June 07, 2011, 4:32 PM — Twitter is becoming an increasingly important tool for marketing and search optimization and experts are learning more about how to best use the service, they said Tuesday during a panel at Search Marketing Expo in Seattle.
Using social networking tools like Twitter will become as important as search engine optimization in the future, predicted Elle Shelley, vice president of social media for Zog Media, a company that offers search engine optimization and other services.
The Four Seasons Hotel chain is one company that has experimented with and found success using Twitter for marketing, search optimization and to drive traffic to a website, said Mike Hayward, who is now CEO of ROI Labs but previously worked for Four Seasons.
Once the company decided it wanted to use Twitter, it worked to develop a strategy for it. Because many hotels want to attract customers early on in their vacation planning process, Four Seasons began by looking for people on Twitter saying they were thinking of taking a vacation to a certain town. Four Seasons would respond suggesting its hotel.
"This didn't scale well," Hayward admitted. "We would have to create a team bigger than our customer service call center to answer all those messages."
It then tried to improve customer service by responding to complaints on Twitter. But it found that the vast majority of complaints were already being dealt with through other channels and this application had a similar scale problem as the first experiment.
Four Seasons tried other approaches like reputation management and promotions but neither had much of an impact.
At the same time it was trying to develop a Twitter strategy, Four Seasons was also grappling with taking its magazine, available in guest rooms, online. Advertisers were demanding the magazine move online but Four Seasons discovered it would be severely challenged to drive traffic to what would be considered a niche site, Hayward said.
Four Seasons decided to look outside the company for help with both its Twitter strategy and online magazine conundrum. Finding advice from a brand agency was too pricey, it turned to a search marketing team, which quickly noticed that the magazine was full of destination oriented content -- exactly the kind of information that people want at the very early stages of planning a vacation.
They suggested that Four Seasons build an online magazine with destination content and use tools like Twitter to point to the stories to drive traffic. Around the same time, Google started showing Twitter messages in search results, furthering Four Season's ability to drive traffic to the new site.