Twitter has become an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy, assisting with everything from increasing visibility to crowdsourcing.

Within the realm of Twitter, one of the most powerful tools is the hashtag, or “#” symbol, followed by one or more words — without spaces or punctuation — relevant to a specific topic.

Auto Rental News spoke with two social media experts about their experiences with Twitter and how they have seen it directly benefit automotive businesses across the country.

Paul Potratz is the CEO of Potratz Automotive Advertising and Jim Flint is the corporate director of interactive sales and marketing for John Eagle Dealerships, as well as president and founder of digital marketing firm Local Search Group. Here are a few of their Twitter do’s and don’ts.

Do Be Part Of The Conversation

One of the primary ways to achieve success through Twitter is to make sure each tweet — from the wording down to the tagging — is relevant. Twitter’s style is “conversational,” so participating in that conversation is key.

Flint likens appropriate Twitter dialogue to the way one would behave at a cocktail party. As attendees move in and out of conversations, they listen before interjecting.

Examples of good tweets.

Examples of good tweets.

Do Create Your Own Hashtag

Some businesses are successful at creating their own hashtags, but doing so requires research. Start by using existing hashtags to create a community presence. Use Twitter’s hashtag search feature to find out which keywords and tags are the most popular.

Once you get a feel for hashtags, start creating your own. Monitor these hashtags using that same search feature on Twitter to determine which ones receive the most attention.

Integrate hashtags into the company’s marketing plan. Tell customers to follow a certain hashtag in marketing literature. Put the hashtag on your website and embed it into your email signature, for example.

Do Use Hashtags To Crowdsource

Hashtags can be engaging in smaller, more specific dialogues. “Most people who want to be involved in conversations about certain topics will hashtag it,” Potratz notes, adding that you will find more success reaching out to those already interested.

However, when reaching out, a proper response requires a personal touch. Address the user’s specific needs, and maybe attach a coupon, discount or rental car information. “It’s a chance to connect to them if we can fix their problem,” Potratz says.

Don’t Write A Novel

Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters, but you probably don’t need that many. Use as few characters as possible, leaving more room for hashtags, which improves the tweet’s searchability.

Potratz advises to make sure tweets aren’t all about the “sale.” While it’s acceptable to link to your company’s site, you risk losing readers if you over-promote.

In addition, try to add pictures or videos relevant to your topic.


Don’t Rely On Automation

Software or apps for social media management, such as HootSuite, can be useful tools if your goal is to simply maintain a presence. By doing this, however, you’re not actively engaged in the Twitter conversation. “Tweets are the easiest thing to deprioritize,” Flint says. “But that’s just a phase we go through.”

He adds that businesses typically go through three major phases when first familiarizing themselves with Twitter.

Phase 1: You say you’re going to start tweeting, but never get around to it.

Phase 2: You begin tweeting, but only generically, on your own terms and with predisposed and prepopulated components — usually via automated systems.

Phase 3: You realize Phase Two was ineffective, so you have to start participating in the conversation.

Flint advises businesses to aim for the third phase immediately. “Don’t do social, be social,” he says.

Don’t Over-Hashtag

Both Flint and Potratz agree that it’s important to not over-tag tweets. Overloading on them is advertorial and off-putting.

More importantly, search engines will actually disregard posts carrying too many hashtags and will treat them like spam, Potratz says. His rule of thumb is no more than two hashtags per tweet.

Examples of tweets that probably won't be as effective.

Examples of tweets that probably won't be as effective.

Don’t Treat Twitter Like Facebook

Each social media site offers customers a unique experience. Because Twitter operates in real time, the methods one would use to communicate with fans on Facebook don’t always apply.

Flint says that you shouldn’t just post tweets to Facebook or vice versa.

Don’t Just Re-Tweet

Re-tweeting via Twitter takes two forms: Companies can simply “re-tweet,” which takes another user’s tweet and posts it to their Twitter page verbatim, or they can post what’s called a “quote tweet,” which is a re-tweet that adds commentary to the user’s original post.

You can also reply to tweets, which gives you a fresh tweet slate and tags the original commenters so they can see the reply.

Potratz advises companies to reserve straight re-tweeting for interesting, standalone comments. For all other tweets, including customer feedback, companies should “quote-tweet” or reply to tweets to build a customer relationship.