If you’re an outdoor manufacturer you need to have a active twitter presence. But you need to do it right. Here are best practice tips on how to use Twitter to grow and acquire a larger audience, and some advice on Twitter etiquette.
Use Twitter to notify your audience about new content
Twitter and Facebook have eclipsed RSS as the way most readers prefer to receive new content notification. Timing is everything however. Figure out when your audience arrives at the office and try to announce the publication of new blog content an hour after they arrive. If your audience is distributed across a wide geographic region use response metrics to figure out when you should tweet to get the best click-thru or transaction rates.
Don’t over-communicate on Twitter
Make sure each one of your tweets contains content or a link to content that your customers will find valuable. I’ve found that two tweets a day is a good number of tweets to post on a daily basis, and if you’re regular about when they’re posted your audience will be on the look out for them.
Don’t narrowcast on Twitter
Avoid overusing Twitter to send personal messages to individuals. Twitter is a broadcast channel not a narrowcast one. I unfollow people who use Twitter like public instant messaging. If you want to be taken seriously and have klout, make your messages relevant to everyone who is going to read them.
Follow new followers
If you want to extend your reach and the number of people who will see you tweets, you need to reciprocate and follow new followers. This is the best way to grow your network on Twitter because the people who follow you are the most likely to retweet your messages.
Retweet good content to your followers
Retweets are the equivalent of web page link love. If you take and take but never give back, you are unlikely to get any followers with big audiences who will forward your tweets for long.
Respond to follower messages
This should be obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many outdoor companies and retailers don’t respond to customer tweets. If you receive a customer complaint or inquiry and you don’t respond to it, you might as well shoot off your foot. If marketing owns your Twitter account, make sure they have a liasion in customer support who has the ability to address customer issues quickly.
One excellent way to get backlinks to your site and grow your audience is to provide outdoor bloggers with product samples that they can review and write about.
Sounds easy, but you want to make sure that the bloggers you are working with understand the Federal Trade Commission’s New Transparency Rules for Endorsements. In the United States, bloggers need to disclose that they have a relationship with you if you give them products or compensate them in any way for the review.
While the chances of a blogger being prosecuted by the FTC are probably pretty low, I think it’s important for you to ensure that the bloggers you work with adhere to the FTC standards. Your audience will appreciate it. They are not stupid and they’ll react badly if they feel like they’ve been duped by a marketing program.
If you are working with bloggers or web sites that are unaware of these new regulations, it might be useful if you suggested that they include something like this piece of text at the end of their review: “Disclosure: +MyCompany+ gave +blogname+ a complementary +ProductOrService+ to review.” It’s that simple. .
If a blogger or reviewer you’re working with objects to including this disclosure statement or something like it, explain to them how including it will strengthen their integrity with their audience, not diminish it. If they still object, you’re probably better off finding another venue that cares more their audience’s welfare than whatever profits they can make from giving your product or service a glowing endorsement.
For more information about the FTC Guideline on Product Endorsements:
If you’re starting a blog for your business, go after the largest audience you can.
For example, let’s say your company sells expensive scuba gear. Don’t create all of your content for certified scuba divers. Aim wider than that and generate content for people who are looking for scubas lessons or are interested in good snorkeling destinations. If your primary objectives are audience acquisition and brand engagement, then you really need to engage with the audience that you want to become qualified customers, not the people who are already qualified.
The same holds for international companies that may good brand awareness in a smaller country, but poor recognition in the United States or Japan. For example, suppose you’re a Swiss manufacturer of ice climbing gear that sells internationally through distribution channels. Aim for a global audience on day one. If you stick too close to home, you will never be able break out from your regional focus and attract a large and interactive audience.
If you go wide from the start, you will be able to identify affinity groups for certain segments of content over time that you can begin to target more deliberately in a sales pipeline. But initially, you want to attract the biggest audience possible to establish some online credibility and grow your audience footprint.
I’ve always wondered why so many outdoor companies feature professional athletes on their blogs. I find it to be boring and a complete yawn. The kind of people I want to read about are people like me, who’ve worked all their life, and only get to pursue recreational activities on weekends. Those are the people I hold as heroes, not some 20 something year-old kid who’s skied 2 million feet of elevation.
Last year, Golite, the hiking gear and clothing manufacturer, ran a campaign about ordinary people doing achieving great things outdoors. I found it inspiring.
I know a lot of other people who share my point of view. Customers want to hear about about outdoor companies’ sustainability agendas, the social causes they support, and what they’re doing to help get families outdoors. They’re not interested in sports superstars and GU mutants anymore and if you think that a monthly dispatch from a corporate sponsored athlete is all you need to publish on your company’s blog, think again.
When companies set up their web sites and blogs, they frequently forget about the customers, business partners, and friends they have in their local community. Instead, they get caught up in generating content for a global audience, instead of building a solid foundation at home.
It really doesn’t matter if you have a regional, national, or international brand: targeting a substantial amount of your early content development efforts around local or regional topics will help you rapidly build an interactive audience. If you can tap into a dozen regulars readers who leave copious comments, your blog won’t suffer the stigma of having no comments for the first 6 months of its existence.
Building your initial content strategy in a local market can also help you develop a multi-channel marketing mindset, outreach programs and metrics that you can build on when you start to extend your reach outside of your community.
Here are just a few examples of local marketing programs that I’ve helped my partners and clients launch in their local communities, in order to bootstrap their online communities:
Discounts to local outdoor clubs and meetup groups
Providing local events with free meeting space
Sponsoring local and regional safety or educational organizations
Many outdoor companies already have programs like these, but have never considered using them to bootstrap their online audience. This is low hanging fruit and you’d be amazed at how quickly you can mobilize local supporters to build a larger online community.
Facebook, in combination with a web blog, is the perfect vehicle for this type of initiative.
I know this sounds like complete heresy. But when you write blog content, you should focus on informing and entertaining your readers, not on stuffing as many keywords into the post title and first paragraph as possible. People like interesting, well written content, and if your posts sound illiterate, your search engine optimization tactics will backfire and drive readers away.
The key is to focus on writing deeply about a limited set of topic areas that are all related to your niche or market positioning. If you clearly know what you’re talking about and can relate it to audience feedback, you’ll get all the keyword density you need from multiple posts and user generated content.
If you’re an employee or manager in an outdoor gear company, do yourself a favor and don’t post self-serving comments on other peoples’ web sites. It looks bad, and it’s downright tacky.
I am not saying that you should avoid commenting other web sites. But you need to do it tastefully, in a way that complements and advances a comment thread. Be knowledgeable and informative, but stay on topic. If you share your knowledge freely, you’ll build credibility and build an organic reputation that’s worth much more in the long term.
In addition, there are a few nuances to leaving a comment that you need to clue into.
Fill in the name field of a comment with your name, not your company name.
The proper place to type in your company’s web site address is in comment’s web site field. This will be hyper-linked to your name, so if people want to learn more about you (and the person who wrote such a brilliant comment), they will be far more receptive to visiting your web site.
Don’t put additional signature links in a comment post. It’s too pushy.
If you’re already a frequent commenter, a lot of this may seem old hat, but you’d be surprised at how many small businesses try to gain visibility by abusing site comments. It’s borderline spam and can backfire horribly if you make it a habit.
There are two ways to get referral traffic from StumbleUpon. You can wait for a member to add you to their profile, write a recommendation about your site, and hope that you get some fan-out from their friends.
The other way is to pay StumbleUpon to recommend your site to their members in an ad buy. StumbleUpon captures psychographic information about their readers’ content preferences, as well as locale information, so you can target their audience very precisely
At a CPM of $5 per thousand, this a very expensive way to increase site pageviews, but there’s an unadvertised benefit to being a StumbleUpon advertiser. When StumbleUpon has extra, unsold impression inventory, they will direct readers to your site, if enough of them have given it a thumbs up in the past.
Based on my statistics, I average greater than one pageview per visitor on these free StumbleUpon referrals. From this, I’ve concluded that StumbleUpon is using the targeting criteria that I specified in my campaigns from two years ago, or something close to it, to refer visitors to my site.
To get the same benefit, I’d recommend that you do a small ad buy on StumbleUpon, targeted at your outdoor audience. You only need to spend $100-$200 dollars to prime the pump, and you should see some free referrals down the line if StumbleUpon’s community likes your content.
The key to building an audience is sharing your audience in exchange for access to someone else’s audience. Local businesses do this all the time.
Have you ever gotten an envelope in the mail, full of coupons to local business? Those businesses all share the price of the mailing because it’s an inexpensive way to acquire new customers and drive repeat business.
Building an audience on the Internet and through social media works the same way. If you are willing to give anther content provider access to your audience, you can get access to theirs.
As a blogger, you can do this in a variety of ways.
Comment on other people’s sites. Their readers will click through to your address and read your content.
Invite guest bloggers to post on your site. If you both cross promote the post using email or social media, you can acquire new readers.
Write guest posts on other people’s sites. Ditto the above.
Give bloggers in your affiliate channel product samples to review, in exchange for a guest post on your site. Ditto the above.
What surprises me, is how few outdoor manufacturers or retailers use any of these techniques. They work, and if you can scale the implementation, you can rapidly grow a big audience.
Once you’ve built an audience and a large library of old posts, it is possible to drive readers back to them if they contain non-episodic, reference content that continues to have some relevancy. Twitter and Facebook are great for this because you can use them to notify readers of existing posts and increase audience interaction, without requiring costly new content development. Contrast this with RSS, which only notifies readers about new posts and can’t promote posts out of order or in a cyclic and seasonal manner.
Chance are, your blog’s older posts are buried deep down in your archives and if they didn’t get a lot of comments when posted, they probably are not highly ranked in search results today. By driving your audience back to these old posts, you can increase their keyword and content density because you have an audience that is now large enough, and primed, to leave comments on your posts.
More comments = higher keyword density, so recycle these posts and generate more organic search traffic. It’s a beautiful thing.