Don’t be that person with the bullhorn and the rubber ball nose.
As a small business owner, one of the challenges you face is communicating with potential customers. Marketers have tried hundreds of methods to accomplish this, from carnival barkers shouting through a bullhorn at fairground gawkers to phone solicitors interrupting your roast beef dinner to ask if you’re happy with your phone service.
These types of marketing communications were common in the 20th century, but were often ineffective because they annoyed the people whose business they were intended to solicit.
I mean, seriously — a bullhorn?!?
21st Century Marketing
Back here in the 21st century, however, new channels have emerged that make marketing communication less intrusive, more effective, and truly interactive. Social media platforms like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and especially Twitter let you share your messages while simultaneously keeping a finger on the pulse of your customers.
These platforms also provide a great deal of interactivity, so business owners can quickly learn of — and respond to — problems or opportunities.
The Advantages of Twitter for Small Business
Twitter is one of the most effective social media platforms for small business. It’s reach is truly staggering — 307 million active monthly users as of Q3 2015 — and unlike many other types of social, it is extremely versatile. Facebook is largely a platform for families and friends to share cat videos and snapshots of their latest meal, while LinkedIn is a great place for professionals to connect with clients or fill open positions.
Twitter, however, lets you connect with people of all stripes — customers, clients, suppliers, industry leaders, and even potential partners. The sections below outline reasons for the Twitter advantage in some detail.
Your Tweets Now Show Up in Google Search
As of August, 2015, Google rolled out new functionality that makes Twitter content part of Google desktop search results. This means your tweets now show up in the search results pages when users use Google to search for terms that appear in your social media feed.
This dramatically increases the reach of your social efforts, since your audience is no longer restricted to Twitter users. Henceforth, anybody searching for the terms you use might find you simply by googling the subject.
Twitter Can Boost Your SEO Efforts
In addition to making you “findable” via search results pages, Twitter also helps you boost your SEO efforts by creating organic backlinks to your content. When you post a new blog article or publish a white paper, you can promote the content through your Twitter feed.
Subsequently, your followers who read and enjoy the content can re-tweet the link to it, create a discussion with other users, and interact with you about the content. This not only creates natural links that convince Google that yours is an authority site, but it drives traffic to your content and increases readership.
Of course, this presumes your content is interesting or valuable in some way. Creating content that others want to share should be your primary focus.
Twitter’s Character Limit Keeps Messaging Clear and Simple
The 140-character limit Twitter imposes means you must communicate effectively and simply. You must focus on a single, crystal-clear message for best results. However, although it takes some practice, this brevity and clarity is often the best way to reach and persuade your audience. People are busy, and often have no time to delve into a lengthy missive that describes all of your product’s features, uses, and benefits.
Moreover, by keeping it to 140 characters, you need not spend the one or more hours necessary to compose a whole blog article. Instead, you can shoot off a tweet in under a minute, sometimes with the same result.
You Can Take Advantage of Twitter’s Tweet Chats
Another Twitter advantage is the tweet chat, a live event that takes place at a specific time around a specific topic. Participants apply a single, pre-specified hashtag (#) to filter all tweets into a single conversation.
Tweet chats are open to anybody. Participants can tweet using the hashtag, but if you are a wet blanket wallflower, you can simply follow along without providing input.
Hosting a tweet chat around your business lets you start and engage in a conversation with your audience that, hopefully, reveals opportunities, problems, and good ideas for fixing those problems. It is like a town meeting, where participants can share their feelings about your brand, provide suggestions, and offer advice to you and other participants. It really breaks down the barriers of communication, and is an extraordinarily valuable resource for small businesses.
To host a tweet chat yourself, be sure to do the following:
Participate in one or more events as a participant, first, to learn the ropes
- Choose a topic that is likely to draw and engage twitter users
- Set a convenient time
- Choose a short, unique, and memorable hashtag
- Promote the tweet chat to draw a critical mass of participants
Twitter Makes Social Listening and Customer Feedback Easy
Twitter lets you keep your finger on the pulse of your industry and your niche’s competitive landscape. By keeping up to date on what industry leaders, competitors, and customers are saying about each other and the industry as a whole, you can spot opportunities you might otherwise have missed.
For example, should you spot a tweet by a customer that reads, “I wish somebody would come up with a widget that does X,” and that has received a lot of re-tweets and “favorites” from other Twitter users, you may be able to capitalize on that opportunity by adding a new product to your line and thus satisfying a need.
The same is true of problems. Should you receive negative customer feedback via tweets, you can analyze those messages to see if you need to rethink your design, your promotional activity, or your delivery methods to address the problem. Moreover, you can communicate directly with the complainant to express how sorry you are for their negative experience and to explain what you intend to do about it.
Done quickly enough, you can stem off additional complaints. Moreover, other customers can see how you took the complaint seriously, addressed the complainant’s concerns, and made changes to redress those concerns. Your reaction can thus turn a complaint into a public relations win.
JetBlue and Nike are notable for the tremendous customer service they provide on Twitter. Each Twitter account is constantly responding to customer needs and comments, and their responses are very timely. AmEx, by moving its entire customer support team onto Twitter, grew its followership by a massive 50% in 2013.
Volume vs. Engagement
However, there is some indication that Twitter — and Facebook — traffic, while very large, may not lead to the highest levels of engagement. Shareaholic found that, “website traffic from YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn, social media platforms which traditionally produce lower referral traffic versus Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, is significantly more engaged.”
Comparisons between Twitter and Facebook, are very close, however. There is little difference in average time on site, bounce rates, or average pages per visit between the Big Two social platforms.
If you have not yet moved your company’s social media and promotional efforts onto Twitter, you are missing out on a profound opportunity to reach out to your audience, interact with them, and learn what they have to say. You can improve your messaging, boost your SEO efforts, and become more visible online. You can host tweet chats in real time to find out what people think of your brand, and you can engage in social listening to discover opportunities and problems.
The most important Twitter advantage is that you can interact directly with customers to solve their problems, or at least tell them that you share their concerns.
No longer are you a guy in a rubber ball nose deafening fairground attendees with your bullhorn. With Twitter, your messaging opportunities are two-way, real-time, and invaluable.