Should you be on Twitter? Like many things in business, the answer is this: it depends. It depends on your goals, your commitment level, and your customers.
One thing is certain: you shouldn’t jump into Twitter just because it seems like the right thing to do because so many other businesses are doing it. Sure, Twitter might have over 100 million active users (and 50 percent who log on every day), but it needs to be the right thing for you, your business, and your clientele.
Twitter for Small Businesses…when it might make sense:
- Your business is in a “techie” industry, thus creating a certain expectation that your company would have a Twitter presence. For example, if you run an IT firm, it might make sense to provide some customer support via Twitter, since customers might expect it (thanks to larger companies, like Comcast, that field questions via Twitter).
- You have time to dedicate to it. Social media requires you to be social, which requires a certain level of commitment.
- You’re not concerned with traditional ROI and you understand that engaging customers and prospective customers via Twitter might not directly lead to sales today. But you also get that the overall exposure could be beneficial to your brand, even if it’s hard to quantify.
- You enjoy social networking and engaging customers and prospects this way.
Twitter for Small Businesses…when it might not make sense:
- You don’t have the time. No, really — you’ve thought about it, and you’re not simply dismissing it because you don’t feel like dealing. You really don’t have the bandwidth (it’s okay to admit this).
- You’ve tried it, and you don’t like it (or you have no interest in learning). Sure, as a business owner, sometimes you have to do certain business tasks, even if you don’t like ‘em. But Twitter isn’t one of them. If you hate it or “don’t get it” (and have no interest in learning), then it’s not going to work for you. Prefer Facebook? Great. Hang out there.
- You prefer engaging customers in more traditional ways, or you have other social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, that you prefer using.
- Your customer base isn’t on Twitter. For example, maybe you’re in a business that focuses on baby boomers and empty nesters. The bulk of Twitter users are in the 18-34 and 35-49 categories, so Twitter might not make sense, in this case.
If you are going to use Twitter for your business, here are 10 things to consider and keep in mind:
1. Customize your Twitter presence. Make sure your logo and bio reflect who you are and your business. Be sure to include a link to your website. Click on “settings” and “profile” to update.
2. Take the time to understand the lingo. Retweets, direct messages, and link shorteners are all things you need to know about. Here’s an official Twitter glossary.
3. Understand Twitter etiquette. Like anything else that involves social interactions, there are certain acceptable ways to behave…and ways you shouldn’t behave. Do you need to automatically follow someone who follows you? Do you need to thank people who retweet you? Here’s a good article that discusses these and some other big Twitter etiquette questions.
4. Use tools to help you maximize your experience. If you follow a lot of people, it can be hard keeping up with conversations if you try to do it through Twitter itself. But free tools, such as HootSuite and TweetDeck, help you manage Twitter so you get the most out of it…without wasting a lot of valuable time.
5. Understand the power of hashtags. In a nutshell, hashtags (which are made by using a hash mark in front of a word, name, or phrase) are a way of categorizing/organizing tweets. If you searched on #marketingtips in Twitter, you’d see all the conversations where people are talking about things related to marketing (because they’ve used this tag). Here’s a great article on hashtags, including more about what they are, how to make one, and why they’re so powerful.
6. Engage. The whole point of social media is to be, well, social. Talk to people! Take part in conversations. Answer questions. Respond to big news. Talk about what’s going on in your business. Note: there’s a fine line between being too self-promotional, however. A good rule of thumb is the 80-20 rule: Eighty percent of the time, you should be talking with people about whatever interests them. The other 20 percent of the time, you can promote your products and services. Mileage may vary, depending on your industry or customer base, but this is a good starting point.
7. Share. Retweet. Do shout outs to other Twitter followers. Take part in hash-tagged conversations, such as #FollowFriday.
8. Provide value. If you’re engaging and sharing properly, you’re providing value. But this point is so important, it’s worth repeating.
9. If you don’t know the answer to something Twitter related, ask, search, and learn. Hey, this is 2012. You’re just a Google search away from finding the answer to a Twitter question. (By the way, here’s one we found after doing a Google search: “Twitter 101.”)
10. Don’t abandon ship. If you’re going to commit, then commit. Creating a presence in social media takes time. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you stick with it and follow the advice above. Give it a good six months to a year.
BONUS: Promote the fact your company is on Twitter. It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses forget this step. If you build it, they won’t come, unless you tell them. Be sure to include your Twitter handle on everything that touches customers’ hands or reaches their eyeballs, such as:
- Business cards
- Email signatures
- Voice mail/on hold greetings
- Promotional products, such as pens, mugs, even custom T-shirts
By the way, Amsterdam Printing is on Twitter, and we’d love to connect with you if you’re on there.
Have you tried Twitter for your business? Share what your experience has been like. Or if you decided to forgo Twitter, share why in the comments.