When Twitter first started taking off, I made a pledge to myself that I would never use it. For me, it was a step too far; Facebook status updates were already becoming annoying as everyone and their dog decided it was the best idea ever to post their every thought and fish-face photo. Twitter could only be worse, I thought. It’ll die off, I thought; this Twitter thing won’t last.
Obviously, I was wrong. Twitter has lasted, and we have every reason to believe that it’s going to continue lasting for the foreseeable future. I still don’t have a Twitter account, and I have no plans to make one. However, I have read and enjoyed a few Twitter exchanges—Star Trek cast members communicating with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield remains a favorite. It seems that for me, reading someone’s tweets will only lessen my respect for that person. I believe in filters; in giving real thought to public statements before making them. And as too many quick-fire tweets by celebrities and politicians have shown, anything said on Twitter is indeed a public statement.
I’m mentioning this because I want to be upfront: I strongly believe that no one needs Twitter. It is my position that many—probably most—people who use Twitter do so far too frequently and far too carelessly. But, I am also able to recognize that millions of people feel differently than I do, and that from a business perspective these millions of people translate to millions of potential customers. Plenty of people are happy to interact with others—both individuals and businesses—via this social media behemoth. Having a Twitter account for your business can therefore be quite beneficial. The key to success seems to be intelligent management of said Twitter account, which is more difficult than you might imagine, given how easy it is to misuse—and overuse—social media.
So, what are some ways you can successfully use Twitter to promote your business? Twitter has recently started catering to small businesses by offering them specific targeting and analytics tools. These tools allow businesses to target users with specific interests. For example, if you run a sporting goods store in Omaha, Twitter now offers a way for you to zone in on users who are likely to a) be interested in sporting goods and b) live near Omaha. Whereas small business owners on Twitter used to be on their own when it came to reaching potential customers, there are now tools available to help them reach their target market.
More broadly, Twitter’s guide for small businesses offers strong advice on how to use one’s account effectively, including tips on how to engage customers in a meaningful way. For example, each day of the week could have a theme. In Twitter’s provided example, Mondays offer special promotions, a secret word or code that cannot be found anywhere else and gives followers a discount; Tuesdays offer enticing behind-the-scenes information; Wednesdays offer helpful tips concerning the business’s area of expertise; and so on.
My favorite piece of advice that Twitter offers is: think ahead. “Twitter happens in real time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead.” Yes, yes, and yes. By all means, if you run an ice cream shop and your freezer’s motor implodes, send a spur-of-the-moment tweet about how you’re giving away free cones before all of your product melts into sticky goop. But most tweets should be planned—if not to the letter, then at least to a degree. Maintain a calendar of special events, think about how you can incorporate holidays or company milestones into your tweets, know when you’re tweeting and why.
Will Twitter work for you? I don’t know. Some business owners love it, others say that they find it difficult to engage customers in a meaningful way via Twitter and prefer other social media tools such as Facebook or Pinterest. If you know you need to engage customers via social media but are overwhelmed by the idea of doing so on your own, there are services available to help. For example, Dining Dialog Inc. recently announced the launch of eateria, which was specifically built for the food services industry. Eateria has been put forth as a “more effective and profitable way to do business,” and Dining Dialog Inc. proclaims it a “must have for anyone in the food services industry that wants to build and maintain meaningful relationships with their customers.”
Will Twitter work for you? I don’t know. All I can say for certain is that if you do decide to use Twitter for your business, you should have a plan, and you should use it in a way that makes sense for your business.
To read more about how you can connect with customers via Twitter, click here.
Written by Alex Mehler
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