Media Bistro says 33 percent of the 200 million Twitter users follow at least one brand, and the top reason they follow brands, which could include your small business, is because they want discounts and deals, updates, exclusive content and customer service. Yet Forbes.com reports more than 60 percent of businesses surveyed who use social media including Twitter report no return on investment. Why aren't the sellers-of-stuff reaching the buyers-of-stuff? They're not using the tool properly.
How Consumers Use Twitter
Twitter users connect with the world by following people, which means other Twitter users who have @ before their Twitter handles, as in @BarackObama, @cnnbrk (CNN Breaking News), @Bill Gates, etc.
They create lists of the people they follow and group them into categories, as in friends, celebrities, news organizations, funny people and so on. Those lists can be made public to the people who follow them, or they may be kept private. The advantage of sharing lists is you can filter out noise you don’t want to read, and zoom in on the people who interest you.
Users also follow conversations, which appear as hastags, as in #superbowl, #iphone, #usingmyimagination, and #breakingbad.
Bottom line: People use @ to follow people and organizations, and # to follow conversations.
How Businesses Use Twitter
As a small business, you probably already know your customers, their demographics and their buying habits. But do you know what they talk about? Do you know what problems they have? Do you know what makes them happy or really ticks them off? Find out what your customers talk about, and use a reliable connection such as InternetProviders.com to get in those conversations.
Let’s say you’re a flower shop with five locations, and you live in a large city such as Minneapolis or San Diego. You will follow your competitors, hotel chains, funeral homes, large corporations, local media and your own customers — and maybe they’ll follow you, too. What do most of your competitors Tweet? Here’s a sampling of a florist in San Diego who has posted nothing but self-promotions in the previous seven Tweets:
Here is a Minneapolis-based florist who posts Tweets that tell stories:
Take a page from Chez Bloom’s book (or petal from her flower?) While Allen's Flowers repeatedly says “Buy stuff,” Chez Bloom tells stories. She helped stage a home, she piqued interest with the man-eating flower, and she helped promote a farmers market.
Bottom line: Get into conversations.
How Much Should I Tweet?
Three to five times a day? What?
Calm down. It's not that difficult. First, you'll use Twitter's tool to allow you to see what's trending in your local area. Get in those conversations.
Next, you'll look into software that allows you to schedule Tweets out. SocialTimes.com lists 10 apps that will help you do that.
Lastly, you'll hire an intern. Hire a college kid to do it for you, especially if he or she already has 10,000 followers (that's a lot — be impressed.) The student will love to get paid to be on social media, and he or she can do your Tweeting on a flexible schedule.
Nikki Siebel’s a native Oregonian who launched her own social media consulting business after baby No. 2 came along (baby No. 3 is on her way, and there will be no baby No. 4).