Unless you’ve been living in a cave or just emerged from a year-long biosphere experiment, you’re aware of the hype over Twitter and the scramble to figure out either how you can use it to grow your business or how you can ignore it and still not be left behind. Well, you can’t ignore it or you will be left behind so let’s look at some very simple ways you can enhance your business strategy with Twitter and maybe even enjoy yourself in the process.
According to internet guru Pete Cashmore’s website http://mashable.com, an estimated 6 million people in the United States have registered Twitter accounts. The research firm eMarketer estimates that this number will double by the end of 2009 to more than 12 million and by 2010 will reach more than 18 million users.
Yikes, you’re thinking. “How can my brand or business stand out in the sheer volume of noise of six million people tweeting?” A better question might be “What do I know that others might also want to know?”
OK, here’s the secret. Twitter is just a conversation. You have conversations everyday. Talk to people on Twitter just as you would were he/she to come into your bricks and mortar store: honestly, personably, helpfully and knowledgably.
- Share: Twitter is a conversation. Talk to people the way you would if you met them socially in person. If every time you met a potential client or customer you launched into a sales pitch, people would go out of their way to avoid you. But if you developed a reputation for being an engaging, interesting person who generously shares his or her experience with everyone-no strings attached-people would be delight to see you and introduce you to their friends and family. It’s the same concept in Twitter. A realtor who Tweets about community affairs, house maintenance tips, great contractors, good sales and special events in the neighborhoods they serve will be considered a resource to people who might not be in the market to buy or sell a home. However, that realtor will be forefront in their minds when a friend is looking to relocate or a family member moves.
- Listen: Conversation is a two-way street. Let’s think again about the similarities between a virtual client interaction and a physical one. If you’re selling jewelry and a potential client walk into your store, you’ll most likely ask them “How can I help you today?” Once you hear that they’re looking for a graduation present, you won’t try to show them engagement rings. In social media, you’ll do the same thing. Tweet about the things you know and the things you care about. Then listen to others and engage in conversations. Think of Twitter as a virtual backyard barbeque. You’ve got a burger in one hand and a soda in the other and you’re talking to some new “neighbors.” You tell them a little about yourself and then you listen as they tell you a little about themselves. When you hear that they are looking for a gymnastics class for their 7 year old, you introduce them to another neighbor, whose child takes gymnastics. They remember you as a great conversationalist, a good listener and a well-connected and helpful neighbor. Next time they need advice, perhaps the name of a good family doctor, you come through again. Ultimately you become a trusted source and when the time comes that they or someone they know needs the service you provide, they will recommend you. On Twitter someone might ask you what hashtags mean or what in the world a Retweet is. Listen to the conversation and provide value to build a strong social media reputation.
- Communicate: Be clear with yourself and others about why you tweet. If you’re using Twitter to grow your business, make sure people can identify what it is you offer. Start with your Twitter name. @Jailbird might not be a great name for an auto dealership but @DriveSmart might be. In many cases, it might be best to use your actual name as your Twitter name. This signals to others on Twitter that your updates will reflect your values and your reputation. Use your twitter profile bio to tell people something about yourself. Include your website link so interested parties can contact you or at least survey your offerings. Customize your twitter background with visual clues as to who you are, what you do and what people might expect from following you. Think of Twitter as an online business card.
- Be authentic: You cannot be all things to all people. Be yourself and engage in the conversations that interest you. Retweet (repeat other people Tweets) things you see on Twitter that you found helpful or intriguing. Act as a filter for your Twitter Followers by participating in conversations that mean something to you and letting the other pass you by. In this way you amplify your interests and muffle the noise created by six million plus people “speaking” all at once.
Don’t be intimidated by Twitter. Jump right in and join the conversation. It can be the biggest social mixer you’ve ever attended, with literally millions of fascinating people waiting, real time, to talk to you. You can follow me on Twitter at @BrandYou. I’m interested in your experiences with Twitter and other social media. I would love to share what I’ve learned with you and I’m looking forward to meeting you there.