Business owners in all industries are being relentlessly pressured to “get on Twitter.” Everyone from management gurus to tech advocates discuss Twitter as if it were the “missing link” to success, without which you cannot possibly prosper in the 21st century business world. Yet like most business trends and fads, just tweeting for tweeting’s sake is not the real game-changer. Plenty of businesses have Twitter accounts without a single extra sale or lead to show for it.
What really matters is what, how and when you Tweet. A business-minded overview of Twitter and its potential is offered below:
Why (Some) Businesses Should Tweet
First, let’s clear up a common misconception about Twitter’s value to a business. It’s not about randomly Tweeting whatever comes to mind and hoping that somehow boosts sales. It’s about relationship-building. Unless you sell extremely cheap commodity items (like $2 light bulbs that people can only find in dollar stores), it is likely that consumers are interested in your business, its activities and what it is all about. Even prospects who may not be ready to buy anything yet can sometimes be enticed to follow your company’s Twitter feed and stay in the loop on its current promotions.
This is where the true business value of Twitter lies: keeping your prospects and past buyers “warmed up” and interested in what the business is doing. Properly cultivated, a loyal following of Twitter followers can become an invaluable source of leads and sales over time. Instead of running un-targeted commercials or newspaper ads (or even in addition to these techniques), you can immediately reach out to a group of people who want to hear from you.
What Businesses Should Tweet
As you might imagine, most of your company-related Tweets should be about company matters. This includes:
- New product launches
- Recent sales or discounts on current products
- Whether a hot, in-demand item is about to run out
- The fast-approaching end of a big sales event
- Joint promotions with other businesses
However, not all of your Tweets should be about these things. The worst “Twitter crime” a business can commit is making its feed a constant, uninterrupted sales pitch. All but the most die-hard of prospects or customers will soon tire of this and unfollow your account. In order to keep people around and interested, it helps to periodically Tweet about things that have nothing to do with selling your product. This includes:
- Your company’s opinion about industry trends or events
- Your company’s reactions to major headline news (don’t overdo this one, though)
- Words of praise for worthy competitors
- Critiques of alternative products or services
- Giveaways or contests
SmallBizTrends concurs, advising “don’t be afraid to throw in the occasional slice-of-life tweets” because it “helps break down that wall between owner and client and offer the stuff that everyone can relate to.”
How To Tweet It
It is also immeasurably important your company’s Twitter feed not be boring. Remember: the idea is not using Twitter as a permanent, web-based ad. It is about giving prospects and customers a reason for tuning in and staying on top of company activities. Thus, it is not just about what you tweet, but also how you tweet that matters. Using a robotic, monotonous voice on Twitter is a guaranteed recipe for being ignored.
Burger King offers an excellent example of how to Tweet the right way. Instead of blandly reciting their current offers with no style or enthusiasm, a recent tweet reads:
“The BK Burger Builder. It’s like that time you built shelves, with less pain and humiliation.”
Don’t assume this means that your business Twitter account must be funny (although it probably wouldn’t hurt.) The takeaway is that you want to develop and consistently use a voice. There should be a distinct look and feel to your tweets that resonates with your followers and keeps them coming back for more. This will necessarily differ by business and by industry, but never forget the importance of tweeting in an interesting way.
Survey Your Prospects & Customers
Twitter can also be used as an inexpensive form of guerrilla market research. Once you have a sizable following of at least a few hundred people, consider putting your next tough corporate decision to a vote. Too often, important decisions about price points, customer service policies and new product launches are made in a vacuum, with no customer input. Since customers are the entire reason the business exists it all, it makes sense to get their feedback when feasible.
Luckily, Twitter is tailor-made for this kind of informal market research. The next time you feel the company would benefit from customer opinion, set up an online poll on any of the following topics (and tweet it out):
- New product launches
- Hours of operation
- Color options (on things like clothing or accessories)
- Anything else that could affect sales or response
Ethically “Clone” The Successful Twitter Strategies of Others
If any of this seems overwhelming, there’s a quick way to make sense of it all: study the Twitter feeds of other businesses (especially your competitors.) Twitter has been around for a few years now, and while it’s still a hot trend, it is no longer a mysterious activity that only genius business owners understand. Chances are, one or more of your competitors is doing Twitter correctly: recruiting lots of followers, keeping them interested and even using Twitter as a promotional tool.
When in doubt, study these feeds and determine whether you can ethically “clone” their strategies. Don’t blatantly rip something off, of course — instead, try to authentically understand why a given tactic works and use it in a unique way on your own Twitter.