This post was originally published on Ivan Walsh’s blog Should you use Twitter as part of your Marketing Plan? If you’re looking to increase sales, generate leads, or connect with prospects, it seems a no-brainer, right? The problem is if you’re starting out with Twitter it can be hard to see where it compliments your Marketing Plan. The most practical approach is to create a dedicated Twitter Plan in the same way you’d create any marketing plan. Here’s how it works. What is a Twitter Plan? A Twitter Plan is very simple to develop once you understand how Twitter works and you have a specific goal you want to achieve. Like all marketing tactics, the more specific the goal, the better the return. A Twitter Plan works as follows: Goals – Define a specific goal, for example, increase traffic to my blog by 10 percent in 4 weeks. Message – Define the message you will use to connect to a) current followers, b) prospective customers, c) others. Hashtag – Identify the hashtags – e.g. #business or #sales – others will use to find your tweets. Hashtags are tags used to identify a specific topic, trend, business etc by Twitter users. Keyword – Identify the keywords others will use to find your tweets. I’ll explain below. Phrase – Identify the phrases others will use to find your tweets. For example, ‘increase online sales’, ‘business development opportunities’, ‘ways to reduce carbon emissions’ and so on. Schedule – decide where you will schedule the tweets. For example, at 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm, and 11pm. Scheduling your message throughout the day increases the likelihood that twitters will see your message at some point. Frequency – decide how frequently you post tweets per day. I recommend no more than 5. Tone – examine how others communicate on twitters, especially the more successful marketers and adapt their writing style until you find your own voice. Tactics – Use a little variety when writing your tweets, for example, ask questions, make observations, share poll results, and quotes. Again, study the masters and see how they do it. Once you have thought about this, type the questions into an Excel spreadsheet (or Word if you prefer) and get ready to start. Tools for Twitter Plan The nice thing about Twitter Planning is that there are really no costs other than your time. I use the following tools to schedule my tweets and coordinate my efforts. Hootsuite – this is a free Twitter desktop application that lets you do all your twittering as well as run multiple accounts, search for topics, and bulk upload tweets. Instead of doing them individually, you can upload a spreadsheet and it will schedule them for you. There is also a Pro version. http://www.hootsuite.com/ SocialOomph – this is also free and comes with a wonderful range of tools. The user interface is a bit odd but you will get the hang of it. There is also a Pro version with very advanced features. http://www.socialoomph.com/ Twitter Alerts – Use this to track conversations that mention your products, company via hourly email updates. http://tweetbeep.com/ Sample Twitter Plan This is based on a recent twitter plan for a client. There are different ways to do this but should give you an idea of how to get started. We were developing Business Proposal software and wanted to: Attract others interested in Business Proposal software. Get listed on Twitter lists about Business Proposal software. Highlight advantages of Business Proposal software. Discuss risks and how the software would help. Answer questions about Business Proposal software AND Position us as THE AUTHORITY about Business Proposal software on Twitter. Our goals were to generate leads, create buzz, and establish our expertise. Day 1 Before you start: Twitter account – Create a new Twitter account if you’re developing a brand, e.g. BizProposal, as Twitter and Search Engines factor this into their results. Keywords – Add keywords to your Twitter bio for the same reasons. Connect – Search for like-minded folks on Twitter (http://search.twitter.com/) and encourage them to follow you back. Use SocialOomph to automate this process. Day 2 Sequence five tweets per day. If your site, product or service is specific to a region, then factor location into the times. Add a hashtag to each tweet. Vary the hashtags during the plan. For example: Starting to write new Business Proposal. Any idea what MUST go in? #SME You can reduce Proposal Development writing time but not quality #government How many pages should be in good Business Proposal plan? #help What’s the biggest problem when writing Business Proposal documents? Adding Costs to my Business Proposal plan. #finance Looking at gaps in other Business Proposals. Most seem to overlook risks. #pm Formatted the Business Proposal template. Wonder what font is best? Day 3 – 5 Use different variations of these questions to create interest in your twitter stream. Remember to reach out and connect with others who retweet you and who have a similar marketing fit. Twitter Plan Mistakes To Avoid Let’s look at the tweets I sent out. Starting to write new Business Proposal. Put keywords near the Start of the tweet, e.g. Business Proposals: what MUST go in? This is ideal both for search engines and humans. Take a look at how Seth Godin writes his blog titles, especially older ones, and you’ll see how he does it. Any idea what MUST go in? Bring others into the conversation. Ask for help. Think dialogue. How can I write my tweets so others are more likely to engage? #SME Add one hashtag. Adding two makes it harder to read, confuses Google, and dilutes the message. Next… Develop the theme over the course of the week by highlighting the typical risks, issues, and pain points others are encountering. Then write your tweets based on these. Again, asking questions is one way to do this and getting more followers. Reduce Proposal Development writing time but not quality #government Call for #help here. You could also say, ‘I’ve heard that Business Proposals in the US are shorter than in the UK. True?’ This might get folks off the fence and tell you if you’re right or wrong, which leads to more followers, of course. How many pages should be in good Business Proposal plan? #help Then, keep people informed of your progress. While they may not comment (in public), they will see what you’re doing and start to take more of an interest. You can develop more tweets along the same lines, such as: Adding ‘Something interesting’ to my Proposal plan. Hope to finish by Friday! Looking at gaps in other Business Proposals. Most seem to overlook risks. #pm Formatted the Business Proposal template. Wonder what font is best? …which are all designed to bring others into the dialogue, increase awareness and start to position you as an authority on this subject. Conclusion The advantage of a Twitter Plan is that it gives you a structured way to use Twitter and focus your message. I’d recommend starting with a short Twitter Plan over five days and use a specific metric to gauge how well it works. Look at the stats and build upon what you’ve learn in the next marketing campaign. The objective of your Twitter Plan is to extend the reach of your Marketing Plan. Don’t get too engrossed in the tools at this point. Keep it simple and look for ways to compliment your other Marketing efforts, then see how you can develop an integrated marketing plan that works across all Social Media platforms. Baby steps, of course… What other ways to do use Twitter for marketing?