Focus on Breaking Information
You don't have to work in news media to post breaking news that relates to your brand. What brings people to Twitter is the need to know the latest information on what's happening.
A local newspaper might tweet about a traffic pileup, which would be expected. But a monthly fashion magazine might tweet about a Paris design show that's about to begin. The benefit to the magazine's readers is that they don't have to wait a month to get tidbits about what they're eager to know more about.
Dedicating yourself or your team to post breaking news requires a change in focus. In the heat of the moment, someone has to have a mental light bulb that turns on to say, "I've got to tweet this!" Otherwise, your competitors will beat you to it and get the credit.
Even a televsision news department that's used to breaking news and tight deadlines must pause while preparing the next newscast to tweet. That 60-second effort can bring more eyeballs to the TV set if it's done properly.
Make Sure to Tweet Frequently
To get results for your media brand, you need to tweet more than once every other day. Your followers need to see your logo and a tweet anytime they check their timeline.
That's easy if there's a plane crash, with constant nuggets of news coming in throughout the crisis. On quieter days, think about how you will keep generating interesting tweets.
One method is to create a Twitter feed to post the stories that are going up on your traditional website. That can prevent duplicated efforts of having to post a story, then post a tweet about it.
Another way is to search for information designed to appeal to your target audience -- even if it won't appear in your newspaper, magazine or on the air. A radio station might tweet that Katy Perry has just announced a concert tour that will be coming close to your area. The benefit to the station is appearing plugged in to the music scene.
Remember, tweets are not only short, they have a short shelf life. After about an hour, your followers are looking for something else new.
Give Your Tweets Personality
Part of what makes Twitter so popular is that tweets are coming from real people -- celebrities, political leaders and friends down the street. Without the human touch, tweets can appear to be as institutional as a stock market ticker.
"Crowds are huge at this year's Arts Fair. Great to see all the people!" is a more friendly way of saying, "Attendance at the Arts Fair appears to be exceeding projections."
While adding personality, keep your tweets professional. This is not a place for someone on staff to post that he's already worked 60 hours this week and it's time to go home, which will appear next to your company logo. Remind him that this isn't a personal account.
The best corporate brand personality to project is one of caring about your community and your users. Add a dose of excitement about the topics that you cover and followers will see that you're not just another faceless media conglomerate but a trusted friend.
Send Followers to Your Traditional Media Outlets
Your personable, frequent breaking news tweets will just be a wasted effort if they don't pay off for your business. Despite their 140-character limit, your tweets should include a call to action to send followers to your print, broadcast or website. Internet analytics tools will let you track the traffic that's moving from Twitter to your site.
"The governor has resigned. Complete coverage on Action News at 5!" is a textbook example for a TV station. The trick is to make your tweets more meaningful than just a constant sales pitch. Followers can easily be turned off if they think they're being hit with non-stop advertisements.
Singer and actress Jessica Simpson is an expert at blending tweets about entertainment news, her personal life (which in this case, works for her brand) with information about her clothing line. That mix may bring her an estimated $1 billion for her business.
She's helped by having millions of followers. Even if you only have a few thousand, consider what it is you want from these people. You have the ability to push them toward your brand in general, or maybe to a particular part of your business that's struggling, like a newspaper's sports page. Just don't beat your users with a sledgehammer doing it.
Use Twitter Tools to Supercharge Your Results
You've seen hashtags and retweets if you've checked out Twitter. Hashtags, such as "Congress is debating the #deficit." will put your tweet in a feed about deficit stories, which gets your company in front of more people worldwide than just your followers. They may not automatically turn into followers for you, but at least you've given them a brand impression.
Retweets accomplish the same goal in a different way. If a couple of your followers retweet a post, you'll be seen by all of their followers, which also spreads your tweet. You will want to occasionally retweet something you see that relates to your brand, because the original poster will see that you took the time to highlight the tweet to your audience and will hopefully return the favor.
Twitter applications, often called mashups, will help you track all this information in clever, easy to follow ways. Some are just for fun, but others have real-world business benefits so you can see what your users are most interesting in discussing.
Like Facebook and other forms of social media, Twitter was designed to get everyday people connected by sharing interests. By adopting a social media strategy, you can research news stories, further connect with your audience by building a Facebook page and eventually turn all that work into money for your website. Where else can free tools produce so many results?