I have a lot of fun using twitter as a tool to help me market my small business. I’m not sure how cool that is to say, but it’s true. In my social media conversations with business owner clients, the two main reasons they don’t use twitter in their business are:
- They just don’t “get it”
- They imagine it to be a chore, and NOT fun
Partly, I enjoy it so much because, by nature, I’m social and that helps when you’re using a tool in the social space. It’s easy for me to join in random conversations (either face to face in a coffee bar queue, or online) about stuff I’m interested in. In the online environment that stuff also happens to include what I do for a living. I’d use twitter (and have done) just to be social, though, because that’s what it was invented for!
However, not being a socialite like me (dahling!) doesn’t mean you can’t use twitter successfully for your business. In fact, I know total introverts who use it with great success. An introvert’s apparent shyness in face to face interactions can completely disappear in the twitter environment. The successful author of the book Social Prospecting for Twitter, Veronica Pullen, is proof that having Aspergers can even give you a competitive advantage in the world of twitter.
Putting aside an individual’s social skills and disposition, though, how do you, as a business owner, embrace twitter for business if you:
- Don’t get it and think it’s a complete waste of time?
- Find it a chore to do?
Here is my best advice from what I’ve learnt on my journey so far.
Decide what you are going to use twitter for. Deciding this up front will mean you have a clear goal of what you want to achieve – that way, you can measure if it’s working. When you start seeing results, you stop feeling like it’s a waste of time. When I talk to new business owners about how I’ve successfully gained ACTUAL clients through using twitter, their reaction is “You mean you can get new customers that way?”. Yes, you can, if that’s what you want. My more established businesses have launched new products based on the powerful customer insight and feedback that twitter has given them as part of their market research. Larger companies I’ve worked with, who have grasped the twitter nettle, understand the value of twitter as the world’s largest focus group as well as an opportunity to provide truly outstanding customer service. In my opinion, the hardest part of embracing twitter is deciding WHAT to use it for, rather than IF it should be used!
Be sociable! Saying this can have the strangest effect on people. I’ve had clients who’ve started squirming in their seat, looking desperately uncomfortable at the thought of “being social” when they take themselves and their business so seriously. The truth is, even the most social amongst us (I include myself in that group) are very likely to feel self-conscious at what it means to be sociable in business. It’s quite normal. At the beginning of your time on twitter, it can feel like turning up – alone – at the world’s biggest cocktail party! Awkward! My best tip to overcome this self-consciousness (which might sound weird but stick with me on this….) is to imagine you’re wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak! This will allow you to wander through the cocktail party (twitter) listening in to interesting conversations, and who’s having them, without being noticed. If the conversation of a certain group isn’t relevant or doesn’t inspire you, you can move on (invisibly) until you find a conversation you’d like to join. Then you can throw off your cloak and get stuck in. Yes, it feels weird at first jumping into conversations already happening but that doesn’t make it wrong – especially if you’re polite. Above all, remember….be a human! Business is about relationships after all, and relationships are made by people. Once you get used to “being sociable” it feels a lot easier and starts to become fun! How you sell yourself, or your business, once you’re comfortable will be the topic of a future blog!
Be sociable BUT remember that twitter is a public face of your company. This is where the fear comes in for some business owners. When your company grows in size – the possibility of a PR disaster can give the C-Suite sleepless nights. When you’re a solopreneur, it’s relatively easy to put forward your company face – your business is YOU. When there are more people in your organisation, and twitter has an employee resource, it’s a different story. Clear guidelines are needed for that resource to understand HOW to present the company face. Remembering your twitter resource is a person (or a team of people) will help you (the business owner) work out what they need to understand to represent the company successfully – this needs to include what kind of tone and style of engagement is acceptable WHILST they are being sociable. A rule of thumb to apply which won’t constrain the human-ness of their twitter interactions is to ask the person/team to “Think about what you say before you put it out there.” Guidelines can be as simple as Hubspot’s “Use Good Judgement”. For me that equates to “Don’t say anything that would look bad splashed across the front of tomorrow’s newspapers!” Being clear about guidelines for a twitter person/team may eliminate the fear a company CEO has of getting twitter wrong, and, instead, reap the benefits (eg, improved response times for dealing with customer service complaints).
Try to view your twitter ROI in more than financial terms. Yes, you can deliver a financial ROI from using twitter (have your revenues/profits increased or your costs decreased?). However, one of its best advantages, particularly if you’re a small business, is the way twitter can help you start to get noticed. Using twitter can grow an online audience much faster than you could (on your own) if you were networking, for example. If you’re a larger organisation, you can measure consumer attitudes to your brand using twitter – insight directly from your customers about your brand may be unnerving to hear firsthand, but is, nonetheless, essential to measure brand health. Check out more detailed information on the ROI of Social Marketing by Nate Elliott, from Forrester Research. Twitter can provide you with a bunch of raving fans and a rich vein of insight into the minds of your customers – now don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to have some of that to give your business a competitive edge?
Still unconvinced? Share your thoughts in the comments box below – if you’ve had some bad (or good) experiences, I’d love to hear about them too. In the meantime, if this has convinced you to get started, I highly recommend you read Hubspot’s “30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice to Ignore” and choose your social network to get started on. Good luck!