With millions of people connecting through social media, advertisers and marketers are hustling to get in on the action. In the past year we’ve seen many companies and brands attempt to step into this new world only to fail miserably. After analyzing many marketing flops on Twitter, the underlying issues are very apparent.

To be an effective marketer on Twitter you must first stop thinking like one.

Marketing on Twitter requires a bit of a shift in your mindset. Twitter is all about simple conversations; you can’t use press releases, marketing copy and other one-way communication tactics and expect results. Customers want interaction—with you and with each other. Tweeting is one-to-one, with the benefit of being in a public space where other customers may overhear your conversation and interact with each other on your behalf.

#1 Know the rules
Get to know your neighbors

It’s important to remind yourself of the fact that Twitter is a real life community and that every community has it’s own set of rules. Before you jump into the conversation, spend some time watching and learning. You’ll find that most people are very friendly and supportive, but it’s best to understand the ground rules first.

The easiest way to jump in is to ask for help. This may seem strange at first because brands are used to being on the other end of the spectrum, typically telling consumers what to do. Asking for advice might have you feel as if you are making your brand vulnerable, but the fact that we as a community are helping each other out, is what makes social media great.

#2 Connect person to person
People don’t talk to brands, they talk to people

It doesn’t matter how large your company is. On Twitter, people want to connect to a person. They are not interested in talking to your ‘brand’. Make your updates personable and human, not scrubbed and polished like news columns. It’s fine to be a little rough around the edges.

If you can, identify a real person to write the updates to give a face to your Tweets. For example, Comcast’s Twitter account (@comcastcares) is headed by Frank Eliason, Director of Digital Care. Frank even lists his direct email and personal website on his profile which not only gives a human face to the company, it helps build trust in the conversation.

By using Twitter, Comcast is offering an alternative, less corporate confined outlet for customers to receive support. Customers are able to ask questions and be communicated with on their own turf; no more having to wait in long lines, no need to press 4 for more options!

#3 Create a conversation
Twitter is a two-way street

Some companies might eye Twitter as another ‘channel’ to conquer. This kind of thinking is dangerous with interactive marketing. Social Media is not about building a channel; it’s about creating a conversation. Your job should be to get people talking by posing questions, asking for input and connecting people as a trusted third party.

Creating a conversation requires something that many marketers are not used to: actively listening to customers. This back and forth motion is what makes social media wonderful and helps build an emotional connection between your brand and consumers. Since consumers now have more choices and are able to jump from brand to brand in an instant, this relationship has become more crucial than ever.

#4 Promote a dedicated ambassador
Make Social Media a part of your plan

Social Media outlets like Twitter work best when they are frequently updated. You’ll find that the most prolific companies on Twitter have tens of thousands of updates. This may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be; these updates tend to be short, quick and off-the-cuff.

We find that it works best when our clients designate a single person internally to act as a social media liaison. Doing so will ensure that the updates occur more frequently and result in less clutter. This social media ambassador can then begin to build relationships with key customers and these customers are then able to act as brand ambassadors for you.

When designating ambassadors for your company, be sure to establish some “rules of engagement”. This will serve as a guideline on dealing with and deciding on conversations they should participate in and which ones should get escalated within your organization.

#5 Have something to offer
Give people a reason to follow you

People love to pass on information and if people are following your brand on Twitter, they are already showing a proclivity to your message. So why not reward them? Offer inside information, special offers or just one-to-one conversation with customers who follow you through Social Media.

Once you have been using Twitter for a while, you’ll notice key people that like to talk about your company (aka “Influencers”). These people are worth more than you can imagine! Encourage users by converting them into brand ambassadors: Invite them to your private product launches, let them contribute to new feature requests, ask them how you can improve. Not only will you gain firsthand, unfiltered information on how your products are used in the real world, you’ll also activate a network of ambassadors to give you the best thing you could ask for: positive word-of-mouth.

#6 Twitter and your website
Integrate your messaging

Twitter is a very flexible technology, which is what makes it so powerful. The fact that Twitter can be set up to automatically update your followers every time you post a blog entry or that any RSS feed can be re-broadcasted through your Twitter postings, are great examples of Twitter’s strengths. However, be careful not to abuse this, as too many automatically generated posts will make you lose that all-important human factor.

Another great option is the ability to add buttons, badges and widgets to sections of your other sites (articles, pages, etc.) so that visitors are able to “Tweet” it’s contents. Each article or page can be linked with a button that allows customers to send an update to their followers with a quick blurb and a link to your page. Again, people generally only Tweet interesting or compelling content and a list of products or features may not be very intriguing to them.

Find awesome add-ons here:

http://twitter.com/badges and http://sharethis.com/

#7 Tracking Conversations
Listen and Learn

By using the @reply feature, it’s easy to discover people talking about your brand. The Twitter search function also allows you to search by your company or product name. Use these tools to discover the things being said about you in real-time. Stay on top of what’s being said about you by frequently checking your @replies; you might be surprised by what you find.

More advanced tools also exist that allow you to graph conversation activity over time, as well as monitor positive and negative sentiment amongst users. Using these tools help to provide you with a more in-depth understanding about what people are saying; which in turn will help you develop more relevant conversations. Companies like Trendrr, Infegy, ScoutLabs & Radian6 offer more robust monitoring tools.

What kind of effective marketing tips can you add to this list?