Twitter As An Education Marketing Tool

By now you've probably heard -- and possibly repeated -- every bad joke there is to hear about Twitter: It's useless. It's narcissistic. It's for people with no lives. It's nothing but a bunch of boring 140-character posts about the most uninteresting minutiae of users' lives: I made a cheese sandwich! I bought a new iPhone app! Some blogger wrote something I agree with!
Of course, deep down, in a place where you may not admit it, you're thinking: Can I use Twitter for education marketing?
The answer is yes, but with a few caveats. Twitter isn't something you'll want to lean on too much; think of it as a tool in your toolbox, and nothing more. No ad campaign is going to be won or lost on the basis of its Twitter component. Also, you'd do well to bear in mind one of the cardinal rules of education marketing, which is that educators -- including teachers, librarians, and administrators -- make up their own demographic, and a fairly savvy one at that. You might find the odd teacher who's so wowed by your Twitter acumen as to make a purchase right on the spot. But don't count on it. Educators need more than flash before they make a big purchasing decision.
The first thing to remember about Twitter is that it's a subscription-only service. That means that, if you use Twitter as an advertising platform, you're only communicating with people who have agreed to receive your messages (or "tweets," as they're called). For most of us who offer educational products and services, this means contacts and customers. Don't think of Twitter as something that'll help you reach fresh eyes or upgrade your SEO.
But think of the potential there. If you have a hundred contacts, and ten of them use Twitter, that's ten people who can sign up for your feed. And every time you tweet (yeah, it's a verb, too), whether it's about a new product or service, or a special one-time-only deal, or an offer for your Twitter subscribers only, that's ten of your contacts who are seeing the news before you start making cold calls. Again: Think of Twitter as an education marketing tool to be meshed with other approaches, rather than a magic bullet.
So what's the key? How do you make the most of it in an education marketing environment? Try using it sparingly. Don't tweet every product in your inventory, and don't constantly barrage your subscribers with information that isn't useful to them, thinking it'll get your company's name stuck in their heads when it's time to buy. One of the most frustrating things about Twitter is that so many users do exactly what everyone complains about: They tweet every meaningless moment of their lives. If you higher level of useful information per tweet, you'll stand out from the crowd.
Here are a few ideas for education marketing professionals hoping to make the most of this new application:
  • A new product launch.
  • New sales and limited-time deals.
  • Mentions of your products and services in blogs or news articles. Use some discretion here; blogs are notorious for poor writing, so don't link to anything that isn't a good read
  • Positive reviews of your products or services.
With that in mind, here are a few things education marketing pros should never use Twitter for:
  • Links to products and services that have been around a long time. If you clutter up your feed with things your customers can find using more traditional methods, you'll get dropped sooner than you think.
  • Links to every mention of your products or services anywhere. Again, clutter.
  • Links to anything that isn't more than a day old.
  • Links to anything that doesn't have to do with your business. Your customers can get interesting news all over the web -- they don't need your help to do it.
Whatever you do, don't change your whole marketing approach to accommodate a Twitter component. Think of Twitter as the parmesan shaker at a pizza restaurant -- a nice add-on, but not totally necessary since there's already cheese on the pizza. Twitter is a condiment -- not an ingredient.