5 Tips for using twitter for your small business

Sep 14, 2015

If you’re a small business looking to fill a niche, Twitter is the social network of choice to bring you closer to your customers, your fans, other small businesses in the industry and related media types. They’re all on Twitter, they all follow each other, and in order to reach your small business’s full potential you definitely want to be in on the action.

Unfortunately, Twitter is also an incredibly unforgiving medium. The road to Twitter success is paved with the bones of failed business accounts who couldn’t handle their handle and got steamrolled by the community at large. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, here are 5 of the most important issues to keep in mind when you sign up for that first corporate Twitter account.

1. Engagement is a 2-way Street

It can’t be stressed enough: social networking was designed for social interaction. You aren’t on the mountaintop, shouting down to your customers. That’s what print advertising was, and now print is dead. Instead you need to ask questions and find other sources of engagement from other accounts before you can begin to imagine other people taking your own promotional tweets seriously. 

Remember, not only are your customers on Twitter; but also contractors, content creators, distributors, manufacturers and other similar businesses in the same niche. Open your mind and you might see new relationships springing up in entirely unexpected directions. 

2.  Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately

Use your retweet button, it’s there for a reason. One of the most powerful things you can do on Twitter is find someone else’s content and promote it out of the blue because you think it’s something special. With nothing immediately apparent to gain from the interaction, you’ll still reap incredible social media karma and get paid back with similar promotion down the road when you least expect it. Praise is one of the most powerful things on the Internet, people definitely don’t do it enough, and the best part about it is you don’t need to spend a dime, it’s FREE!

Likewise, one of the most destructive tools you gain access to on social networks is public criticism. Tread incredibly lightly here, because getting on the wrong end of what will inevitably devolve into public shaming has cost more than one business it’s entire twitter presence.

Instead, criticism and all other questionable interactions should be saved for the direct message feature of Twitter. By communicating privately, you can often get the response you are looking for with no one’s Twitter followers the wiser.

3.  Tweet if you Need A Response Immediately

Tweeting to a twitter handle is one of the quickest ways to get a response in all of social networking. To make sure you are going to get the response you are looking for, make sure to be as clear as possible. Give every detail you can. Be as specific as you can. And above all else, make sure your story checks out before you say anything. 

If you are about to ask a manufacturer why half of your order showed up the wrong color, that better be the case. Because calling someone out when you are in the wrong is one of the more deadly mistakes you can make.

4.  Treat Hashtags With Care

Twitter helpfully puts a big list of the current trending hashtags on the left sidebar every time you check your account. What you don’t want to do is use ANY of those tags without doing some serious research to understand the originating story behind it. If you try to sell your brand of corn chips and connect it to a hashtag describing a world news item where people’s lives are on the line you will suffer consequences.

5.  Respond Quickly and Non-Defensively to Criticism

Remember how we said using Twitter was a great way to get a quick response? If someone sends you criticism you need to be ready to do damage control as soon as possible.

And the absolutely worst form of damage control is to lash unthinkingly out at the original tweeter before you have taken the time to understand the position. Do the research. Is the customer right in this case? And even if they aren’t, is this the sort of situation where the customer ends up being right anyway?

Remember, Twitter is about giving the same attention you are getting. Instead of a zero sum game, think of Twitter (as well as other social media) as a way to lift everyone up at the same time. You can all be winners at the end, finding ways to run each other’s businesses better than you ever thought possible. Good luck!

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