You may be feeling the pressure to jump into Twitter for your business because you’re hearing all about how everyone is using it, how dynamic it is, and you think you’ll be left in the dust if you don’t join in. Let me lighten your burden. Unless you have the time and the passion, you’re better off not stepping into the ring.
Here are 6 truths about being successful on Twitter if you’re a small business:
- Twitter is live. It’s real-time. If someone tweets about your business, or asks a question of you or brings a customer service issue to you on Twitter, you need to jump on it right away. That’s what people expect. If it takes you hours – or even days – before you respond, you’ve blown it. Your window of opportunity has closed and you have now established that no one is minding the store, so to speak.
Having a Facebook page for your business is a completely different matter. People will “like” your page, they might leave comments, questions and customer service issues on your Facebook business page, but they DON’T expect an immediate response. It’s a different culture. If it takes a few hours or even into the next business day, they won’t judge you or mock you or unlike you. But on Twitter, those same people are much less understanding and forgiving.
- Following on Twitter is NOT the same as Liking on Facebook. No one will follow you on Twitter if all you do is tweet advertising messages about how great your business is. You have to post useful info; relevant links to great info; deals; and solutions to customers’ problems if you have any hope of having someone follow you. Following implies a relationship. Liking is a mini-endorsement. A mini-review. A thumbs-up.
- You don’t need a lot of followers. As a business, you may get a lot of interaction on Twitter but few followers. People will like the fact that they can reach you on Twitter and that you’ll respond, but once their issue is resolved or their question is answered, they may not be interested in reading anything else you tweet about. This is okay. It wouldn’t be great for an individual trying to build a following, but it’s a very typical scenario for a small business on Twitter.
- Twitter takes time. It takes time to build credibility on Twitter. It takes time to attract followers. It takes time to monitor what’s being talked about on Twitter so you can weigh in and respond. It is NOT effective to use an app or program that auto-tweets some canned messages for you. People on Twitter are very savvy and they can immediately spot these kinds of empty accounts. They know they’re not dealing with a real person, and they won’t follow or engage.
- You have to be real. People have personalities and on Twitter they want to engage with other real people who also have personalities. You can’t hire a service to pretend to be you. You could, however, hire someone to monitor your company’s Twitter account and forward the questions and customer service issues to you as they happen. But unless you respond immediately, that’s not a worthwhile endeavor either.
- Twitter may not bring you many new customers. If you own a restaurant, for example, and you tweet special deals and happy hour drinks, you can pull more customers in, once they know they can find those on your Twitter account. But most businesses find that the people they engage with on Twitter are usually already customers. Twitter users don’t go to Twitter to find a business unless they have a reason to contact that business. HOWEVER, if someone has a positive experience with your business on Twitter, they will comment on it, and everyone who follows them will see that comment. And THAT can bring new business!
The bottom line for a local business considering Twitter is that you would be better off handling customer service issues on the phone and through your website if you don’t have the time or passion to manage a business Twitter account effectively. Put some effort into your Facebook business page, your blog and your website. Spend money on pay-per-click traffic. But don’t set up a place for customers to come and be discouraged and frustrated because you’re not really there.
If you DO have the time and the energy for Twitter, it can be an enormous opportunity to engage with your customers, and here are some tips for how to do that: