Twitter Talk

Big thanks to the online newsletter, Engage: Moms, for running my article about marketing to moms via Twitter, earlier today. For Mom Market Trends readers, here’s a copy of the story:

It seems that in the past month or so alone – with headlines about The Real Shaq, Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central critique, addicted-to-it admissions by major news anchors, and especially, Oprah’s April 17 segment on the subject – the entire world has discovered Twitter.

For those of you who have been focusing on less pressing matters – say, the economy — Twitter is a microblog through which people communicate within a maximum of 140 characters. The real-time result, as others have suggested, is much like a large cocktail party with many unrelated conversations occurring at the same time. Twitter can be perplexing, disorienting, even overwhelming.

In comparison to social networks such as Facebook, with its 200 million active users, Twitter is a social neophyte, with 14 million users (pre Oprah), according to Compete.com. What makes Twitter newsworthy, however, is that this figure indicates a significant spike – an increase of 76.8% in the past month alone.

Is Twitter a great way to market to moms?

The jury is still out — but the possibilities are intriguing. Moms are certainly tweeting in droves. Of the core group of 100 or so mom bloggers we work with on an ongoing basis, for example, roughly 80% have Twitter accounts. The Twitter format itself – short bursts – may particularly appeal to busy moms, as a way to stay in touch between myriad parenting tasks. The influential TwitterMoms network includes numerous subcategories for different areas of interest, from “Online Marketing Moms” to “Twitter Newbies.” March saw the launch of independent microblogging variations on Twitter, designed to appeal directly to moms.

Moms who tweet comment on everything from potty training to politics. Granted, there are numerous posts along the lines of, “What shall I make for lunch?” and “Just dropped Jimmy off at practice.” Earlier this month, there was much lively debate on a TV segment on “the secret life of moms” as well as a major fundraising effort for a mom in need. Though clearly not a direct opportunity for marketers, these activities offer insight into a mom’s world. More relevant to corporations, there is also a great deal of news and knowledge shared, mom to mom, about product giveaways, coupon offers, special events, and more. Many of the conversations that started online have evolved to off-line – the “meet ups” or in-person meetings originated by bloggers have evolved into “tweet ups” for Twitter fans.

Small and large businesses alike have tiptoed into Twitter waters in an effort to reach moms. Graco and Johnson & Johnson have a presence, as do Nickelodeon and Disney, among others. Companies such as Whole Foods, Starbucks, Zappos and JetBlue use Twitter to target a broader audience.

For those marketing in Twitter space for the first time, there is a distinct learning curve. Some basic lessons:

• Identify your objectives carefully. What do you want to achieve through a Twitter presence? Create visibility? Improve your customer service? Move a particular product? Develop greater awareness of an online or offline promotion?

• Allocate the time to do it right. For a channel known for its word limit, Twitter can be incredibly time consuming if you want to convey a specific marketing message effectively. For originating posts and reading and responding to others, expect to devote one-two full hours a day.

• Pursue followers aggressively, but selectively. Full disclosure: This is counter to traditional thinking. Many Twitter experts will tell you that the best way to establish expertise and relationships is to generate a massive following — by following the masses, who in return will most likely follow you. But what if your real audience is a lot more specific than broad? If you’re reaching foreign real estate brokers and your target is American moms of young children, what is the point, aside from big-number bragging rights? And, realistically, how can you possibly read and interact with – which is the whole point — posts from a huge list?

• Make a contribution. Don’t become one of those companies whose updates consist of constant repetition of the same message, “Here’s my product.” Share value: answer questions, address concerns, provide unique opportunities and interesting updates on activities at your company, but also volunteer helpful information on relevant subjects. For example, if you’re promoting a family travel destination, post links to third-party tips for traveling with kids.

Despite the fact that it’s been around for three years, Twitter is only now really taking off when it comes to corporate involvement. Readers, what have your experiences been with Twitter? Marketers, what have you done that’s effective? Moms, what should companies on Twitter do to make themselves more appealing?

To comment, please visit Engage: Moms.