Believe it or not, Twitter is going to be turning 10 years old in 2016. Does that make anyone else feel old? And despite the fact that the social network has been around long enough to have become essential to everything from journalism to customer service to talk-radio, many entrepreneurs and small businesses still struggle with engaging and growing their fan base. So what exactly should the everyday entrepreneur be doing on a daily basis in order to convey the personality behind their business -- and by that same coin, what shouldn't they be doing? With those questions in mind I asked some of the foremost experts on Twitter and social media to offer some practical pointers for small businesses looking to use Twitter as a means of successfully earning customer loyalty and building an unshakable brand image. Like Gini Dietrich says below, "Social media is social. We must remember that." Read on, and pass it along.
Ted Rubin, TedRubin.com
Twitter has not been readily accepted as a small business tool yet but there are those who are having a great deal of success using it in many ways. So why should small business be using social media at all? The most prominent reasons are responding to customer questions, networking and education... but there's more. To date, most small businesses have not been looking to help build the sales funnel through these channels. This is interesting considering some of the success that can be found with a small business that gets it. And for those who do, and execute effectively, the opportunity to directly facilitate and create sales are out there and have the potential to be huge since the volume of additional sales that can make a difference are fractional compared to what it takes for a large organization.
"Twitter has not been readily accepted as a small business tool yet..."
So what does it take to get the small business involved? Well, extra time (possibly the biggest barrier), money (but really not much) and people. With social media being so time intensive, and best results coming from directly being involved, the barriers to entry get higher as a business gets smaller, but not insurmountable for those willing to put in the time, especially since it can be done at all hours, and some of the most effective times to connect via social media are very early in the morning and very late at night. With social media the bang for the buck can be enormous, but the results are hardly immediate and a long-term outlook is necessary. My vote is study up on the cause and effect, tools, and concepts. Develop a basic strategy of what utility or value you want to offer. Get started on your own and build a thorough understanding of how to interact, engage, and connect. Then hire a smart young intern (many available at a mere $10/hr, and some simply to fulfill college internship requirements) to help execute a lot of the basic time consuming functions... with your hands-on guidance. And you, the owner or manager, always being the voice and the heart of the interaction.
David Meerman Scott, DavidMeermanScott.com
On Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, stop selling and be helpful. Most importantly, don't talk about your products and services! Many marketers steeped in the tradition of product advertising naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you).
"Nobody cares about your products and services (except you)."
What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.
John Jantsh, Duct Tape Marketing
It's hard for small businesses to delegate time to social media, but it's important for them to do it, and do it right. Here are some DOs and DON'Ts for small businesses on Twitter:
- Promote Promote Promote. Don't use Twitter to only sell and promote your products to your Twitter followers (or lack of).
- Retweet everything you see and think that it's creating relationships.
- Sound like a robot.
- Be defensive. People might say negative things about brands and experiences, but being defensive will only heighten the problem and cause unwanted attention.
- Pay someone to get you 500k followers for $50. These bought fans are not interested in your brand or product, and not and effective audience.
"Don't retweet everything you see and think that it's creating relationships."
- Interact with your followers and key thought leaders. Reply to their messages and quote them, while adding your thoughts. Show them that you're actually reading what you're saying and have a conversation - much like you would when forming an in-person relationship.
- Provide value. Produce original content showing Twitter followers that they have a need, and it can be solved by your brand or product. Educate them. An educated customer is the best kind of customer.
- Provide a voice for your brand. Behind social media profiles, are just other people like you. They don't want talk to a robot; they want to interact with a human. Once you've determined your voice, you can respond consistently as that personality.
- Offer condolences and resolve. When you apologize for the bad experience and offer a discounted second visit, or some enticement, you might open the person up to giving your brand and product a second chance. If it doesn't work, then at least you didn't cause a stir and others can see that you were sincere in your efforts to resolve the issue.
- Start following people in your industry, competitors, and people tweeting about topics that revolve around your brand or product. Following these accounts allows you to not only stay in tune with your industry, but you can easily interact and create awareness for you brand and/ or product.
Remember: Your audience is out there to socialize and be entertained. Be social on social media. Most importantly, don't be afraid to be yourself and have a little fun with it!
The major DO that I'd offer small businesses is know what you can get out of social and then what you want to get out of it. Too many businesses jump in and start posting meaningless content or promotional shill without thinking about what kind of content works on that platform, what drives people to not just respond, but come back for more and -- most importantly -- is my audience even there. This is a marketing channel, people! Put some thought and care into it. It's just your customers you're engaging with. They're rather important.
"Social is an investment in building relationships over time, not driving people to click."
The major DON'T is to not expect to set it and forget it. Social is an investment in building relationships over time, not driving people to click and by in a week, then walking away. Think of it like having a booth at your town's annual festival. You'll get business out of it, but sometimes it's all about the grip and grin and being a part of something bigger -- that's the reason you're there.
Dennis Yu, DennisYu.com
Do set up Twitter remarketing audiences, so you can automatically message people on Twitter who have just been to your site. Do promote content that is truly helpful to your audience, as opposed to self-serving for your business. Don't auto-tweet or mass tweet. While 4-5 tweets per day is generally okay, be sure each one is thoughtfully done by you or an expert in your field.
"While 4-5 tweets per day is generally okay, be sure each one is thoughtfully done by you or an expert in your field."
Since you don't have a lot of time, first make sure you have your programs stable on Facebook before doing marketing on Twitter-- use Twitter more for support, meanwhile.
Mitch Joel, Mirum Agency
There is no simple answer here... sorry, folks. Twitter can be an amazing but distracting channel unless you know what your own intent and raison-d'etre is. For one, listening is great. Hearing what people are saying and looking for (don't underestimate the power of its search functionality). It's also a great place to identify influencers, detractors, and potential customers. Twitter can also be a great place to resolve issues or answer questions in a fast and efficient manner.
"Think about becoming a part of the community, instead of how to sell to it."
The trick - and this is a tough one - is in understanding the culture and people that you - as a business - connect with. Top level advice: spend some time getting to know the people and terrain. Spend some time reading about the platform (try Mark W. Schaefer's The Tao of Twitter). Think about becoming a part of the community, instead of how to sell to it.
I just saw a quote from Jason Goldman, the first-ever White House chief digital officer that makes sense for this. He said, "Broadcasting isn't the same as connecting. Broadcasting creates awareness. But connecting people creates engagement and change." Every time I do a full-day workshop, I look at the Twitter accounts of the people who will be in the room. It doesn't matter how small or big the organization is, 99.9999 percent use Twitter to broadcast. They are forgetting the connection piece that is going to drive trust, loyalty, and sales. Social media is social. We must remember that.
"Social media is social. We must remember that."
Jason Keath, Social Fresh
- Focus at least an hour a day on engaging with real one-to-one discussions
- Post more engaging content without links, like quotes, interesting images, charts, stats
- Automate some content
- Post important content more than once
- Post at least 10 times a day
- Find relevant hashtags and Twitter chats to participate in for your business.
"Focus at least an hour a day on engaging with real one-to-one discussions."
- Use only automation
- Spam hashtags
Douglas Karr, DK New Media
The key to all social media marketing isn't the opportunity to sell, it's the opportunity to build value with your network, attain a level of respect with them, and ultimately have them see you as an authority that they can trust and do business with. Just as you wouldn't walk into a conference yelling out peoples' name tags and asking if them to click a link, you shouldn't be doing this in social media either. Getting recognized as an authority amongst your peers takes time and effort. You should be helping them, promoting their advice, sharing them with your audience, and finding opportunities to connect them to others that can help. I look at social media like I do a savings account. It's not the penny I put in today, it's the pennies that I put in week after week that will pay off in dollars down the road.
"I look at social media like I do a savings account. It's not the penny I put in today, it's the pennies that I put in week after week that will pay off in dollars down the road."
CC Chapman, CC-Chapman.com
My simplest advice is to realize that Twitter is a conversation and not a pitch tool. Talk to people and actually respond to their questions. Listen and engage and don't make it all about you. Finally, do not set up and send auto direct messages to new followers. No one likes that it and it makes you look bad.
"Listen and engage and don't make it all about you."
Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative
Don't hide behind your logo. Don't rely on Twitter for broadcasting an endless string of promotional messages. Don't randomly retweet this, that, and everything. Don't try to be everything to everybody. As "micro" and as fast as Twitter is, you'll get little to no traction unless you bring something meaningful to it. So, do present yourself as person, not a brand. Do put thought into the ideas and content you share. And do express your point of view.
"Present yourself as person, not a brand."
Donna Moritz, Socially Sorted
- Use the user's name in your tweets if you know it. A personal touch is going above and beyond and gets noticed.
- Engage with as many people who mention you as you can - people expect a response on twitter, so give it, especially if they have taken time to post a personalized tweet.
- Thank people for sharing, mentioning your content and being advocates for your brand. We love to be acknowledged - acknowledge them.
- Add people to lists - not only to help you better organize the people you follow, but to pay them a compliment. I have lists with names where the person being added will feel noticed - who wouldn't want to be added to Savvy Marketing or Engaging People Who Rock or Social Media Influencers?
- Take a moment to click - on the person's profile. Find out something quick about them, and then mention it. It could be where they are from/location, what they do for business, their interests - use that information to show them that you cared enough to find out a little about them.
"Engage with as many people who mention you as you can - people expect a response on Twitter, so give it."
- Use Auto DMs. Unless you think very carefully about why you are using them, and you make them "personal"...as for the most part they turn people off. If you are excited about me following you or talking to you or messaging you, say it, but don't do it with an Auto DM. Do it person to person, and tailor your tweet to show that it is just for that person. I'm not a fan of DMs unless they are just that... a direct, personal message.
- Schedule posts and then not engage. I don't have a problem with scheduling posts and great content IF you are prepared to follow up. Content you send out will start conversations, I can guarantee it - be there to participate in that conversation.
- Ask people for content, posts, tips, articles unless you have engaged with them first. Be respectful of the fact that influencers in your industry get a swag-load of requests... don't expect them to jump at your first tweet. Nurture a conversation with them first and start by engaging with their content. Those that help do not go un-noticed.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases
If you can write a press release headline (or at least identify a good one when you see it), then you have what it takes to write a solid, engaging tweet with the potential to score big with your audience. The two have a lot in common! Before you hit 'Tweet', follow these tips:
- Keep it short and factual
- Keep it interesting
- Lists and numbers draw clicks like crazy -- if you have any numbers or data, don't hide it
- Don't be a commercial for your product -- engage, talk, and respond, don't broadcast
- Avoid insider-jargon like the devil
"If you can Tweet, you can write a solid, engaging news headline -- and vice versa."
(This article originally appeared on the eReleases PR Fuel Blog)
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