As a marketing tool, Twitter has proven to be a real gift for small business. Through an active Twitter account, you can reach customers locally or globally, establish your expertise and leadership in your field, promote your business and brand, drive traffic to your website or link your marketing efforts on and offline… and best of all, it’s FREE! However, certain pitfalls seem specific to the small business owner who is overworked, overscheduled and struggling to take advantage of all the digital revolution can provide. Avoid dropping the following Twitterbombs, most being related to time management, that can derail your social media success:
1: Twitter is my soapbox.
Twitter is a conversation, not a monologue. Well, it can be a monologue but people both online and in daily relationships do not enjoy being preached at and quickly tune out. You have a forum to announce your information, but also a great opening to learn what your potential customers are thinking. You want to encourage people to read your posts AND to respond to them. As in any conversation, the process demands both the ability to listen and a commitment of time (a precious commodity for a small business owner). Which leads to the next point…
2: I don’t have time to talk to everyone.
Answer all Replys and DMs (Direct Messages). Ignoring someone’s comment, or forgetting to thank them for a Retweet, is a sure way to generate ill will on Twitter. Check for DMs regularly and browse the @Connect feed, which will give you a history of Retweets and followers. You can respond briefly when appropriate and thank them for their interest even if you don’t agree with their comment! Oh, and remember to wear a thick skin and take the high road… social media communications can often be brutal.
3: I am not here to follow.
For myself, the most damaging signal I see for a business account on Twitter is when they have a number of Followers, but are themselves following no one. This clearly says “I want no contact, I only want people to listen to me.” Again, Twitter is a conversation, not a one-way forum. Follow potential customers, local buisnesses, experts in your field, everyone who has contact with you! They have valuable information to provide you as well.
This habit really irritates many on Twitter: you don’t have a lot of time, so when you get online you tweet multiple times in a row – sometimes dozens! – then disappear until the next day. The timeline of your followers fills up with you avatar over and over. Irritated and feeling ambushed, your followers will at best not read all of that flurry of information, and at worst, Unfollow you. Often it is a time management problem, and for many the solution is a free dashboard application such as Tweetdeck that allows you to monitor, schedule and manage your tweets and replies on your own time. If you find yourself Storm-tweeting, this may be worth checking out.
5: My account is dead.
The worst. If you build up a following on Twitter, you should commit to using and contributing to it DAILY (you can slide on weekends if you must). If you leave it inactive, you have essentially made a public announcement that your business is, well, sort of dead! You’ve left a Twitter-corpse lying in the public domain. If you abandon your Twitter account, by all means deactivate it.
6: TMI, or “Did you really just say that?”
Up front, you should take some time to decide what voice you want to speak with on Twitter. You can be a completely business-like entity, unlinked to any individual person. You can be a parody account, the voice of your brand or a brand mascot, or a multi-faceted voice of many employees all tweeting under the same name. But whatever you choose, set some guidelines for your approach in terms of what topics to cover and how to handle various interactions. Revealing some personal details or day to day events in your company will interest followers and humanize your brand. If taken too far, this can also work to alienate followers or create an impression that is unprofessional or unpleasant. In other words, while it is not productive for a small business to have a completely robotic, non-human voice on Twitter, it is probably worse to use your brand’s account to announce pet peeves, physical ailments, or “I just ousted @SoandSo as the Mayor of Lolita’s Bar and Grill.” Be aware of the tone and voice you cultivate publicly. And never, ever engage in spats or arguments, no matter how tempting!
If you have been guilty of a few of these, don’t feel bad. There is real social media learning curve for us all and the “rules” are generally in flux as times and technology change. Remember that your Twitter account is a public representation of your self, your company, your brand… have fun and expand your knowledge and contacts as well as seek to gain a solid ROI. If you enjoy the interaction, your followers will as well. Your online presence will be more fully rounded and attractive to your audience, and you will also discover a great deal that you would never have been privy to otherwise. Following people and businesses in your own town and your own field will keep you better informed than any news outlet or nosey neighbor ever could. Being better informed makes you better equipped to effectively market your business.
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