Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last five years, you’ll know that Twitter is driving conversation, setting news agendas, and providing a great platform for companies to communicate with and sell to their customers. But, while growing numbers of people are using those 140 characters to tweet their thoughts on vital matters such as the Great British Bake-Off, many business owners still have little idea how best to exploit this tool to promote and expand their enterprise.
They should be in no doubt about Twitter’s reach. The company itself recently announced in the run-up to its likely flotation on the New York Stock Exchange that it has 230 million active users every month worldwide. External estimates, such as those from Semiocast, suggest these figures are modest and that the number of registered accounts actually exceeds 500 million. And London comes out as the third-busiest city in the world in Twitter-posting terms, beaten only by Jakarta and Tokyo. Almost seven out of ten British SME owners have a smartphone, says the Federation of Small Businesses, and many of them are keen to use this technology to get in touch with the potential customers chattering on social media.
So, where to get started? Once you’ve registered for an account, consider the basics:
- How to illustrate your profile? A company logo is obvious if you feel it strongly represents your business. Alternatively, a photo of the boss could work if that individual is the public face of the operation. Then, choose a backdrop picture that relays the personality, tone and essence of your company, for example, BA uses a slightly abstract image of a plane.
- The short biography of your business that sits on the account home page should be a clear, informative description of what your company does and the products or services it provides. And don’t be too formal. Twitter is meant to be a conversation, so adopt a chatty tone that invites response. Include a URL linking to your company website, too.
Once you’ve got these bare bones in place, stop for a minute. It’s tempting to dive in, but watching and learning for a while is a more sensible approach. Follow some of the businesses you admire or others in your industry. See what they do that you like and what appears to provoke a response from the Twittersphere. Equally, note the mistakes they make.
You need to think about what you’re trying to achieve through this medium. Do you want to grow your customer base? Are you looking to improve or change the public perception of your company? Are you hoping to generate new business leads? Then, think about what your followers may want:
- Many users follow companies to get discounts and promotions, plus information about forthcoming sales, according to Twitter’s own research. So, why not offer followers a promotional code or tweet an offer that’s exclusive to those who read your feed? Studies show that people who receive a tweet from a retailer are more likely to buy something from that company than those who arrive at their website by other means. Offers could also be given in exchange for the follower retweeting your message.
- Twitter is very useful for customer service, since its immediacy can prevent a minor grumble escalating into a major rant. Still, keep tweets between you and a complaining customer to a minimum, asking them to direct message (DM) you to prevent creating too much negative noise on your public account.
- Remember, it’s a two-way medium, so if someone tweets you, reply quickly. Retweet positive messages or fun comments. Think whether your business can offer tips – a hairdresser posting a video on new hairstyles, for example.
Many users are tweeting to market their business, and this was recently made easier through the introduction of scheduled tweets, which allow users of Twitter Ads to line up messages for specific dates and times, up to a year in advance. And when it comes to marketing your Twitter feed itself, don’t be shy to add your @username to your business cards, company literature, vehicles, and signage.
We all know Twitter addicts who share their every movement online. It’s as irritating a habit for a business as for an individual. But, while putting out something new every five minutes may be overkill, you want to give your followers a reason to keep looking at your account. Even sending out one tweet a day will keep things looking fresh. If you’re struggling to find your 140 characters:
- Post a picture that captures the essence of your working day.
- Create a short video that gives a behind-the-scenes flavour of what your business does.
- Retweet links to news or comment that is relevant to your business sector.
- Tweet a relevant quote from a famous figure that reflects a challenge you’ve faced that day.
It’s all interesting content that should inform and entertain readers, while giving your account an added dimension.
It must be said, the social media revolution isn’t for everyone. Twitter content must be frequently updated and targeted at the people who matter. It’s a real commitment and takes research to get your messages right for your audience. And misjudging a tweet can be ruinous to a business’ reputation. If you’re not ready or able to create a properly managed social media campaign, it may be better to leave off tweeting for another day.
But even that doesn’t mean that Twitter can’t be useful. Someone, somewhere, may have tweeted about your business, whether to vent spleen, express satisfaction, or just to say what thoroughly nice people you are. Visit search.twitter.com to find out what is being said about your operation. More broadly, it’s a method of finding out what opinion is of your rivals, as well as tracking trends in your industry.
Twitter has many uses and, the fact is, it’s here to stay. And if you don’t believe that, then you may as well take to the hills in search of that cave.