Three icebreakers to spark brand-centric Twitter chatter

Twitter is a growing social media platform, used by brands, marketers and consumers to stay up to date on industry trends. According to a Tweet by Twitter (how appropriate!), the site has 200 million active users and counting. In this active social environment, there’s not much that feels better than a Retweet or a complimentary “@mention,” but how can brands build this type of engagement?Twitter Tweets about 200M monthly active users

If you ask social media marketing specialists, they might tell you that posing questions is a good way to generate some responses to your branded Tweets. In fact, research has shown that Twitter and Facebook posts with questions see significantly more traffic than standard posts. Dan Zarrella, social media scientist at HubSpot, found that posts with questions saw a lot more comments on Facebook. It seems that questions get answers – they see more engagement – but what kind of questions should brand leaders ask their audiences?

I’m an avid user of Twitter and keep track of brands I love in real-time. If a company asks a compelling question, I often respond to it, but only if I think that brand has something to offer, or if I want to promote myself or my company to a person or brand I admire.

A quick perusal of my Twitter feed shows brands asking a lot of questions, but some of them go unanswered. Which ones are worthy of responses?

1. Be exciting, unique and funny

Boring – it’s the killer of any question. A query that is exciting, unique and funny is likely to see attention, but one that elicits boredom will probably be overlooked.

If you ask about how Twitter followers are feeling that day, or if you ask what their plans are for the weekend, followers’ eyes glaze over and roll back into their heads. They’re not going to waste a Tweet to tell you that they are “Fine” and “Doing laundry this weekend with my husband.”

A group of researchers at MIT sought to understand what Twitter and Facebook posts gained the most engagement, finding that “humor is the best social medicine.”Laugh and everyone laughs with you

When I post questions, sometimes no one answers, and perhaps it’s simply because I’m not funny. If the Twitter poster is a Serious Sally, a Negative Nancy or a Petty Paul, questions aren’t going to get responses. Brands should consider placing a fun person at the Twitter wheel when deciding who will manage social marketing efforts.

“Laugh and everyone laughs with you. People like to laugh. Funny things are appreciated. Being funny is an art, and not everyone can be funny,” writes the team of researchers on MIT Sloan’s Blog. “In terms of sheer numbers, most posts are not funny, especially brand posts.”

2. Be relevant (in your industry and to the world)

Three icebreakers to spark brand-centric Twitter chatterBrands have something to offer – that’s why they sell a product or service, connect with consumers and develop a presence on social media sites like Twitter. Although offerings might not be relevant to each and every user on a social platform, Tweets and posts need to be relevant in your industry and to the world.

According to a survey by SocialToaster on trends in social media, engagement with current events and top influencers on Twitter could bring brands to the top. Connecting with popular celebrities and top news which both generate trending #hashtags is a lesson. For example, ask a question about a current event. If you lead a home insurance company and see that Justin Bieber, one of SocialToaster’s top influencers, has just bought a new mansion, ask how much you think his rate might cost. You may get a response.

Twitter is gaining speed- 50 percent of this year’s Super Bowl ads included Twitter calls to actions, according to a study by Matt McGee of MarketingLand. Facebook was only mentioned four times, demonstrating Twitter’s reach. Brands can’t afford to miss out through irrelevant posts.

3. Hit a personal nerve

People can’t help it – they love when it’s about them. They love promoting themselves, their brands, their cities and their lifestyles. Even you love yourself, that’s why you’re reading this post about how to get more attention on Twitter.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

According to MIT research, posts that “humanized a brand” saw much more attention on social media sites. Humanizing leads to relationship building, which in turn fosters a personal connection.

If brands can Tweet questions that hit a personal nerve, they’re likely to see a response. “What infuriates you most about your commute?” or “What is your absolute favorite restaurant in Boston?” may garner some responses. If a question hits close to home, users can’t resist offering their own opinions.

Of course, there are a few other ways to get some responses to questions posted on Twitter. In my experience, specific questions tend to do better than general ones. Certain question types do well, too, according to Dan Zarrella. Questions that begin with “would, should, or which” see more responses than questions that begin with “why” or “how.” If a question is specific, funny, relevant and unique,Twitter followers are likely to give you a response.