A very good friend of mine, Julian Lyons, runs IMI Ltd., a long-established premium sourcing company based in Central London. Julian recently announced in a LinkedIn post that his company, which does a lot of business internationally, particularly with China, had updated the Sustainability and Ethics Policy on its website. It’s a very comprehensive policy and I know that Julian believes passionately that his company should operate sustainably and needs to avoid at all costs doing business with any suppliers which could be benefitting from the use of child labour or forced labour.
Most of them tell me that they understand the marketing potential of Twitter. Many of them already have a Twitter account for their business but a lot of them also tell me that they just don’t have enough time to manage this account properly.
It’s certainly true that building up a critical mass of quality followers on Twitter takes time and effort – there are really no easy short-cuts. Business owners will need to set aside some “Twitter Time” each day. In building up their followers they should aim to target people on Twitter who’ll either spread the word to others on Twitter about the business or be likely purchasers of products/services from the business themselves.
It’s quite easy to build up follower numbers through follow-backs if you’re not particularly choosy about who you follow, but the reality is that local businesses need local followers. Having a whole lot of “bots” following you on Twitter is not going to be of much use.
If your business is one which sells products online throughout the UK it’s a different story – having a geographically well-spread Twitter following is preferable, but if you’re say a taxi company based in Sevenoaks you’re going to want to have a Twitter following that’s predominantly local. It may be nice to have lots of Twitter followers in the U.S. but as a taxi company the people who will use and therefore who need to know about your services are mainly going to live within say a 10 mile radius of Sevenoaks.
So, having started to build up a local Twitter following, if our Sevenoaks taxi company wants to get the best out of Twitter it will need to achieve a sufficient level of engagement with its followers. To do this the business owner will need to tweet about the things that people who will use a local taxi service are interested in – special offers, traffic delays and perhaps fun stuff too – famous passengers, or anecdotes about getting passengers to Heathrow Airport with minutes to spare.
I meet many business owners who set up a Twitter account and for a short time really give it a go. Then they start to get frustrated that their follower numbers aren’t growing and that time spent on Twitter doesn’t seem to be translating into new business. The message I would give them is this – be patient and don’t give up on Twitter.
You need to tweet regularly and really think about who you want to reach. If you don’t devote sufficient time to managing a Twitter account, tweet infrequently or just don’t tweet anything that really engages your target customers, Twitter probably won’t work for your business as a marketing tool.
In my personal opinion Twitter can work for pretty much any small business. It certainly works for mine. Any company that wants to do more business using Twitter has to have a Twitter marketing plan (which doesn’t need to be anything elaborate) and has to stick at it.
Getting the Best Out of Twitter as a Marketing Tool
Here are my tips for the owners of small businesses:
1. Tweet (and re-tweet) regularly (at least once a day).
2. Tweet stuff that is of interest to your followers – engage, entertain and enlighten them.
3. Follow people who might need your services – hopefully they’ll follow you back. (Use Nearbytweets.com to find local people to follow).
4. Use the search feature to find Twitter conversations to engage in.
5. Start Twitter conversations. Ask and answer questions on Twitter. Respond to mentions.
6. Measure the results of your Twitter marketing. Ask people where they found you (don’t be afraid to DM your followers). Allow them to print a coupon/voucher that you only put on Twitter so you can track its effectiveness.
7. Make sure that your Twitter marketing ties in with your other marketing activities, particularly your business website. Twitter is a helpful marketing tool but it’s not a small business marketing solution in its own right.
Steve is the owner of Bishopsgate Copywriting and works in Sevenoaks, Kent.
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