More and more businesses are signing up to social networking sites in the hope that it will help to increase enquiries and ultimately boost sales. Only a small percentage however can truly claim to have seen success.
So why is this? Well, quite simply, it is because successful social marketing is far more difficult than it first appears with many small business owners significantly underestimating the amount of work required.
Last year I wrote a post covering the misconception that social media was some sort of magic traffic tool. In that post I explained the importance of social networks as part of an effective digital marketing strategy, but also how the amount of work involved in making them work for you was often significantly more than people anticipate.
If you’ve read my previous post and are committed to include social as part of your daily routine – or indeed if you are already up and running but just need a few more pointers – then read on! The three pointers below offer simple, yet effective tips to help small businesses and start-ups make the most of the time they have committed to social. In this post we’ll be focusing specifically on Twitter. I’ll address other networks in future posts.
We all know first impressions count for so much, yet many businesses seem to forget this basic principle on Twitter. Before you start tweeting and engaging with potential customers, make sure your profile is up to scratch.
Firstly ensure you have a suitable profile image or avatar. This may be your company logo or a professional looking head shot if you prefer, but avoid the default ‘egg’, blurry images or photos portraying you in an overly informal situation – it can be difficult to take people seriously when there is a photograph of them swigging from a pint glass!
Secondly, think carefully about your background image. Again, it’s all about professionalism. Keep it smart and simple for starters, perhaps a nice shot of your products or shop. If you want to take it a step further, speak to a graphic designer about designing you a custom background and ask them to include your contact details, USPs and maybe even one or two customer reviews. Please don’t use personal photos. They may mean a lot to you, but no one else wants to see a photo of you in your speedos in the Costa del Sol.
Twitter also introduced header images in 2012. Header images sit at the top of your profile page, behind your profile image and bio. Here you can be a little more creative, but again do remember to keep it professional.
One of the most common mistakes small businesses make, when on Twitter, is to use it simply as a channel to broadcast news or information. Whilst there is nothing wrong sharing your latest blog post on Twitter, this can’t be the only thing you tweet.
Twitter is a social network, which means to succeed you need to be social. Just pumping out automated tweets from your blog feed will achieve little, if indeed anything at all. People use Twitter to engage so if you’re tweets aren’t engaging, people will simply tune out. Some may even unfollow you – or worse, mark your posts as spam.
There are no shortcuts with Twitter; it really is a full time task. You need to be ‘on it’ all the time, tweeting interesting snippets, commenting on industry news and most importantly engaging with others. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to employ someone full time to look after your social channels, but it does require someone to commit to being your Twitter champion. That person must be articulate, have a good understanding of your business and be prepared to be almost permanently attached to your social channels.
Social channels have opened up a whole new way for people to communicate with businesses and as such these channels must be manned, just like your main contact telephone number and email address. In fact, due to the 24/7 nature of the World Wide Web, and the global explosion of the smart phone, social channels are fast becoming the de facto method of contact for customers to communicate with businesses.
A great way to ensure you’re giving your social channels the attention they require is to add the relevant apps to your smartphone. This way you’ll know whenever someone has tweeted or messaged you, without having to be permanently sat at your desk. It also gives you the opportunity to respond quickly and keep an eye on things ‘out of hours’ – both vital if you want to make Twitter a success.
Do be aware however, that once you’ve built up a reasonable following and are interacting with customers, suppliers and peers on a regular basis, you’ll probably find that you need to address the amount of time you are spending to Twitter. It’s all too easy to become consumed and leave your partner a Twitter widow – just ask my wife!
If you can no longer spare enough time to ensure that your Twitter profile continues to be effectively managed, it’s likely you’ll need to share the work, hand over the reins to a colleague with more time on their hands or indeed look to employ a specialist agency to help you take it to the next level. Whatever you do, don’t let all your hard work slip.
Setting up a Twitter profile and engaging with the odd customer, does not a successful social campaign make. To be truly a success on Twitter takes networking. Much like offline business networking, Twitter allows groups of like-minded business man and women to identify and act upon new business opportunities and generate sales enquiries.
Business networks on Twitter can be identified thanks to the hashtag system. Hashtags are used on Twitter to tag specific keywords or topics within a tweet and were created by Twitter users, as a way of categorising tweets. Hashtagging has gone on to be a major part of the way Twitter operates.
Hashtags are often used by business groups to facilitate prearranged business networking events on Twitter. At a predetermined date and time, business owners within a particular niche, will take to Twitter, tagging their tweets with a pre-agreed hashtag. This tag allows those who want to be involved in the event to perform a search (by simply clicking on the hashtag) for all other tweets ‘tagged’ with that word or phrase.
One excellent example of business networking on Twitter is the phenomenally successful #yorkshirehour. The brainchild of holiday cottage owner Helen Massey, who admits borrowing the idea from #scotlandhour, Yorkshire Hour encourages Yorkshire business owner’s to network with both clients and other business owners every Wednesday between 8pm and 9pm.
So how, do you find out about such networks? Simple, refer to point 2 above – rinse, and repeat!
So there you have it, 3 simple yet effective ways to improve your use of Twitter. Happy tweeting! Image credit