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Steven Strauss: Twitter for Business

April 23, 2012

Question: I like using Twitter to follow famous people and writers I like. The ability to see what they are thinking in real time is cool, and watching a breaking news story unfold on Twitter is also cool. But what I don’t get is how to really use it to grow my own business. And what would I tweet, and who would care?

Answer: Well, I tread in dangerous waters when I wade into the River Twitter, but here we go.

The first time I wrote about Twitter – several years ago – I suggested that “people really don’t want to know what you had for lunch.” OK, right, I didn’t get Twitter at the time, and not a few of you told me that. These days, let’s say I am a bit better informed. I tweet regularly, have about 10,000 followers, and it is an essential part of my marketing strategy, as it is for many businesses. But that said, Twitter nevertheless remains out of the marketing mix for a lot of small businesses.

Now, why is that?

A main reason is that the social media landscape has grown so big, so fast, that it is hard for some small business people to get a handle on yet one more thing, and they would rather play in the familiar playground of Facebook than work in Twitter (or learn Google+, Pinterest, etc.)

Consider: I first wrote my best-selling book, The Small Business Bible, in 2003. There is nary a mention of social media in that first edition because it didn’t exist. I wrote the second edition in 2007, and the only social media site I mention was . . . MySpace (yikes!) because that was it at the time. So when my editor asked me last year if I had anything new to say if we did a third edition, I was happy to report that yes, I sure did. (And incidentally, the book just came out and has about a dozen new chapters on, yes, social media, technology, etc.)

But even though there are a lot of social media sites to master these days, let me suggest that the payoffs vis-à-vis Twitter in particular, can be significant for the small business. Indeed, there are four main reasons why it’s smart (and not too late) for any small business to still jump on the Twitter bandwagon:

1. It is a great megaphone for branding: Twitter is not free – it takes time, and time is, after all, money. That said, it is time well spent. Branding a business usually takes a lot of money – you have to spend to get people to notice you and the business personality you are working to create. But by tweeting tweets that reinforce your brand, by creating a Twitter page that does the same, by becoming a thought leader via Twitter, and then by connecting with people on the site, you slowly but surely build your small business brand.

2. It is a great prospecting tool: By using the Twitter search function, you can find the people who need what you sell, with whom you can do deals, etc.

3. Twitter is the networking tool of today. No longer do you need to trudge off to the chamber mixer to meet folks who you might be able to do business with someday. No, today it is easier, faster, and cheaper to find them via Twitter. Using the tool to create and foster relationships is among its best attributes.

Maybe the easiest way to do that is to follow hashtag (#) conversations and topics that interest you and then forge relationships with those folk.

4. It is a great tool for staying connected with your customers: Small businesses that have been most successful with Twitter use it to offer exclusive deals and content to their base. By encouraging your customers to follow you on Twitter, and doing so by offering special deals on the site, you are being given permission to interact with your customers more often.

What should tweet? Well, what tweets do you like? It is probably content that is interesting, valuable, fun, or quirky. It is a coupon to your business. It is a free e-book you wrote. It is an article that you think your followers would find useful. It is a link to a video. It is your recommended ‘website of the day.’  It is content that builds your brand and connects you to your followers.

Above all, it content that will be re-tweeted because being re-tweeted is the best currency in Twitter. It is word of mouth advertising, a personal recommendation, and a free way to get noticed all rolled into one.

So yes, I have come a long way too. These days I say, tweet and grow rich, my friends.

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