Use Twitter to power email campaigns

Twitter is one of the best open-source intelligence services ever created. It gives you real-time access to the stream of consciousness of nearly 200 million people on a day to day basis and helps you understand what people are thinking…

… and when. Therein lies some of the most valuable information you’ll ever receive as an email marketer, the answer to the question, “When are my prospects thinking about buying?”

Imagine the power that would give your campaigns. Instead of sending campaigns randomly, your email would arrive at the dates and times your prospects are statistically thinking most about buying.

Let’s walk through a step-by-step process for how to create this potent listening solution using only free tools, WhatCounts email marketing software (optional but obviously recommended), and your knowledge of your market to win at email marketing.

First, figure out which keyword or keyphrase is most relevant to your product or service. Read this blog post on subject lines for some tools and ideas to research this sort of thing. Once you’ve isolated the most popular term that’s relevant to your prospective audience, go type it into Twitter Search. See if anyone is talking about it.

twitter-search-whatcounts

If they are, then take that search term and URL encode it using this free tool. Paste the result on the end of this RSS URL:

http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=

For example, if you were interested in “WhatCounts email marketing”, the URL encoded version would look like:

%22WhatCounts%20email%20marketing%22

The whole URL would look like:

http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%22WhatCounts%20email%20marketing%22

Open up Google Reader and click the Add subscription button, then paste the URL in:

google-reader

Let this subscription collect data – for at least a week, but longer is better. If you’ve got a series of competitive keyword phrases, obviously repeat this process for each.

Want to kick it up a notch? What if you’re a local business, or a business that works with a very specific geography? Use Twitter Search’s Advanced Search feature and plug in the geography of the search term so that you only track conversational mentions of your search term near your business:

Advanced-Twitter-Search

This will ensure that you’re only looking at local interest and not global trends. Take the feed from the feed icon of your search results page and subscribe to it in Google Reader as above. I’d suggest subscribing to both the broad search and a local, geo-targeted search separately to see how they compare.

Once you’ve got at least a week’s worth of data (preferably much more), click the Details link to start analyzing it:

click-for-details

You’ll see last 30 days, which isn’t all that interesting or helpful, followed by time of day. Time of day tells you when people were talking most about your search term. I’ve changed search queries in the pictures below to PodCamp, as I’ve got literally years of statistics and data on it:

time-of-day

Remember, of course, that these are based on the time zone specified in your Google profile. In the chart above, we see that tweets about PodCamp peak just after lunchtime. This tells us that people are talking most about PodCamp after lunch.

The next link over is day of the week:

day-of-the-week

Again, looking at PodCamp as a search term, people talk about it most on Fridays – which makes sense, since many PodCamps are on the weekend.

If I were preparing to do an email marketing campaign for a PodCamp, I’d think about possibly sending out the campaign so that it’s in the inbox on Fridays around or just after lunch. Ideally, a significant portion of my audience would be sitting down after lunch, hitting their inboxes, and saying to themselves, “Wow, I was just thinking about going to PodCamp this weekend, and here’s an email about it…”

Finally, bear in mind that your industry may or may not have seasonality and cyclicality. If it does, you’ll want to bear that in mind for your email campaigns as well and time those campaigns with a good editorial calendar that ensures content is being sent to subscribers during the year when they want it the most. Here’s a snapshot of Google Insight for Search of the student loan industry (my former industry):

google-insights

Summertime is when people are searching for student loans the most. Thus, combined with Twitter search for time of day and day of week, I can optimize my campaigns so that I’m hitting my audience each week at the time of day when their minds are on my product or service, increasing frequency of mailing during peak times (if you have cyclicality) and decreasing at off-peak times.

Try these methods for amplifying the power of your email marketing using social media and search data!

Christopher S. Penn
Director of Strategy, WhatCounts

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