Do you own a small business? Are you having a hard time understanding Twitter?
As a small business owner and social media user going on two years now, I can honestly say that initially I did not really see the point or power of Twitter at all.
However, after sticking it out passed the learning curve, picking up a couple of followers, and following really intelligent people, thanks to Twitter, I get to make connections and learn something new every day. In fact, at this point I feel like Twitter is a tool that all small business owners should use as part of their overall efforts to build a distributed social media footprint.
Nevertheless, if you are like many in the small business community who have tried Twitter without success, then you might be fond of saying, “I just don’t get it.”
For numerous small business owners (including myself at one point in time) who are new to Twitter, and social media in general, there appears to be a common misconception that as soon as you sign up customers are going to fall from the sky in droves and you will immediately be inundated with more business than you can handle.
Small Business Twitter Frustration
Amongst the business people that I discuss Twitter with there appear to be two types of discouraged small venture owners who give up on Twitter at rapid rate.
Frustrated business owner number one feels like Twitter is analogous to entering a large cocktail party or hotel lobby where she doesn’t know a single soul. Yet, conversations are happening all around her and rather than trying to ease into the discussion, she gives up without talking to anybody because the sheer numbers are overwhelming.
Disgruntled Twitter quitter number two is the complete opposite of number one. He will get on Twitter, see all of the conversations going on, and assume it is the customer “candy store.” This leads to the sending out of many spammy messages, which spew forth details about his great products and prices. He will typically stop using Twitter when to his surprise nobody follows him back and he doesn’t receive one @ reply.
Twitter Tips to Help Small Business Owners
Recently, a friend asked me to help him with that “Twitter thing” because he wants more customers for his niche jewelry business.
After our very long discussion and Twitter run through, I thought that perhaps there might be other business owners out there who are beginners on Twitter and could use some help. Here are the 20 tips that I passed on to my friend:
- Twitter is first and foremost a place to connect, learn, and listen.
- Define your goals if you have any (e.g. business promotion, socializing, etc).
- If you’re confused about where to begin on Twitter, but are interested in learning, take a look at the previously done Twitip post that highlights key people for beginners to follow.
- Twitter allows you to interact with individuals who you might not normally come into contact with. If you want to interact with a celebrity or a person with a huge following then send a simple @ message or comment on something they are doing. If you get a response you can then take it from there.
- Don’t be offended if folks don’t follow you back. It’s not personal. (Even if it is, it doesn’t really matter.)
- Use a photo of yourself or your business logo in you profile.
- If you’re interested in connecting with someone you might want to try ReTweeting some of their messages before you introduce yourself.
- It’s probably going to take a good 3 to 6 months to get a following.
- Find out who the influencers are in your industry and see if they are on Twitter. If they are, follow them.
- Always follow Jeff Pulver’s rule of giving 95% of the time and asking only 5% of the time.
- Utilize a Twitter photo-sharing site like TwitPic or Yfrog to share cool photos from your typical business day, or while plying your craft, so that people get to know you. It helps to build social trust.
- Use Twitter Search with keywords to find information and conversations that are relevant to your business. It’s also a good way to find out if anyone is talking about you or your company.
- If you are not part of a particular conversation that concerns your area of business, but you would like to participate, approach with caution.
- If you are sending DM’s to your followers with something related to your business, make sure to use your social capital wisely. Overwhelming folks with DM’s can result in a rapid loss of followers
- Don’t Tweet anything that you would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper or wildly famous website.
- Do interact and connect and don’t hesitate to @ message folks who have 10x or 100x the number of followers you have.
- Employ sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit to find, and share amongst your followers, interesting stories from your particular area of business.
- Create connections don’t spam. You most likely would not just walk into a crowded venue where you don’t know anyone and say, “Hi my name is Bob and I replace window screens and have great prices.” This method does not work very well on Twitter. (Should be a given but you still see it every day!)
- Twitter is only one area online where you can begin to build a distributed social media footprint for your business. Do NOT rely solely on Twitter as your social media business promotion tool.
- It takes a long time to build up a following and develop trust, but it only takes one Tweet to alienate every one of your followers.
To be sure, on a daily basis we are all trying to figure how best to utilize Twitter effectively as a small business tool. Certainly, this is not a be all end all list, so your thoughts and input on how small business can better tap into Twitter are appreciated.