Effective use of twitter for your business 2.0
This article has information for readers who already have a working knowledge of Twitter and are looking for ways to use it as a more effective business tool. If you have heard about Twitter but haven’t gotten started, check out last week’s article in Business in Savannah Magazine (@bisSav) or online.
In Part One of this article (Twitter 1.0), we created a fictitious business so that we could give specific examples. We’ll continue to use that example in this article: a pet store in Savannah named Savannah Natural Pet. We decided that the business would focus on natural products, have an ecommerce website, and be a supporter of the Humane Society. We set up a demo Twitter account for @SavNaturalPet.
Now that you have an account and know how to move around in Twitter, spend time getting acquainted with it and doing some research. A good place to start is with the search function at www.search.twitter.com. Search your keywords, both with and without hashtag memes (Twitter users apply the #hashtag sign to tag their posts so that users not following them can find the post). In our example, you might search #pets and pets, #dogfood and #dog food etc. Hashtag searches will return bloggers, retailers, and users who are actively reaching out to Twitter as a whole, while the untagged searches will return those talking about their pets – both of which will tell you how other businesses and pet owners/potential customers are using Twitter. Unlike Google, the search returns are displaying in real time, not by ranking, so repeat your searches. Make notes about Twitterers that come up often in your searches.
Check out how other businesses in your industry are using Twitter. Notice if a business is engaging with customers and other users, or if it is just a series of posts with no Retweets or Replies. Profiles like the latter are Twitter at its least effective – a company that decided that they had to have a Twitter account, but didn’t want to put the time or energy into using or building it. It is often an auto feed from a blog or other social media account. These accounts are little more than placeholders.
By contrast, companies that have embraced Twitter and have a real person (or people) reading tweets, posting, and using hashtags have had great success with it. Here are a few examples, both large and small:
@FLWbooks flashlight worthy books – two people, a website, and 150,000 followers.
@HumphrySlocombe – a small ice cream shop in SF with unique flavors and lots of attitude.
@Zappos – the Zappos CEO
And our very own @VisitSavannah. (There are great Twitterers in our area. You can find many of them by watching the hashtag #Savannah.)
Customers who follow a brand on Twitter are often extremely engaged. @PhilPeterman, a Savannah analytics consultant who previously built and managed Paula Deen’s social media, noticed that although (at the time) @Paula_Deen had 250,000 Twitter fans and 1.2 million Facebook fans, the Twitter fans were five times more likely to act on a sales opportunity (like a new cookbook) announced over social media. Of course this depends entirely on how companies use their Twitter accounts to connect with their customers.
In a recent article by social media trailblazer David Meerman Scott (@dmscott), he spotlights how individual Nordstrom’s salespeople are making great use of Twitter to keep in touch with their customers.
Brand, Brand, Brand!
As we discussed in Twitter 1.0, you can use a default Twitter background, but it is ideal to have a custom background that features your logo and communicates your brand. You can also customize the Twitter badge that appears on your website/business cards/brochures etc.
You can also customize the twitter badge, or icon that you put on your website/blog – and/or add a widget that allows people to see your recent tweets. In this article by @Mashable he outlines some basic free options, or you could choose to have a badge and widget designed to integrate seamlessly with your brand.
As your searches give you ideas, start posting tweets. Smartphones will allow you to post text and photos automatically to Twitter, and there are also many apps that will do the same thing from your computer. You could take a picture of a hamster running on the wheel and include it in a tweet:
Meet Winkle, the fittest #hamster in #savannah!
This alerts Savannahians who are interested in hamsters that your store has something that interests them. If you blog, you can tweet a link to your blog post:
This week on our #natural #pets blog, new eco-friendly #cat litter products http://bit.ly/f1Yunf
You can also use your activities outside of your business to build your Twitter following. To draw attention to your business and support the Humane Society, you could decide to post a photo every day about dogs for adoption, link to the Humane Society post, and remind folks that you have food, beds, leashes etc. Then create a meme for your project – something like #dogaday – and generate some buzz.
Cora http://bit.ly/enQolZ is up for adoption-wouldn’t she look great in a new pink #leash? #dogaday
Then rewrite your bio to draw attention to your project:
Our pet store features natural products for all pets. When we’re walking the dog here in Savannah, you can find us on the web and at #dogaday. We ship anywhere!
Once you have a good body of tweets up and are starting to feel comfortable with the information you share and how you share it, start following people. Go back to the list of the folks you saw posting frequently and follow them. Many businesses make the mistake of following lots of people right away without having much in their profile, which results in fewer follows back.
The more time you spend on Twitter, the more you will see how these hashtags are used. Many people participate in #followFriday, sometimes shortened to #FF, where users highlight people on Twitter that they follow and think others might benefit from as well. If someone you are getting great content from posts a #FF, check out the recommendations!
In addition to putting the Twitter “badge” on your website/blog/ads, ask your customers what they would like to see. Specials? Contests? Implement these ideas and grow your use. Read tweets and respond. If you do a search for #natural #petfood and see someone posting that they are unhappy what they are feeding their parrot, you can respond:
@birdland12 We have had great success with Xbrand #food for our customers’ #parrots. http://bit.ly/gAO7pY Would you like a #freesample?
The link would go to the page on your site where the food is featured.
If you are not interested in a national audience, be very focused in your research-find people in Savannah and surrounding areas who use Twitter, and engage them.
Twitter allows you to create lists to organize people you follow. With @SavNaturalPet you might have lists like Savannah pet owners, Other Retailers, Friends, and Savannah Folks or you might get more specific with Dogs, Cats, Birds, etc. You can make lists public or private. You can also check and see what lists other people have created, and if you are interested in the subject, follow the entire list (if it is public). It also allows you to focus on what one segment of people you are interested in are discussing. There are many more ways to use lists-for instance, large companies create lists of all their employees/departments on Twitter. You can explore lists by following leaders like @mashable, reading the Twitter blog, Googling Twitter Lists, and seeing how others use their lists.
Once you start following and getting followed back, actively using your account and engaging other Twitterers, you will start to see organic growth in your account. When folks follow you, glance through their bio and posts and see if you want to follow them back-Twitter is not immune to spam. It is important to post at least every day, and it is more in the spirit of Twitter to check in several times a day.
I don’t have time for all that!
Twitter and other social media are free only in that you don’t pay for the service. It does require a significant amount of time, especially as you are getting started. Once you are up and running, it can be done very efficiently. It can make a lot of sense to use a company offering social media services to help you get started by setting up your accounts and designing backgrounds – even doing research – but you’ll get the best results by eventually having someone in your company handle your account. As with most social media, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
Mary Siceloff was an early Twitter doubter, but has become a big advocate of its business value. She handles communications @clarkcreative in #Savannah. You can reach her on Twitter @mary_siceloff, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org