Many people have probably at least heard of Twitter, but have no idea what it does or what it has to offer for business marketing. It's one of the most popular social media platforms on the internet, and people have been using it since 2008 to broadcast brief messages using no more than 240 characters, which is just a few sentences.
For anyone who's considered using Twitter for business, if you're questioning whether it gets enough traffic to get your business any real visibility, rest assured that the Twitter platform receives a vast number of visitors every day. Alexa, an internet analytics company that ranks all websites in order of who's getting the most visitors puts Twitter at No. 8 in the U.S. and No. 13 on the international list of most visited websites.
OK, but your next question might be, exactly how do businesses use Twitter? And you're probably hoping that the answer is that Twitter can add value, take minimal time and effort and not saddle you with any serious costs. It turns out that Twitter may just be able to satisfy all your requests, and can turn into a great marketing tool for your company once you learn how to use it to its best advantage.
What Is Twitter for Business?
To boil it down, Twitter for business is the standard Twitter platform with the option to pay for different types of advertising. You can use Twitter to advertise your business and engage with customers, suppliers, influencers and anyone else interested in your business or product, at no charge when using the regular platform.
Once you get the hang of Twitter though, you'll be able to pay to have your tweets promoted to the top of search results, which allows you to reach other groups outside your list of followers.
You can also pay to have a Promoted Account, which will help you and your brand become more discoverable because it displays ads targeted to Twitter users who have shown they have relevant interests to your brand or product. You can also choose to pay for Twitter's Promoted Trends service, which is another type of ad that displays in Twitter's Trends box, at the top of its "trending topics" list.
Say you go this route, but then you find that your paid advertising campaigns aren't performing as well as you'd like. Twitter offers other marketing tools that can help you maximize your campaign dollars. For example, you can use Twitter Amplify to post real-time television content such as sports highlights or other clips that integrate with your brand. You can also choose to do Promoted Videos about your business, products or related topics, and the videos are hosted directly by Twitter so that viewers don't have to leave the site to watch a video posted on YouTube.
In the Twitter universe, getting followers is the whole goal, because this becomes your core audience that consumes all of the interesting content, useful information, product offerings and whatever else you choose to post. Some businesses attempt to buy followers to ramp up their Twitter activity quickly.
This strategy doesn't tend to pan out well because although you may have followers, they haven't chosen your business on their own, and thus won't likely engage with you, your company or your products and services. The value of Twitter followers for your business lies in them having a real interest in the information, products and services you offer, and the possibility of them becoming your customers and evangelists.
What Are the Benefits of Twitter for Business?
Twitter can offer a variety of benefits, but one of the most important and compelling ways to use Twitter is for business lead generation and the acquisition of new customers. For example, if you run an auto mechanic's garage, do a Twitter search for postings that include "need mechanic" or something similar, such as "recommend a mechanic."
Review the search results, and look for tweets posted by people who reside within 10 miles or so of your business location. You can use third-party tools, such as Hootsuite, to search geographically. You can then engage with these people, address their needs and possibly end up with new customers.
You might also be able to find new leads by keeping an eye out for unhappy customers tweeting about your competitors. If you can step in and solve a problem for them, a quick tweet and reply may turn them into a hot lead and a potentially happy customer. Practice good etiquette though, and reach out to these posters with an intention to help, rather than putting on a hard sell.
If you're on the hunt for new hires for your company, you may find this hard to believe, but sources say that over 50 percent of companies have started using Twitter to hire their new talent, with almost 75 percent of new hires coming from social networks in general. You can use Twitter to search for applicants who are qualified in your field by using search terms that are specific to your industry or the job position.
You might even consider recruiting some of your most ardent followers and active fans as company employees. If somebody is tweeting enthusiastically about your business, there's a decent chance they'll be just as enthusiastic about working for your company.
Many companies choose to conduct market research on Twitter, especially since your followers represent a sort of pre-qualified group of people in your company's niche. These people are your core audience. Post tweets that ask what consumers think about your new service or latest widget. Add a custom hashtag to your post and ask for feedback. Using Twitter in this way can offer spontaneous and no-cost market research. You can post questions just for your followers, but you can also reach out to influencers in your industry and see if they'll offer their take on your product or service.
How to Get Started
To get started on Twitter, The first thing you need to do is set up your account and choose a profile name. You'll be known by your profile name, so choose something that reflects positively on your business, or uses your business name. Your profile name will have an "at" sign before it, like @name.
If you want to get people to engage, they won't respond very well to some impersonal corporate logo. To that end, use an avatar photo of you or the person who will be tweeting and interacting on your Twitter account. Next, complete the information in your bio and make sure to add the address of your website so that your followers know how to get in touch and find you.
Now you're ready to start finding people to follow. Look for people or businesses, such as suppliers, that would post interesting, relevant and useful information, and would also be interested in reading what you have to say.
Next, it's time to start posting tweets. You may have heard about something called hashtags, especially if you've watched Jimmy Fallon on late night TV, and one of your first questions might be, how do you use a hashtag on Twitter?
The hashtag symbol # is very important in the Twitter world. It acts as a signal to the Twitter search engine to grab whatever words follow the # symbol and make them searchable by others. For example, if you want your posts to be discovered by people that love lavender soap, you would put #lovelavendersoap or #lovelavender or something else relevant so that your tweet surfaces for people using these search terms. Some people like to load up their tweets with a bunch of hashtag terms, but don't bother. According to studies, the sweet spot for reader engagement is just one or two hashtags.
When to Do Your Tweeting
One of the great things about the Internet is that it never sleeps. You can post tweets any time of the day or night, which is great for night owl entrepreneurs. As far as how often to post tweets, you may choose to tweet every day, once a week, once a month or whenever something strikes your fancy and seems worth tweeting.
Keep in mind, however, that if you want to keep your followers engaged, the best way to achieve this is to tweet on a regular, reliable basis with fresh news, updates or other information. You could, for example, write a series of tweets and post one a day or one every few days, so that you add topic continuity and don't find yourself struggling to think of a new tweet each day.
You can also find help on job sites like Upwork.com, where you can hire somebody to write tweets for you. You'll need to give them guidance about what type of information you would like to have your tweets focus on, and these tweets should tie into your overall content strategy, which you will want to develop as part of your company's overall marketing plan.
Where Can You Tweet?
One of the great things about Twitter is that you can post tweets from virtually any place that offers an internet or cell connection. While lying in bed, flying on a plane or standing in the middle of a crowded street in an exotic locale, whenever the urge strikes, you can post a tweet. Use your tablet, laptop or cell phone to write your posts, and use either the Twitter app or visit the Twitter website through an internet browser such as Google Chrome; login and tweet away.
Using Tools and Apps to Maximize Twitter Data
Once you learn the basics of Twitter, you can start using tools and apps offered by Twitter and also by third-party developers, to help you use Twitter more effectively and efficiently while also offering new ways to use Twitter's data. For example, you can use an app such as Twitonomy to give you details on your competitor's followers, find out which of them may be a great connection for you to follow, and possibly get yourself some future customers.
You can also use apps to organize your activity on Twitter. For example, over time you might develop quite a large list of people you're following, such as suppliers, customers, the competition and other business contacts. Important messages start to get buried, and it helps to put people you're following and your followers into categorized lists. Twitter offers a tool to build lists, so you could separate all of your competitors into their own list for example, and put suppliers on another list so that you don't miss important tweets.
Many other tools and apps exist, and many of them are free. If you'd like to analyze what your audience finds interesting so you can refine the topics you tweet about, a tool such as Tweepi helps you use keyword searches to find users. This can help you understand and locate members in your target audience, and the tool also shows who's following you as well as who has unfollowed you.
Cynthia Gaffney has spent over 20 years in finance with experience in valuation, corporate financial planning, mergers & acquisitions consulting and small business ownership. She has worked as a financial writer and editor for several online finance and small business publications since 2011, including AZCentral.com's Small Business section, The Balance.com, Chron.com's Small Business section, and LegalBeagle.com. A Southern California native, Cynthia received her Bachelor of Science degree in finance and business economics from USC.