Twitter Canada's head of communications, Cam Gordon (L), speaks with moderator Alan Smithson during a July 28 session at TechWeek in Toronto.
Twitter Canada's head of communications, Cam Gordon (L), speaks with moderator Alan Smithson during a July 28 session at TechWeek in Toronto.

Published: July 28th, 2016

The members of your audience aren’t posting the same thing across every one of their social media accounts, so why should your company?

That was the central message delivered by Twitter Canada’s head of communications, Cam Gordon, during a TechWeek-sponsored presentation in Toronto on July 28.

In addition to encouraging business owners to tailor their social media messages to the unique opportunities offered by such outlets as Vine, Twitter’s six-second video platform – or Facebook, or Instagram – Gordon offered the audience some tips for optimizing their messages on Twitter.

“I think Twitter works best when you take advantage of a lot of the new tools we’re offering, but without losing touch with what made people fall in love with Twitter in the first place,” he said. “Putting the same material on every platform is a good way to ensure consumer burnout.”

Twitter’s key advantage over its rivals, Gordon said, remain its brevity and speed – since the site is updated in real time, its most prominent voices can often reach an audience of millions within minutes, frequently shaping the public’s reaction to pop culture or political events.

For example, when former San Diego Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, he immediately replaced the San Diego logo on his account with Toronto’s, and posted a tweet thanking his former teammates.

And while Twitter’s user base might be lower than Facebook’s or Instagram’s, between 10 million and 12 million Canadians log into the platform every month, Gordon said – not an insignificant number in a country of 35 million.

Though he declined to speculate how Facebook or Instagram could be used differently, Gordon did explain why discussing the competition doesn’t bother him.

“The reality is that everybody’s using all these platforms,” he said. “We don’t need to steal market share… [because] we’re all spending more time online, we’re all spending more time on our phones. I think Pokémon is stealing more market share from all of us, so maybe we can collectively go after that.”

Short and Tweet

One easy way to optimize your content for Twitter is to keep your messages short and sweet, Gordon said – a reason the company has never extended its standard 140-character limit.

Visuals can help too, he said, noting that the company will soon be extending its video support from 30 to 140 seconds.

“We do have research that shows if you have photos or videos, your tweets will get 60 per cent more engagement,” Gordon said.

Of hashtags, arguably Twitter’s most famous innovation, Gordon advocates focusing on one or two that will help your company join a conversation. He also advised against creating your own, unless you have a good reason.

“If you want to invent a hashtag, have high certainty that it’s going to take,” he said. “Otherwise you just add to the noise on Twitter.”

One exception, for example, might be if your company decides to organize a Twitter chat, which Gordon thinks can be enormously effective.

“They’re almost like gathering of the tribes online,” he told ITBusiness.ca. “But they need to be promoted effectively.”

Timing > Content

Timing can often be more important than content when it comes to marketing on Twitter, Gordon said. Whether scheduling a chat or unveiling a new campaign, companies should plan to release their messages when users are more likely to check their phones – and not surprisingly, the company does see a spike in usage during the morning and afternoon rush hours; around 10:30 AM when many are taking coffee or smoking breaks; and around noon, during lunch, he noted.

Usage spikes during certain timed occasions as well, he said, such as sporting events or popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones.

“Do you want to reach sports fans? Tweet during the Toronto Blue Jays game,” he told ITBusiness.ca. “One of the best times for Twitter chats is over lunch hour… Or Thursday and Friday afternoon, when people are a bit less busy, or in the evening… eight o’clock is the sweet spot.”

For extra authenticity, businesses can request account verification, though Gordon noted that the company’s verification criteria hasn’t changed, only the application process.

“It’s almost like putting together a resume for why you should be verified,” he said, explaining that the company created its verification process in the first place because of the number of fake accounts masquerading as celebrities back in 2009.

Don’t forget the human touch

Twitter can also serve as a great customer service tool: many representatives will engage disgruntled customers in private conversations, where they can exchange personal, direct messages that can run for up to 10,000 characters, Gordon said.

And when all else fails, ask.

“We are small enough that if you reach out to us, we’ll be happy to respond,” he said. “We always try to be accessible.”

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