What? Twitter has new brand pages? What do I do now?

Yes, Twitter has announced new brand pages and actually released them for 21 big-name consumer companies. The good news is …

There’s no rush to create your own brand page. But don’t procrastinate.

Twitter has not announced a date when brand pages will be available for anyone beyond the first 21 companies. Many Twitter followers believe that Twitter will take some time to work the bugs out before releasing brand pages to other companies.

You should use the time before the next release to decide if your company even needs a brand page, and if you do, make preparations to launch one.

Who? (needs a Twitter brand page)

Consumer product companies. Companies who are already using Twitter to communicate with their customers. Especially companies who listen for and respond to customer questions and complaints on Twitter.

What? (are the important features of new brand pages)

Until now, companies could set up Twitter brand pages, but they were pretty much the same as pages for individuals. But Twitter has announced new features for brand pages.

Customizable headers

The header can be customized with the company logo, company tag line, and a banner that extends across the whole page. These changes make the company’s marketing message more prominent than it was under the old format.

Promoted tweet/”pinned” tweet

Brands will get to “pin” a tweet to the top of their timeline. Whenever a reader visits their brand page, this tweet will be the first one the visitor sees. It will not disappear after a few minutes like a normal tweet.

Auto expanded content

The pinned tweet will be especially effective if it has images or video. It can be set to  auto expand, showing an embedded photo or video without requiring the user to take action. This allows the company to highlight a specific offer or promotion over a longer time period.

Optimized comment moderation

Before this change, people using Twitter to identify and respond to customer service issues had to do extra work to make sure they were seeing all of the @mention and @reply tweets for their company. The update allows brands to separate their @replies and @mentions from other Twitter noise.

When? (will brand pages be available for the rest of us)

It could be several months. It could be sooner. Use the time you have to be prepared for the day when it arrives.

How? (do I move from my existing Twitter page to the new brand page)

No details have been provided for moving your followers from your existing Twitter page to the new brand page. Clearly Twitter figured out how to do this for the first 21 brands, who generally have more than 50,000 followers each. The brand managers didn’t have to invite each of the followers to follow the new page.

Even so, brand managers should make special efforts to let their customers know about the new brand page, using the company web site, blogs, and other available tools.

How? (will this affect people who connect with Twitter through HootSuite or one of the other applications outside of Twitter?

Good question. If someone normally submits and reads tweets from outside the Twitter service, these changes may not be visible to them. Will some of these folks go directly to the brand page? Stay tuned for more information.

How to make new year’s business goals more successful than new year’s resolutions

Every business has things they need to accomplish in the new year. Usually they relate to revenue, profits, and customer growth. You might also have goals about improved employee performance and satisfaction.  And don’t forget ‘learn something new’ or ‘network to grow your professional contacts’. Goals help us work proactively, make the best use of our resources and take control of situations. They should give you a sense of direction and a way to measure your progress. That’s why your goals need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic and Time Bound).

Write ‘em down.

Most companies don’t actually write down their goals for the new year.  But as Lewis Carroll said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So write your important goals down, and don’t forget the specific, measurable and time bound parts. Then share your goals with people who are important to you, to help you be accountable.

Time bound?

After setting goals for the year, break them down into monthly and even weekly goals. The weekly and monthly goals are used to create a plan of action for the annual goals. If you want to add a given number of customers by the end of the year, how many do you need to add every month? And what do you need to do each week to achieve your monthly objective?

Realistic?

Be sure your goals are not too difficult to achieve. “Mission Impossible”, although it can be an exciting movie, will not motivate you or your employees. If your goals aren’t seen to be achievable, people won’t be willing to invest the time and effort to accomplish them.

But don’t set the bar too low, either. Really easy goals don’t motivate either, and your company will probably suffer when competitors set and achieve more ambitious goals that take customers and business away from you. The bottom line: goals should be challenging but realistic. Think of Goldilocks … not too big, not too small, but just right.

Break down specific actions to be taken by specific people. Involving people in setting their own goals will help to motivate them.

How are you doing this week? This month?

This is the measurable part. Don’t wait until the end of the year to check your results. Put your weekly goals where you can easily see them, and refer to them often. Check your progress monthly. If something isn’t working or you environment changes, adjust.  Consistency is important, but so is flexibility.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

And so is persistence. Check your short-term objectives every week and your monthly goals every month. Celebrate your successes (and your employees’ successes, if you have them). Learn from your mistakes. Keep your eyes on your year-end goals and keep working hard to meet them. Make 2012 your best year ever.