According to emarketer in 2009, there will be 18 million US adults who access Twitter on any platform at least monthly – a 200% increase over 2008. Usage will reach 26 million US adults in 2010, a further 44.4% climb.
That is the huge opportunity to connect with a ton of people you normally wouldn’t have access to. These ‘Tweeple’ represent your customers and competitors so if they are on Twitter, you need to be too. However the thing is that in today’s day and age, people want to see immediate results, and think Twitter will deliver them. Unfortunately this is not true. For social media marketing on Twitter and other social sites, it will take time and effort. However the return on investment is very likely to be higher than other online marketing tools.
Anyway Twitter is a great and free tool and needs to be part of any small business marketing plan. So how do you get started using Twitter for small business? Signing up for an account is self-explanatory and free (btw. for a professional twitter background try twitbacks).
The question is how to gain real value from Twitter and in a first step who to follow and why?
Find your competitors and follow them
Find the major competitors in the industry you’re interested in by checking the twitter directories like Twellow or Wefollow. Or use Twitter search for any trending topic related to your business and follow the corresponding twitterer. Following your competitors allows you to see how they use Twitter and track their promotions, sales and strategies. You may even find ways to partner with competitors once you develop a connection on Twitter.
Find your customers and follow them
Well, you can ask your customers of course if they use Twitter or check their websites for links to Twitter. You can also use Google searches for your customers: just search on their personal names, company names, product names or brand names and include the word “Twitter” in the search. For example, typing: +twitter +”richard buettner” in Google produces these results that start with my Twitter page.
Take some time and do some Twitter research. Find out if people are Tweeting about your company. If they are, you need to know about it. Again Twitter Search will show you all past mentions of your company or brand name. But to be completely in the know you need to constantly monitor Twitter for conversations about your company. To do this, you can use various Twitter tools. The two that seem most popular (and easy to setup) are peoplebrowsr and TweetBeep. They will email you alerts when someone has Tweeted about your company, product, brand or whatever keywords you want to monitor.
Also make sure you have your own Twitter handle prominently displayed on your own site so visitors can follow you — and consider following back anyone who follows you. For an automated follow back use socialoomph (You might automatically follow back some spammers this way, but i would not worry too much at an early stage in your twitter life).
If you’re a brick and mortar business and you depend more on local business try the twitter search option “Near this place”. This search, for example, reveals all the tweets coming from anyone within 5 miles of London Clapham. There are also a ton of Twitter applications on the iPhone, and some of them have built in features for locating nearby Twitter users. Each of them basically functions the same, allowing you to search for Twitterers nearby to your exact location, as determined by the geo-location feature of your iPhone.
Find industry thought leaders
If you’re following the major players in your industry, you can forward their best tweets to your followers, through re-tweeting. As your followers come to rely on you as a useful source of ideas and information, you’ll build credibility and they’ll become more loyal to your brand generally. Research the twitter directories for thought leaders – or just follow me .
Make use of recommendations
These Twitter apps use algorithms to find you friends based on your Twitter history – some are good others not so, give them a try:
Twubble – recommends people to follow by spidering the people you’re already following and recommending users that they’re following. The idea is that the people you’re following are interesting to you, so if more than one of them are also following another person, that person might also be interesting.
Twitterel – finds people you might be interested in following by doing keyword searches of tweets. The service can update you by email, direct message, or @reply when it finds new people it thinks you might be interested in following. It’s kind of handy.
Who Should i Follow? – results can be filtered by how popular the people are, and how close they are to a specific location (never worked for me though). You can get sponsored in the listings as well!
Mr. Tweet – provides more helpful statistics about users, such as tweets per day or the percentage of tweets containing links. No keywords search tough.
For the more analytical minded
You have to keep in mind that not all people are equal. When I first joined Twitter, I started following people right out of the gate in order to get some utility out of the site — after all, the only way to join the conversation is to start following it. You’ll soon find out that some of the people you’re following are not necessarily people that you need to follow. Still the majority of Twitterers is pretty inactive so that 75% of all tweets only come from 5% of the Twitter users. One important goal in twitter obviously is to get twitter followers – keep that in mind when you choose followers. So, for instance if you choose people to follow with a high reach and social capital (twitterer has a lot of followers himself) a potential re-tweet by one of these people brings much more additional followers. Also a twitterer with lots of followers and and very little followers is more unlikely to follow you back (simple reason these guys often don’t use “auto-follow”).
Some tools to help you investigate your tweets and make an informed decision about whether to follow or keep following them are
- Twinfluence – scientific approach to measuring the influence of Twitter users. It’s another set of metrics you can use to help you figure out who you want to follow
- Twitter Grader – assigns every users you run through its system a grade from 1-100. Using this tool you can investigate how engaged the people you’re following are
- Tweetcloud – One of the most important factors when deciding whether you want to follow a Twitter user is what sort of content they tweet about. If someone tweets mostly about topics you don’t care about, they might not be the best person for you to follow. Tweetcloud creates a tag cloud of a person’s tweets to give you a bird’s eye view of the type of things they tweet about.
Obviously to find followers is important and a first step to enter social media marketing for small businesses – however Twitter is completely useless if you do not have a serious following. How to get more followers I will discuss in a later post.