an effective marketing tool?

As one of the co-founders of Twibble, an RSS-to-Twitter platform specifically to help companies drive traffic and grow their business, I think I’m fairly qualified to answer this.

Short answer: I don’t know. It depends. We continue to be blown away by our customers’ innovative solutions.

(WARNING: Company name dropping below, not to brag, but to use illustrative examples of brands with which most consumers are at least somewhat familiar.)

These are just some of the companies that we’re proud to call customers on Twibble. See any correlation?

Yeah, neither do we: this particular sample size is too small, and spans the gamut from news (AlleyWatch, Voice of America; The St Louis American; EurActiv); media (iHeartRadio); tech (Capterra; Telerik); education (University of Georgia); and law enforcement (The Swedish Police (“Polisen”); Greater Manchester UK Police.

Zooming out a bit, the general trend that we find is that most of our customers fall within the news, media, and entertainment industries, and, to a somewhat lesser extend, sports.

What’s fascinating about the above examples are the varied and fascinating use cases for Twibble.

Perhaps a brief overview first, though, for those not familiar with Twibble and other RSS-to-Twitter services like Dlvr.it, Hootsuite, Buffer, and the now-defunct, Bitly-acquired Twitterfeed.

Let’s first begin by defining the three classes of Twitter users:

  1. Consumers
  2. Producers, Type A
  3. Producers, Type B

Consumers are on Twitter solely to read content. They do not typically tweet any content, and in many instances, may even be private — so-called “protected” — accounts.

Producers, Type A are people who actively tweet original content. This may be their own, organically-typed tweets, or it may be non-Twitter content (such as blogs) to which they tweet links.

Finally, Producers, Type B are people who actively share others’ content, e.g., tweeting other writers’ articles or perhaps retweeting (RTing) others’ tweets.

We should also define a causal relationship: if you’re a Producer (of any Type) on Twitter, then it is necessarily the case that you are hoping to grow your followers and increase your engagement; stated in the inverse, then, if you are not trying to grow your followers or increase your engagement, then you cannot be a Producer, and you must be a Consumer.

Thus Consumers are per se passive observers in the Twitterverse — they do not have any interest in growing their audience; while Producers are per se active participants — their raison d’être is precisely to grow and engage their audience.

The question then becomes, how can Producers best achieve their goals of growing and increasing their engagement?

At a really high level, growing followers and increasing engagement necessarily requires the maintenance of a high quality Twitter stream. As it is hard to maintain a steady stream of original content, one solution is to share others’ interesting and relevant content. Unfortunately, it becomes exponentially harder to do as you seek out more and better additional, interesting and relevant content.

We should also precisely understand what is meant when we discuss interesting and relevant content. Quite literally, this is the intersection of two subsets of content: that which is both interesting, and that which is relevant, to your audience.

This seems like a trivial point, but it’s immensely important: since most companies’ followers tend to be narrowly tailored to that companies’ particular products or services, their tolerance for content which is both interesting and relevant is very low:

Interesting content that is not relevant is just as useless as relevant content that is not interesting.

So back to the original question then: how best to achieve a steady stream of both interesting and relevant content so as to more efficiently engage your followers?

One method to accomplish this is brute force: hire an entire legion of social media gurus to manage and constantly crank out new content. Good examples of this are Air France-KLM and their fantastic Twitter account and spectacular aviation blog.

The other is automated: use a third party service to help manage not only a company’s (often myriad) different Twitter accounts, but also to feed, schedule, filter, or otherwise manage the content to be shared.

Both solutions have their pros and cons.

The manual, brute force method will, by definition, always be the most organic. This is good. Unfortunately, it is also the most labor-intensive (read: expensive).

The automated approach is the easiest and least labor-intensive (read: least expensive), as it can effectively replace — or at least reduce — social media teams by a substantial degree. Unfortunately, automated systems can also produce undesirable “automation artifacts” rendering a company’s social media account sterile, cold, and in any event, emotionless.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the best results are obtained by automated systems that offer hybrid solutions: automated content with organic supplements, so to speak. This can be accomplished by the queuing of organically composed tweets; the rotation of appended organic content before or after otherwise-automated content; and more besides.

The easiest and broadest source of sharable content comes from a mainstay of the early internet days, RSS feeds. Familiar to many, a nevertheless unbeknownst quality of RSS feeds is that their content is not solely limited to blogs:

YouTube (channels), Instagram feeds, Pinterest boards, Etsy and eBay stores, and more, can all easily be added as sources, complete with embedded images and even videos (at least with Twibble, anyway).

So that’s the high level overview of techniques by which companies can leverage Twitter as a powerful marketing platform. Now that this is understood, we can at last return to answer the original question, for which I can give some of the more fascinating examples from some of our customers:

The Manchester UK Police force wanted to feed security camera footage to various Twitter accounts. iHeartRadio wanted to share content from their various media channels. And of course news sites like VOA, EurActiv, and The St. Louis American wanted an easy way to share their content as soon as it goes live.

In all instances, Twibble proved a valuable solution because it (a) reduces the workload required (b) to produce interesting and relevant content which is (c) automated (d) with organic elements.

The overarching theme from all this should be that social media marketing — and on Twitter in particular — is a very delicate art that relies entirely upon first of all discovering that intersection of both interesting and relevant content, and second of all finding a way to easily, efficiently, and effectively maintain a steady stream of such content through your various Twitter accounts.

Originally published at www.quora.com.