Should your Business use Twitter?

TwitterThinking about joining twitter? Wondering whether it is good for your business? There are many experts and gurus telling you that you must have a social media strategy, that you must have a twitter account and that you must start using it. In many ways I agree, because undoubtedly your customers are using social media, and if for whatever reason they are unhappy with your company, they will make it known to their internet circle. In these cases you can be proactive and fix your brand quickly. By registering an account in twitter you can at least reserve your name.

The downside is the time it takes to do this, especially in the beginning, when you need to learn what is going on, and you are tempted to chase the tail of those who are leaders in the field. When you consider Seth Godin’s excellent advice in the Dip, does having a twitter account make you the ‘best’ in your world? If it did, then you would already be on it I guess. If not, then can it help you be the best, or will it be something that will help you in the future? The future argument is the one the experts and gurus are pushing, along with a series of eBooks or webinars or whatever. Twitter is coming, you need to jump on the bandwagon before it is too late etc etc.

I do think that in business you need to be focussed. The people who are successful in business have focussed completely on one particular problem, and then became successful by fixing it. By jumping from one opportunity to another, then to another, you run the real risk of never really solving the problem, and forever being mediocre. How can twitter help you solve the problem? That’s the question you should ask.

Listen. Twitter is basically a whole bunch of text messages being sent across the internet. The text messages are sent one to one, or one to many, and those text messages can be forwarded and distributed to many other websites. Activity on other websites can be converted into a text message and sent to twitter. You can listen using twitter, as you are able to search the whole site, and setup saved searches. This is unlike Facebook, where you can be complained about and never know, as the updates could be hidden. Twitter is mostly open. To start listening, setup an account in the business name, maybe feed your articles and press releases to it, and respond to any mentions or messages of your brand.

Follow. There is a whole debate over how many followers you have or don’t have and whether to follow back or not follow back. The thing to me is that if someone has followed you on twitter, you don’t really know whether it is automatic, or whether someone has taken an interest in what you say. Does it harm your brand by ignoring them, and does it help your brand by following them? Interesting question. The one thing to be clear in your mind is what your purpose is on twitter. If you want your brand to stretch out and make connections then follow, follow, follow is what I say. If you are focussed on local business or some specific niche, then perhaps you only follow back when the person is interesting to you.

Connect. This is the timesink. This is where you stand to waste a lot of time getting very little return. Make conversation, retweet others regularly, and you will stretch your brand. I say stretch because that is what you are doing. Stretching to connect with masses of people and introduce yourself to them, maybe converting them into a customer. If you are a local brand and your area of business is physically small, then conversing with people in another country might not be the best use of your time. If you are an internet business and national boundaries are irrelevant, then it might work for you.

Snipe. I don’t know whether anyone else uses this term. I just made it up, but I am sure that the more focussed people will use this technique. Sniping is setting up a number of very specific searches, concentrating on your local area and your products and services. Search for people who are in your local area or niche and connect with them. Respond to anything mentioning your products and services or niche in your local area. This would take 5 mins a day, not a significant drain on your time.

Learn. I like twitter lists. I have a few setup which are private to me and those are what I read. I do read my twitter stream, but only a couple of pages and basically to strike up conversation with people or retweet something I think is interesting and within my theme. Its kind of my brand marketing if you like. Following specific people or businesses in a list is much easier, and you can quite easily keep up with what you need to without wasting time searching through all the noise. You can follow people through a list and not follow them in your account, which can be useful. This is where you can find a lot of useful information, and keep up to date.

Twitter is here, and for many business owners making sense of it is a bit of a conundrum. Before twitter, you could hide problems and complaints, but now there is a kind of flocking activity, where many thousands of people can ‘flock’ to interesting stories in a very short amount of time. For some companies and brands this represents a murder of crows rather than a flock of birds, as the media is also keeping watch and picking out stories to report on. Twitter has brought a higher level of transparency to our lives, the question is how long before your business is effected, and what should you do about it.

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