Michael Kahn
Michael Kahn

Michael Kahn’s company Performics is a leader in SEM (search engine marketing) and what is now known as performance marketing. In this interview, Michael looks at Twitter from the SEM and content perspective and provides examples and tips to use Twitter to achieve marketing and customer service goals.

In the seemingly endless stream of expert opinions, product announcements and Twitter marketing tips it is hard for advertisers and marketers to get the full picture and understand what Twitter can really mean to them.

What it was meant to be is obvious: a communication service to share, network and enable people to inform friends and acquaintances about what they are doing. Twitter is ‘hot’. And marketers want to understand what it can do for them. Michael Kahn, SVP Marketing at Performics (Publicis Groupe/Vivaki) weighs in (update: since May 2014, Michael is Chief Executive Officer, Performics Worldwide).

Why should businesses look at Twitter for marketing and customer service purposes at all?

Michael Kahn: Relevant brands have to have a presence on Twitter. Brand name Twitter handles are far too valuable to your brand to let them sit out there for squatters to scoop up. If someone else grabs your handle, they are controlling your brand’s message. People are searching for brands within the social networks; and the search engines rank Twitter pages highly for brand name searches.

Social sites within the search engine results pages (SERPs) are here to stay. If brands do not control their Twitter page, they risk losing control of their brand’s message on Twitter and in search. A user searching for a brand on Google could easily come across a Twitter page that may look like an official brand page, but is really a consumer complaint page or a page controlled by that brand’s competitors.

Your brand message, search engine marketing, reputation, etc. They all seem good reasons. However, immediately the next question arises: if you decide to get on Twitter as a brand, how can you make it worthwhile, valuable and relevant for your business and thus, by definition, for your (potential) customers?

Michael Kahn: Once you get on Twitter, you need to stay active to build a following. Hone in on your sweet spot and then start tweeting about it. People who are interested in what you have to say will start following you—your followers self-select themselves and thus are highly qualified prospects. Have a brand personality, but also offer people valuable content. Build a following by holding contests and offering giveaways. Encourage consumers to talk about your brand. For instance, Chicago T-shirt company Threadless encourages its Twitter followers to tweet what Threadless shirt, they are wearing that day. People who tweet the shirt are entered into a drawing to win a free shirt. Using this approach, Threadless starts massive conversations about their brand and has gained 1.4 million followers. Dell has also been very successful using promotions on Twitter, driving millions of dollars in sales by tweeting weekly discount offers to its legion of followers.

Twitter: engagement, commitment and listening

But Kahn warns that it requires an ongoing engagement.

Michael Kahn: On the other side advertisers should not take a ‘launch it and leave it’ mentality to pursuing a presence on Twitter. Brands need to make a firm commitment to managing their presence on this platform whether it is to drive sales, service customers or listen and learn. Otherwise they risk being perceived as out of touch or not finishing conversations they started.

Until now we talked a lot about Twitter as an advertising, SEM and branding tool but in your last answer the crucial words appear: ‘service customers’. What is your view on the relevancy of Twitter in customer service, overall customer experiences, etc.?

Let’s start with managing customer relationships and gathering insights about customer behaviour and identifying brand influencers.

Michael Kahn: Twitter allows marketers to listen to how consumers are talking about their brand. Social listening can inform other marketing strategies like: advertising and paid search copy (learn how consumers talk about your brand to improve copy relevancy/CTRs), search keyword lists (grow keyword portfolios with trends/topics your target market is interested in), landing page strategies, reputation management campaigns (get on top of negative chatter), competitive strategy (how do consumers perceive you vs. your competition?), display and offline campaigns. Social listening also helps a brand identify brand influencers—fans of the brand who are highly influential because consumers trust their opinions. The brand can reach out to these people through Twitter, keep them happy and keep them talking positively about their brand. Social listening can be done manually by monitoring Twitter Search. There are also automated social listening tools to help brands break through the clutter, mine and compile the relevant chatter.

Brand reputation management and customer service

Brand reputation management is a topic that comes back often. What’s the role of Twitter as a reputation management tool?

Michael Kahn: Twitter allows a brand to take control of the conversation quickly before negative media stories about the brand come out during a crisis. For instance, when a hole opened in a Southwest Airlines plane, Southwest quickly informed its Twitter followers that it would be inspecting every plane overnight and that there would be minimal disruption in the next day’s schedule. Additionally, Twitter profiles can be used for SERP domination. Search engines only show 2 natural results for a native Web site per query. But what about the content you distribute to Twitter? Twitter profiles rank highly for brand queries. This is a great way to dominate the SERP for your brand, manage reputation or push competitors down.

Customer service reps should be listening to Twitter chatter and jumping into the conversation to help customers solve problems. Comcast increased its customer satisfaction score by 9.3% using this tactic.

Sharing messages and content on Twitter

Twitter is about sharing information, connecting and networking (although I expect it to become more about spreading content for many businesses instead of sharing in the true sense). Can you also acquire new customers through Twitter? Can it help you in generating leads? In a cross-channel and holistic approach, it can but what about Twitter itself?

Michael Kahn: A Performics Social Marketing Study found that consumers are open to brand messages on the social networks. Brands should be tweeting deals and promotions to their followers (see Dell example above), especially during the holidays. A brand’s following is a self-selected list of people that are saying to the brand: ‘we are interested in what you have to talk about’ or even ‘we are interested in buying from you.’ Don’t spam your followers, but recognize that they are open to your promotions. Test which times of day and types of messages drive the most clicks and conversions from Twitter and optimize your promotional tweets. Twitter can also be used to drive in-store traffic. For instance, tweet something like: ‘get a free gift when you mention this tweet in one of our stores today from 1PM to 5PM!’.

Kahn’s view on Twitter as a marketing tool is clear and the examples he mentions speak for themselves.

From a marketing perspective, Twitter is about sharing relevant information, content, brand messages, promotions, etc. to those who decide they want to follow us, customer service and building networks of trust with connected consumers. However, we must not forget the context in which consumers use Twitter: attention will have to be earned in this social activity network.

Without relevance, ongoing conversations and engagement Twitter will be a tough environment for businesses that have a me-centric attitude. Moreover, Twitter is interesting from a cross-channel perspective, strengthening the ripple effect of blog posts for instance, and in the cross-fertilization with other channels, such as email, to increase the number of potential touchpoints and tap into the power of sharing. Finally, maybe Twitter is more about listening than about speaking (or tweeting). Isn’t that what marketing is about anyway?

As for search engine marketers, Twitter is nothing less than a must, according to SEM expert Michael Kahn.

Originally posted on conversionation.net, moved as part of an integration