Let’s talk about the benefit of Twitter for small business.  With business owners looking for options to support their marketing activities, and with dwindling reach and results from Facebook Pages, some  are turning their attention at Twitter.

And there are others who have tried it before without success, but are thinking of taking a second glance at this fast-moving social media network, to figure out how to make it work for their business.

I was once addicted to Twitter’s 140-character insights and entertainment but was lured away by other opportunities and dwindling available time and attention. Now I am once again dipping my toes back into its white water rapids.

Used with discipline, creativity and a willingness to interact, Twitter is an excellent tool for building awareness, nurturing relationships and driving traffic back to your home base – your own website or blog.

Why Use Twitter?

Listen, Watch and Learn

Magnifying GlassTwitter is an excellent resource for listening to and observing conversations and opinions about your business, your brand or your industry.  By searching relevant hashtags or users, you can gain insights into the needs and challenges your customers face – letting you develop ways to provide the solution.

Twitter’s also a great way to get a constant stream of up-to-date information about topics of interest. Whether it’s a large world event, a specific court case, an area of interest or a hobby, you can find relevant hashtags and keep on top of the latest news – always at your fingertips on your smartphone or computer.

Raise awareness of your business and brand

As with all social media platforms, if you provide relevant, valuable, engaging content you can attract the attention of your customers and potential customers. Position yourself as an expert. Provide unique insights into your business and industry.  Entertain, educate, inform and inspire to convey your personality and authority in your industry, in return building awareness and trust with your target audience.

Engage with your customers and potential customers

Twitter is a place for conversation and interaction.  Simply posting links or sales messages will rarely work, but joining in the conversations and genuinely interacting lets your customers experience a different side of your business, a more human side, and can build the know – like – trust factor.

Build relationships with influencers

One of the greatest areas of potential I see for Twitter is the chance to build relationships with influencers from within your industry, or a complementary industry. By identifying key players in your industry (people who share your target audience and who have a level of influence over that audience), you can engage and interact with their content and build relationships with them.  This should be done in an authentic way – not a sleazy, spammy way – supporting their activities and building a genuine relationship.

Drive traffic to your “home base”

Twitter, like all social networks, is “rented land” for the small business owner – and it is risky to invest significant time and resources on a platform that you don’t own where the rules of engagement can change at any time.  But if you have a strong “mothership” in your own website or blog, it can be a useful and effective marketing satellite that can drive traffic back to your home base.

The Challenges

Distraction Alert!!

Twitter can be a huge distraction that drags your attention away from the important business of running your business. Without discipline and focus, you can spend hours caught up in its constant stream of information.

Condensing Ideas and Insights into 140 characters

It’s a skill to communicate an idea in an effective and concise way.  After using Twitter for a short time, users can become adept at getting the point across – in 140 characters or less.

It Takes Time

Twitter Takes TimeOvernight success on Twitter is not a realistic expectation. It takes time to build a following, to find your voice and to join in the conversations so you are seen as a credible, reliable source of information.

Can you Measure the Results?

Your Google Analytics and other insights tools can tell you precisely the traffic and conversions you receive from your Twitter activity.  Less measurable is the brand awareness, affinity with your brand and level of authority you build with your target audience.

A Secret of Success

One of the key secrets to an enjoyable and worthwhile Twitter experience is the people you follow.  If you take the time to seek out the influencers and authorities in your industry (or related industries) you will be setting up a fountain of knowledge that trickles through all day long.  By following and engaging with the right people, you then have access to content that you can share with your own followers and target audience.

On the other hand, if you follow people who simply spam the Twitter feed or who aren’t of value, you can find your time being sucked into a black hole of distraction.  Use Twitter’s available tools (like Lists and Searches) to filter your Twitter feed and customise your experience so you can get true value from the time you allocate to the platform.

Before You Dive In

So if you’re ready to leap into the Twitterverse, take a few moments before you dive in to consider one important point.

What are your objectives for using Twitter?  What are the business results you aim to achieve from your participation?

Without knowing your objectives, it’s difficult to tailor your Twitter strategy, and even more challenging to determine if it’s working for you as a marketing tool.

So set your objectives up front.  Whether they be to  drive traffic to your business blog, turn followers into leads for your business or build relationships with industry influencers (or any other of a number of potential objectives), have them clearly articulated and nominate the ways you can measure their achievement.

If You’re New To Twitter

  • Set up your profile carefully – use keywords and attention-grabbing copywriting to convey your brand personality and attract followers.
  • Spend time listening and observing.  Watch your competitors, influencers, businesses you admire, and see what works or doesn’t work in their activity.
  • Start by joining in the conversation, rather than blasting sales messages from the very beginning.  Treat it like a cocktail party or networking event. You wouldn’t burst in the door shouting your elevator pitch or blatant sales messages (I hope).  You would mingle, join in conversations, introduce yourself and get the lay of the land.  The same rules and etiquette apply on Twitter.
  • Consider your brand personality and the tone you would like to portray on Twitter – that way you’ll be consistent when you start tweeting.

If you have taken a break and are ready to jump back in

  • Redefine your objectives – they may have changed since you were last active.
  • Reassess your Twitter lists and the people you follow – those you followed before may no longer be relevant. Tailor your experience to your own needs, interests and objectives by tailoring the people you follow.
  • Ease your way back in with engagement and interaction.

ACTION TIP:  Set up (or revisit) your Twitter profile, and identify and follow 10 people that you believe will be a great source of information and inspiration.

BONUS ACTION TIP:  If you are starting out and would like a kickstart, introduce yourself in the comments below (using your Twitter handle – the @username you use on Twitter), let me know an industry or topic that you are interested in, and I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of a few great Twitter users or lists.