In this article I will discuss various different ways of using Twitter and how to make use of it as a small business. The advice contained here is aimed at the very small business, as well as individuals who are their own brand such as authors, journalists and artists.
Types of Twitter user
There are several kinds of Twitter user, they are not mutually exclusive.
The first kind is the social user. The social twitter user enjoys friendly banter with others, engages in random conversations, and plays #hashtag games. (Witty comments all posted using the same keyword prefixed with a # so that others can see and join in.) They may well present information or a persona that they would not want to be linked with their professional life. This kind of tweeter generally follows and engages with most of the people that follow them. This is the average twitter user.
The second kind is the reporter. The reporter actively seeks out news stories and items of interest and then retweets them to their followers. The reporter is often also a social user.
The third kind is company announcements. This is what it sounds like; a business that uses twitter purely to announce products, articles, press releases, or other commercial events.
The fourth kind is the damage limitation account. Typical of very large business such as BT or the Royal Mail, these exist purely to sweep twitter for negative information and respond to it in as low profile a way as possible, and fix the problem as quickly as possible to make it go away. This kind of user may even delete tweets once a problem is dealt with.
Business use of Twitter
I believe that most businesses do not make enough of the opportunities provided by twitter. How do you define a successful use of twitter? Well, most people would say that followers are a good indicator. That isn’t good enough on it’s own though, to be successful I believe that those followers must be engaged with the business. Don’t forget that the primary type of twitter user is the social user who is there for the conversation. Many businesses use their twitter account purely as a stream of announcements. The problem occurs because even if that business has many twitter followers, they may not be engaged by those announcements. It is very easy for the follower to skip over the announcement and scroll past to a more interesting conversation with another twitter user. So how can this be addressed?
The simple answer is that a business presence on twitter must not be just a stream of announcements or even just responding to negative comments, but must be real people engaging in real conversation. A decent amount of activity is key. There are a few different ways to achieve it.
The more charismatic business leaders often use twitter in their own right, and represent their business too. In this way they interact with thousands of others creating a sense of personal connection with themselves and their business. People such as @DuncanBannatyne and @Memset_Kate are good examples.
Some businesses have a team of people that work behind one twitter account. This is usually the damage limitation kind of account, but sometimes it is genuine advice and help combined with occasional sales patter. @Simplybusiness is a good example of an account with multiple people behind it, yet still engaging with people by offering tips and advice and answering questions.
Other businesses have a team of staff with their own twitter accounts. These accounts may again be used in any combination of the ways listed earlier.
However you set up and manage your presence on Twitter, you need to be noticed to be successful. How do you do that? Here is my guide as to how a small business can build their presence on Twitter. This information is based on my collected observations, and is provided on a “do as I say not as I do” basis!
First of all, set up your account properly. Enter a good description and a link to your website. Change the background. Upload a photo or a company logo. Don’t make it too much like spam – exhortations to follow you or purchase your services will get you blocked by many people.
Follow some other accounts. Don’t just do this based on who you think should notice you, but on who you want to pay attention to. Search for relevant businesses and subjects, or, if a personal account, look for people that you know to be interesting.
After that, watch your twitter stream.
- Reply to questions and take part in discussion.
- Retweet (pass on) interesting items brought up by people that you are following.
- If you see something that you like elsewhere on the internet, post it on twitter.
- Contribute useful information that people want to pass on. Provide links, pictures, and wise or witty comments when possible.
- When relevant, use popular hashtags to be seen by more people.
- Mention what you do or what you sell, but don’t constantly bombard people with it. An occasional notice is all right, constant bombardment will get you reported for spam.
- When you do need to announce something, do it at the right time for your target audience. If like me you are an insomniac and tend to finish things in the middle of the night, repost them when people are awake.
There are two conventions on retweeting. The original method involved copying the tweet that you wished to quote in to a new tweet, and adding the prefix “RT: @name:” in front of the quote, and perhaps adding a comment too. On seeing the popularity of retweeting, Twitter added a Retweet link to their interface. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in the same way; the official retweet method will cause the tweet to appear in your followers Twitter stream but it will not be obvious that you placed it there. Instead, the original tweeter’s picture will appear, and your name will be shown alongside the retweet. Where possible, it is a good idea to use the original manual method. Doing that will allow you to add a comment alongside the quoted tweet and will ensure that replies come to you and not to the original tweeter, thus starting conversation. If other people retweet the same information in turn, your name is likely to stay in their retweet, whereas if you used the official method it will not.
If you do all these things then people will start to follow you and talk to you. Reply to them and build up relationships. These relationships are the key to twitter. Use Twitter as a social network first, and an advertising medium second and you won’t go far wrong.
This article is cross-posted from the authors business website, Refresh Technology.