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  • 23 April 2015
  • Dr Billy M.

Does your small business need a Twitter account?

To keep your fingers on the pulse of what is important to today's empowered customer, you have to maintain a deliberate and planned approach to social media. Twitter is a powerful tool, capable of promoting your brand and establishing you as a thought leader as you broadcast your updates and share ideas.

Twitter enables you to contact thousands of people you could never reach with traditional marketing strategies.

Tweeting
So, do you need a Twitter account for your small business?
Absolutely. This medium deserves your attention as it provides a platform for meaningful connections with people and affords some very targeted, up-to-date research that is right up your alley. Your page allows you to engage with customers more quickly and robustly. With Twitter, you will be better positioned to accommodate and embrace customer change in near-real time.

But, #doyouneedtotweet?
The short answer: yes! While you are not required to constantly tweet back and forth, you should check your Twitter page daily. Being active ensures you provide a rich source of fresh information about your business and allows you to engage in real-time conversations on trending topics in your industry.

Well, what should you talk about?
Maintain a mix of business-related tweets (promotions, discounts, specials, product launches, and other updates) interspersed with thought leadership posts (blogs, statistics, business trends) and some lighthearted, fun tweets (happy holidays, quirky facts). Offer useful information and answer customer questions. It is important to use your own voice rather than developing some corporate character. To maintain a culture of dialogue, be sure to retweet when a customer posts something positive about your brand and always respond to customer questions and feedback.

Benefits

Regular updates and customer engagement will make your brand more recognizable by creating awareness. Twitter enables you to contact thousands of people you could never reach with traditional marketing strategies. Customers may even invariably do your marketing as they tweet about their experiences with your products or services. Potential benefits include:

  • Increased loyalty. Generally, people become loyal to people, not brands per se. By showing the "real you" in your tweets, people can sense your honesty, which endears them to you.
  • Improvement via feedback. Tweeting allows you to receive valuable feedback, akin to an online survey. In particular, cherish the negative feedback, as it helps you improve your products or services.
  • Expedited damage control. Twitter's networking influence can break your company if just one complaint is handled improperly. Rather than ignoring it and allowing the problem to fester, use your page to answer and address complaints quickly: jump on, apologize sincerely, offer freebies, and invite the complaining individual back. Recognizing and resolving customer dissatisfaction before it turns into a PR disaster helps people move on.
  • Reducing employee acquisition costs. Your page can be used in your hiring efforts. It allows for social discovery of new talent as you monitor and listen for brand mentions and subject-matter keywords from people looking for a job. This avoids the need for costly recruiters.

Your page is a real-time engagement platform that humanizes your company, showing potential customers that there are real people behind your business. This will bring your brand closer to your followers, helping turn them into loyal customers.

A word of caution...

There are also a few potential issues that small businesses should recognize:

  • Privacy is still an issue. Set the boundaries early about what you want people to know about your business. It may be OK to speak about your business turnover, but bragging about staff pay and emoluments in the public domain may leave you with paranoid employees.
  • Potential for litigation. You can break the law with a post that seems harmless, face fines for alleged false advertising if a customer feels a tweet makes false claims about your products or services, or be sued under libel laws for defamation if your competitor feels his reputation is being damaged. The key is to keep everything clean and truthful.
  • Brand criticism. It becomes likely that your company may be chastised for, say, provision of a bad service or product, or employee mistreatment. You can be flamed with a hashtag like #avoidXYZbrand that goes viral, leading to a media storm. Be ready for it; use your page to talk to people, help them understand the situation, and address their concerns.

Avoid problems down the line by developing a social media policy for your company, clearly outlining which employees can post on the Twitter page and what can be discussed.

Start by following your customers, suppliers, vendors, business partners, competitors, and trade or professional organizations in the industry. As you follow tweeters, you start to gain a steady stream of followers in return. Start talking. Send a tweet. Only when the community recognizes the quality of what you share will they accept you. Even if people do not follow you, remember: Your page is a good resource for information, especially when prospects use search engines for similar companies or products.

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