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Twitter questions posed...and answered!

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I recently moderated a panel on the topic of Twitter success as part of BtoB's Digital Edge virtual trade show. Avaya's Paul Dunay (my fellow columnist here at "Social Media Marketer") and CME Group's Allan Schoenberg shared a long list of great tips about Twitter that have worked for their companies. We got lots of questions that we weren't able to answer during the hour, so I thought I'd address several here.

1. Should you have a company logo or a personal photo as your Twitter picture? If you're tweeting on behalf of a company, and if you are in a role as an official spokesperson, then it's fine to use a company logo. If you are speaking for yourself, then use a personal photo. If only one or two people tweet on behalf of the company, I recommend noting that fact in the Twitter profile or on the background image on your Twitter home page. Provide your personal Twitter address in case people want to contact you directly.

2. What about using corporate versus personal employee accounts? I like it when employees of a company tweet using their personal accounts. Non-business information, such as weekend activities, or hobbies and interests, humanizes people and creates the foundation for a stronger bond with followers. However, I would reserve this option for your most social media-savvy employees. It's also a good tactic to use with executives and people who are thought leaders in your industry. You should never require someone to use a personal Twitter account on behalf of the company.

3. Gartner says microblogging is sliding into a "trough of disillusionment." Any explanations? Any popular technology goes through Gartner's famous "hype cycle" as part of the natural process of becoming mainstream. By some estimates, up to 90% of Twitter accounts are dormant. This isn't surprising given the low barrier to entry. The fact is that Twitter is an acquired taste, and some people don't find the service to be of much value. However, the volume of success stories is quite large, and there's no reason to believe that microblogging is a flash in the pan.

4. How can I reach people who tweet about a topic that's relevant to me? This refers to Twitter's "direct messaging" feature, which enables messages to be exchanged between people who are following each other. The simplest way is to send people a tweet telling them that you want to communicate with them directly and asking them to follow you. An alternative is to Google the contact's name and company. That often will yield an e-mail address that you can use for a follow-up.

5. Is there a different mix of tweets for a B2B versus a B2C audience? It depends on the size of the audience, of course, but B2C marketers are more inclined to use Twitter to stimulate discussions among groups of people about lifestyle, or offbeat and fun topics. B2B companies, by contrast, tend to be more focused on professional and technical issues. B2C Twitter discussions are more likely to include discounts or promotions, although marketers at B2B companies that cater to large audiences (e-mail marketing, for example) use many of those same tactics.

Effective use of Twitter is an important topic for B2B marketers. I'll address more of these questions in a future column.

Paul Gillin is an Internet marketing consultant and the author of three books about social media. He also writes the "New Channels" column in BtoB.

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