TNW twitter How To Spark An Emotional Connection with 140 charactersTwitter has challenged brands to reach out to consumers in a completely different way than how they did in the past through both traditional media and marketing campaigns. This social media platform “forced” brands to put their megaphone down and listen to their customers, changing the dynamics of their relationship. Today Twitter is on the agenda of most brands as a communication tool for immediate response to customers’ requests, driving sales and taking the brand-customer relationship to a more personal level. Stripped away from glossy images, styled videos, well designed environments, how can brands spark an emotional connection with just 140 characters at their disposal?

Showing a real face: Most companies have a hard time adapting to the conversational style of social media. According to a 360i Whitepaper most companies talk at people and not with them: 12% of all marketer tweets are conversational and only 1% of consumer tweets that mention a brand are part of a conversation with that brand. People value brands that put an effort into engaging in conversation and brands that keep it personal by letting consumers get to know the twitterer behind the brand. Like with any other tool, it is the person that uses it that really makes the difference at the end of the day. By letting twitterer’s personality shine and presenting him/her in your brand’s account bio, or with an intro tweet every time the account changes hands, you can establish a deeper connection and facilitate conversation. A great example is Oscar de la Renta with the Oscar PR Girl account, one of the most popular fashion twitterers that also keeps a tumblr blog letting her follower take an insider’s view of the Oscar de la Renta world.

Initiate conversations: By establishing conversation topics, or setting up a casual date to chat with your followers every week, making use of a hashtag, a brand can create the sense of a community within the noise of Twitter. Toyota did this with the TweetMeme channel Toyota Conversations in partnership with Federated Media, in response to the crisis related to the massive safety recalls of its vehicles. The channel aggregates tweets related to the brand and builds a dialogue around all the popular links on Twitter referencing Toyota. Most recently Moxsie launched #BuyerChat conversation so its fans can give feedback on the featured apparel to earn discounts, points and badges.

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Be the biggest fan of your biggest fans: Show how much you appreciate your loyal followers and customers, by taking the time to thank them by congratulating them on their achievements, retweeting and wishing them on special occasions. DKNY PR Girl is doing a great job cheering for her followers with kind words of gratitude and encouragement as well as a lot of humor. Zappos (no surprises here) is another great example of brands that put customers in the center of their Twitterverse. In October for instance Zappos tweeted the interview of a couple of Zappos customers that got married at Zappos Las Vegas headquarters for their 6 month anniversary.

Keep it fun: Pushy tweets that market products and services won’t get you far. Keep your relationships tight by keeping it casual on Twitter and engaging in conversations that have nothing to do with your brand once in a while. Bergdorfs recently put aside luxury tweets to comment and share their followers’ concern about the new zodiac dates. Tuning into social chat will lift off the mark of the brand-stalker interested only in selling and will help you connect with people on a friendly level, making it more likely that they will spread your message across their networks because they genuinely like you and not just “Like” you. Special giveaways for your fans are also a great way to spread your message. Uniqlo achieved this through a micro-site that encouraged visitors to Tweet about featured items they’re interested in to reduce the price of the product.

Stand by your followers: Twitter is ideal for service-related issues, especially ones that need immediate response. By “listening” closely, brands often respond before customers reach out for help, by taking notice of their venting on Twitter. Try to keep your assistance speedy and friendly. Many companies have invested in Twitter as a customer service channel of equal value as email and telephone, like Xerox and X-Box. Twitter has also been a valuable tool in case of a crisis or emergency to reassure customers and prevent a backlash. For example, Heathrow Airport recently used Twitter to respond to hundreds of travelers stranded due to snow.

What does tweets form the heart mean to you? What brands stand out in Twitterverse?