Most small business owners have a personal Facebook account. They already know the site’s ins, outs, and quirks. So, starting up a Facebook page for their business isn’t such a struggle. They already have an idea of how best to reach their customer base through Facebook’s platform. Twitter, on the other hand, is different, and it may prove more mystifying to business owners who are unfamiliar with it. For these, Twitter is like one of those peculiar Christmas gifts you sometimes get from that cousin you haven’t seen in ten years. It’s cool and pretty interesting, but what in the world can you do with it?
That question is often just the first in a score of others from small business owners investigating Twitter. What follows is a list of eight common queries about the site and some helpful thoughts on how it can be useful in business.
1. Is a Twitter presence required for success these days?
Maybe…but maybe not. It all depends on your customer base. If your customers – potential or actual – aren’t on Twitter, then you shouldn’t be there too often either. You need to be where your customers are. On the other hand, Twitter is a great way to build relationships with influential people in your field, or even in other related industries – journalists, bloggers, etc. So, even if your target audience isn’t on Twitter and your customer base doesn’t grow at all, the site still gives an excellent opportunity for networking and spreading the news about your company efficiently and effectively.
2. How can I learn if my customers use Twitter?
The best way to learn anything is simply to ask. Ask your customers if they use Twitter through your website or in person. Also, take a look at your analytics software to see if you’re getting any Twitter traffic. And remember, the influential bloggers and journalists talked about above are part of your audience, too. Even if your customers aren’t on Twitter, you can still use the site to communicate with these influencers.
3. How many Twitter followers should I have?
This is much easier said than done, but don’t focus on how many followers you have. It feels nice to have lots of followers because it looks like your Twitter account is successful, but that doesn’t necessarily benefit your company or add anything to your bottom line. Instead, look at the number of new customers your Twitter presence, and your social media activity in general, are bringing in. And, don’t forget that it’s much better to have a small group of loyal followers than a large group of people who are followers in name only and ignore your tweets.
4. How many tweets should I post a day?
Go with the flow. As with all social media efforts, a small business’s Twitter account should be dynamic and human. It’s perfectly acceptable to tweet a lot one day and not so much the next. Tweet as often as you can while being relevant and interesting. But, if you feel you’re becoming repetitive and boring, let off for a little while. Your tweets shouldn’t seem forced – as if you’re just tweeting because you feel obligated. Your followers will notice this, and you’ll come across as strained or even pushy. And remember that one of the main reasons people stop following business Twitter feeds is because companies post too much. You must strike a good balance that works well for your company and your customers.
5. Can I retweet customer praise, or does that look arrogant?
There’s a very thin line to walk here. Retweeting customer praise, if it is to be done at all, must be done with humility and gratefulness and in extreme moderation. Not only can it seem arrogant – even if that’s not what you mean by it – it is also uninteresting and customers will eventually be bored by it. Because this can be such a sticky situation, perhaps it’s best just to send a personal reply to tweets praising your company. It will be another instance of that vital person-to-person, company-customer contact, and the person will likely be much impressed by your customer service.
6. Should my tweets link to other sites?
Of course. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t. Your customers will surely appreciate that you’re willing to share links to other web content that will interest them. It shows your humanity and humility – proving that you know there are other excellent sites on the internet and that you aren’t trying to balloon your vanity by pretending your site knows all. Sharing links outside of your own work makes your Twitter account more interesting and followable.
7. What about the competition? Should I link to or mention them in my tweets?
This, of course, depends on the situation. There are times when a link to or a mention of your competition is actually beneficial to you as well as them. For example, if a customer tweets to you and asks for a product or service that you don’t have, you could point him/her to a competitor that does have what s/he needs. You’ll be doing a favor for both yourself and your competition. The other business will, of course, have another customer, but you’ll have proven your integrity and your commitment to serving your patrons no matter the cost. Your customer base will appreciate you all the more for this.
8. Do I need to reply to everyone who tweets to/at me?
This, too, depends on the situation. You should, of course, ignore spam messages and such like, but you should always respond to legitimate tweets from your customers – until your business is booming so much that you can’t possibly acknowledge all the messages. This (if it happens at all) will be a long time in coming, so, in the meantime, enjoy conversing with your customers. Answer questions, give advice, be accessible. Don’t let yourself seem aloof or unfeeling, and don’t underestimate the value of social media communication with your customers.