Michelle Sullivan Communications

Twitter for the small business owner: the why

When it comes to social media, small business owners tend to start with what they know. With half the Canadian population and 169 million Americans using the platform, it’s not surprising that North American small business owners tend to turn to Facebook when they decide it’s time for their brand to make its first foray into the social media space. But what about Twitter? The microblogging platform, where posts are limited to 140 characters and conversation streams are built around #hashtags, has its own charms.

There are great reasons for investing your small business marketing time and energy into Twitter.

 

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Builds reputations: companies and brands who engage on Twitter and truly become part of their niche communities can gain a very interesting level of visibility within their target group. If your focus is selling purple sparkly unicorns, you can tap into the purple sparky unicorn lovers’ community on Twitter and engage directly with its members. It’s an efficient way to build your visibility and reputation in order to reach a market of potential customers.

Learning curve: Twitter provides insight on how your customers are responding to your products and services. Consumers have voiced their opinions about brands for centuries. The difference today is that those opinions and conversations can be tracked and analyzed through social media. Twitter is particularly suited for this, as 99% of accounts are open, and their content public. Whether or not you and your brand are active on Twitter, turning your attention to what is being said on the platform is an excellent way to keep on top of what’s being said about you, your competitors and your industry.

Access to influencers: Tools which let you scan Twitter bios to identify users interested in your niche are invaluable to building your network. You niche’s influencers will quickly rise to the top, as they are quoted through retweets. Even more than Facebook or many other social networks, Twitter gives you access to influencers. After all, even the Pope and the American President tweet. As do that doctor specialized in that illness you’re interested in, that history professor specializing in a field of study you’re passionate about or that mommy blogger you’d kill to get to test drive your product. Twitter lets you engage with these people – whether or not they reply all comes down to how charming you are or how successful you are at piquing their interest. Social networks can only open doors for you, after all. The rest is down to you.

A customer service powerhorse: Companies like American Airlines, Jet Blue, KLM, Virgin and Rogers have all understood the potential of Twitter as a customer service platform, and are investing heavily to ensure that they respond to customer questions in a timely fashion that will ensure that they surprise, delight and most importantly retain their existing clients, while impressing potential ones. Free and premium monitoring tools help customer service departments manage the social flow, capturing those opportunities quickly and efficiently. Premium services like In The Chat, Hootsuite and CoTweet provide dashboards that help you drill down to relevant content and engage directly with clients who need your online support.

Converts into sales: staying focused on the objective and using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to segment accounts of interest is a strategic way to speak directly to influencers and your customer base in a way that will resonate with them. Provide people with useful content and advice, demonstrate your abilities and build your credibility and they will come to you when they want to buy a purple sparkly unicorn, or whatever product or service you’re selling.

« But 74% of online adults use Facebook and only 19% use Twitter! » *
It doesn’t matter if 100% of online adults use Facebook if you can’t reach them. As a small business owner, your goal is to move beyond your own network to influence people in other networks. This is the only way your brand will gain traction. Some industries may naturally do well on Facebook, if only because of the kind of relevant content they can create. For most small businesses however, the reality is that unless you’re willing to invest ad dollars into Facebook, you’ll be putting a lot of time and energy into a platform that doesn’t belong to you and that won’t deliver a good ROI because of the way it is designed.

Twitter, coupled with your blog, gets you and your content in front of influencers who can make a difference to your business. Twitter users tend to be more directly engaged in niche subjects which interest them, and use the platform purposefully. Reach them, and you’re speaking to someone you can convert into a customer.

That’s the why. In my next blog post, I’ll go over the how. 

* source : Pew Research Internet Project

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