Many small businesses are learning how to build their engagement and awareness, one tweet at a time through Twitter, the global microblogging social media platform with 307 million (and growing) monthly active users.
The key to Twitter, as with any social media channel, is to understand how it works, who’s on it, and how it can make an impact.
“I think of Twitter as a thought leader space. Businesses that deal in ideas and stories can do well here,” says Kat Eves, a publicist-turned-stylist who consults with businesses on their social media campaigns. “Otherwise, Twitter is a good place to monitor customer feedback and complaints. But I rarely recommend it for product or service sales.”
Getting Started on Twitter
When you set up an account for you or your business on Twitter, that’s only the beginning. Twitter, more than most social media platforms, is more of a marathon than a sprint. It takes time to build a following, and it’s also important to have something interesting and relevant to say—or else people will pass you over.
“Craft your story. Take control of how you’re perceived. Solidify your messaging,” says Alene Istanboulian with JP Marketing in Fresno, Calif. She also advises to understand the best times to tweet—high-traffic times are usually Monday through Friday, at noon, 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.
One challenge for small businesses is keeping tabs on their notifications and responding promptly. It’s critical to engage with your customers and audiences —even if you make initial contact on Twitter and move the conversation to email or phone. No Twitter presence at all is preferable to one that’s not being monitored, because users have come to expect responses from larger brands, like airlines.
“Don’t look to celebrity profiles for examples of successful tweets. They have big followings because they were already famous,” Eves says. “Twitter is an interactive space, so growing a good and engaged following means that you actually have to engage with others, too. Don’t follow five people, tweet into space, or acknowledge nobody else.”
Start following as many accounts as you can that can help your brand. Industry leaders, news outlets, competitors, and customers are all going to help you with your content creation, sharing, and consumption. And don’t feel daunted by engaging on-topic with influencers who might be able to bump your visibility with a well-played retweet (which means sharing of one of your posts with their followers) or reply to you. Istanboulian says that when she was tweeting on behalf of a national juice brand, she’d look for opportunities to jump in and suggest the product when celebrities would remark about being tired, thirsty, or needing an energy boost.
This primer for small businesses from Twitter can help you understand the anatomy of a tweet and how to use hashtags (#). And if you’re not seeing the results you want, consider testing paid and promoted posts to get to the audiences you want.
How Twitter Can Help Your Small Business
If you’re stumped about what to tweet, Istanboulian suggests these ways to get started:
- If you get a lot of questions from customers, Twitter’s a good place to post commonly asked questions and to solicit queries. You can plan a “Twitter party” by inviting customers, collaborators, employees, and friends in advance with a calendar booking request and letting them know the topic and possible starter questions. You can tease a promotion, news, or sale, and then host your party.
- Lead people to your website and share news, articles, blog posts, coupons, and other information germane to your operation.
- Research relevant hashtags (#) to gain more exposure in your tweets. What’s working for your competitors? Is there a hot topic where you can jump in with useful information?
Sometimes a tweet blows up—but not in a good way. It’s critical to remember that you and anyone who posts on behalf of your business still needs to maintain the brand, and follow the same rules as for any other public disclosures—particularly in health care or financial services. It also means maintaining sensitivity in times of crisis. Using a trending hashtag in an opportunistic way (“Hey! Those #refugees would sure be more comfortable on our mattresses!”) will only backfire.