Want to be a social media star? Learn some lessons about doing it right from celebrities who are successfully tweeting to brand themselves, attract fans and market their products.
These 10 lessons can teach you what to do (and what not to do) when marketing your business on Twitter.
1. Create a strategy. Sure, Twitter is about being personal and spontaneous. But promoting a consistent brand image takes some degree of calculation. The Atlantic recently assessed how Beyonce creates an illusion of intimacy with fans by sharing photos and tweets about her personal life—but how those posts are actually carefully curated and controlled.
Lesson: First establish the “persona” you want your business to present on Twitter, and then make sure your posts support that image.
2. Be provocative. About 180 degrees from Beyonce’s calculated and intensely positive social media image is frisky Rihanna, who plays up her bad-girl persona by tweeting tons of scantily clad photos, peppering her posts with four-letter words, poking fun at people and conducting public feuds, including one with on-again, off-again abusive boyfriend Chris Brown. Despite breaking almost every social media “rule,” the pop star consistently ranks as one of the top celebs on Twitter.
Lesson: The no-holds-barred approach to social media isn’t right for every (or even most) businesses, but if your brand is rebellious, sexy and outrageous, it could work for you.
3. Get your customers involved. Lady Gaga made news this month after launching a Twitter contest that encouraged fans to buy multiple downloads of her latest single; the winner would get flown to a Gaga concert and meet her. In addition to the number of downloads, the winner had to show creativity by sharing photos or videos of themselves. Since Lady Gaga is all about self-expression, this Twitter contest is a natural fit.
Lesson: Be inclusive by making your Twitter presence interactive. Hold a contest that encourages customers to share their opinions, vote for product names or launches, or share photos or videos of themselves using your product.
4. Create great content. The late Roger Ebert had more than 800,000 Twitter followers, and in the hours after his death, he gained even more. Why? Both on Twitter and his blog, Ebert created an astonishing range of content—from movie reviews to personal musings on everything from his struggle with cancer, problems with the U.S. educational system and news about his local Chicago neighborhood. Ebert’s passion for everything he wrote about inspired readers to discuss and share.
Lesson: You don't have to be an award-winning journalist to create content that matters to your customers. Depending on what your business stands for, getting personal on social media about what matters to you can create a bond with your followers.
5. Work the retweet. Justin Bieber is one of the top-ranking stars on Twitter—partly because his fans are fanatical tween-age girls but also because he knows how to work the retweet. Bieber replies to many of his followers personally, which of course thrills them so much they excitedly retweet his replies to their friends … and so on, and so on. Bieber’s so known for his retweets that Jimmy Fallon asked one of his writers on Late Night to try a stunt to see how many retweets he could get for tweeting the same thing Bieber did. He got two retweets—until Bieber heard about the prank and used the power of his 43 million-plus followers to turn the writer's own “frog lawn mower” tweet into a worldwide trending topic.
Lesson: Actually “talking” with your followers takes time, but it’s, like, totally worth it (as Bieber’s fans would say) if it gets them to retweet you.
6. Remember, it’s not all about you. Of course, even social media stars misstep sometimes. Bieber caught flack earlier this year when a self-centered tweet about a visit to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam generated worldwide scorn.
Lesson: Whether it’s Hurricane Sandy or a teenage girl hiding from the Third Reich, there are some things that just shouldn’t be turned into a marketing tie-in.
7. Be everywhere. The aforementioned Rihanna is all over just about every social medium there is, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Instagram. After all, if you’re trying for music world domination, you’ve got to be everywhere your fans are.
Lesson: Most small businesses aren’t trying to conquer the world. But you still need to know which social media outlets your customers use, and be there. That means keeping up with the top social media platforms, like Twitter or Facebook, as well as testing new trends like Vine and MixBit.
8. Or dominate one social site. Prince has never been a big fan of the Internet, which he declared “over” in an interview three years ago. So when the Purple One started tweeting just days ago, his teasing tweets—including a photo of his dinner—immediately attracted attention and lavish love from fans and social media experts alike. About a week and 228 tweets later, the reclusive musician had garnered more than 155,000 Twitter followers—and tons of media coverage.
Lesson: If your business is new to social media, pick one site, like Twitter, to focus on. Launch with a splash by having a contest or offering special deals.
9. Focus on the primary goal. Do you want millions of Twitter followers? Realistically, that’s not going to happen. So keep your real goal (boosting sales) in mind, and use the social media site to drive traffic to your business or website. For example, while Katy Perry has more Twitter fans than Nikki Minaj, Minaj gets way more traffic to her website because her social media accounts direct fans there, while Perry frequently sends fans to third-party sites.
Lesson: If you’re linking to something on social media, make sure it ultimately either leads to or somehow benefits your business. If you want to “have fun” on social media, open a separate personal Twitter account.
10. Use hashtags wisely. Late Night host Jimmy Fallon has attracted lots of Twitter followers with the Late Night Hashtags segment of the show. Fallon creates a topic and hashtag; (#latenighthashtags), and fans send in tweets; the best ones get shared on air. The hashtags boost viewership of the show as well as fan involvement on Twitter.
Lesson: Use hashtags to drive action. Hashtagging your company or product name won’t inspire people to retweet. Instead, create Twitter hashtags for an event, contest or giveaway. If there’s something in it for users, they’re more likely to share.
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Photos from top: iStockphoto, Jamie Squire/Getty Images