How to Maintain a Twitter Audience

Wondering how a top brand like SEGA maintains a loyal community? Look no further! Kellie Parker, Community Manager at SEGA and one of our Keynotes at this year's Social Media 2.0 Conference reveals internal secrets on how her team successfully reaches the Twitter audience.

- Stacy

"How to Maintain a Twitter Audience" by Kellie Parker, Community Manager, SEGA

One of the questions that I get asked most often about SEGA’s community outreach is how we build and maintain our Twitter audience. My first and best piece of advice is to have a conversation, not just push marketing out to them. Notice the “just” in that last sentence — we do push marketing, either in direct tweets or through linking people back to our blog. We are giving updates on our games and corporate activities. But we also re-tweet fan photos, tweet about fun stuff going on in our office (free donuts!) and sometimes not-so-fun stuff (another fire drill!). We reply to most everyone, even when the answer is “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that”. We try to be as, well, human as possible.

But the program that helps us grow the most, and most community managers are interested in, is Free Stuff Friday. It started as a way to get rid of swag and promotional items for older games that was just going to be thrown away, as it had little PR value. The community team started rescuing these items because we couldn’t bear for them to be thrown out. We needed to do something with all of this, so we started the Free Stuff Friday program. It’s been wildly successful, and has gone from a way to get rid of stuff to a planned part of our strategies.

How the Giveaways Work
The SEGA Twitter feed is run by the community teams in the US (that’s my team) and the UK. We each update the feed during our normal business hours. In order to make the administration of the giveaways easier, as well as give more opportunity for people around the world to participate, the US and UK team alternate Free Stuff Friday weeks. There are generally 6 prizes per day. For each giveaway, we’ll tweet an item, a number, and a phrase. For example: “Giveaway! Sonic the Hedgehog T-Shirt, size L. 5th person to DM “Sonic rules” wins!” And, as you would expect, the 5th person to DM “sonic rules” to us will win the shirt. We use an auto-follower to follow everyone who follows us, so everyone can send us DMs.

Where We Get Stuff From
The items that we give away really come from all over. Some things were created for promotional use and we get some of those. Sometimes we partner with other organizations, and we get free items through that. (For example, we’ve given away t-shirts and coupons that we got from Chiquita through our partnership with them on Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll.) Sometimes we get samples and other items from our licensing group, who handles relationships to get Sonic on a t-shirt, for example. We sometimes give away copies of games. Different regions often have different pre-order bonuses or special edition packs, and we work with SEGA reps in these territories to get a few of those items to give away. We also sometimes pick stuff up on our own to give away. For example, one of our community managers was in Chicago over the winter break and found some old SEGA Visions magazines at a retro games store there. So he bought them, and we gave them away. As you can imagine, we get a diverse pool of prizes because of this, but I think that keeps it fresh and interesting for our followers.

The Preview Video

To promote the week’s giveaways, my team makes a video each week to show off what we’re giving away. It’s also a chance for our community to see and hear us, and that makes us more human. We’re not the big bad faceless corporation, we’re people.
We generally do the videos in one take. This is mostly because I am not a very skilled video editor. But it’s also because the video is supposed to be a little homemade looking. It’s not supposed to be a slick, shiny trailer-style video because that might make it seem less authentic. We generally leave the camera running while we are setting up and deciding who is going to say what about which item. We’ve captured some really funny moments by doing this. Then we film the main segment, where we describe the items. Finally, we’ll leave the camera running while we’re done if we’re still milling around playing with the items or if we’re in need of anything funny.

In terms of editing the video, I use iMovie on my Mac. I put some titles on it, put some titles at the end with some music, and add a funny (we hope) bit at the end just to leave people with a laugh. Sometimes they are outtakes, sometimes they are jokes… whatever we had that week.

Here’s the video that we did recently, and this is fairly typical of our videos. We upload these videos to our YouTube account. We also blog them, and that blog link gets sent to our Twitter feed. We also post the blog link to our Facebook pages to generate more interest and followers.

Once we started doing these giveaways, word spread pretty quickly. We started gaining lots of new followers. We’ve been doing these giveaways for almost 2 years now, and we typically gain 500 – 1000 new followers per week. And although I have no metrics to back it up, I feel pretty confident that we get more new followers on Fridays than any other day. The giveaways are a win for everyone — our fans get some free stuff, we have an outlet to create content and connect more directly with our followers, and we have a way to give away stuff that’s of little value to the company but tremendous value to our community. It takes just a few hours of my time every other week, and we see tremendous return on that investment.

How You Can Implement This
Not every company has fun T-shirts or toys to giveaway, and I understand that. But nearly every company has a product. And nearly every company has people who are fans of it. Even just your company logo on a keychain will excite people. But do you have free product you can pass out? Can you feature someone on your website? Basically… what can you give back to your fans? I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll come up with a few things you can give away.
Take these ideas and make them your own. Mold them to the needs of your company and your fans. But it’s a way to use Twitter that’s made us pretty popular with our own fans, so I wanted to share this great idea.

I am happy to answer questions about our Free Stuff Friday giveaways in the comments, so please ask away!


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