Twitter seems to be a tool that many small businesses just can't grasp. I see it every day when monitoring key hashtags for our clients and the inbound marketing industry. Many simply send tweets promoting their products and talk about themselves. This is a big no-no on Twitter, do this and you'll lose followers like I lost my hair. Twitter is a conversational platform and a great way to give a voice to your business, if done right. Think of Twitter as a dinner party with a lot of different conversations happening at one time. You wouldn't walk into a group and start telling everyone how awesome you are would you? No, you'd listen and find out what the conversation is about, then interject value to the conversation when the time is right.
Twitter like other social networks has an ethical standard of behavior. The conversations taking place can be anything under the sun—educational, crude, rude, entertaining, promotional—you name it, people are talking about it on Twitter. Even though it may be the wild wild west when it comes to what is being talked about on Twitter, there's still a set of best practices when it comes to how you use it. Ignore these and your brand will suffer.
Here are 6 ways businesses can succeed on Twitter and avoid the #fail:
A company that is oblivious to engagement and broadcasts out tweets linking back to its own website is largely ignored. Constantly pushing out sales messages on any social network is a social media death sentence, but some businesses still need a little help in understanding how to engage on Twitter. Treating Twitter as a one-way advertising tool will alienate followers and tells people that your company simply doesn't get it. The goal is to pull people in and form relationships with them. The key to doing this is by treating them as a person. Be human.
Don't barge into a conversation with your own agenda or promotion. Monitor conversations that are important to your buyer personas and see how people are engaging. You'll learn a lot by listening. You'll learn about industry trends, new competitors, ways to improve your products, and new markets. You can do this by following your competitors and running Twitter search feeds for keywords that relate to your company or industry. The information is out there, all you have to do is watch for it.
Once you have monitored conversations and are ready to engage with people, begin by giving value. Answer questions, share useful information, be human. Let's say you run a restaurant, don't broadcast all your menu items and how great they taste. Instead tweet about special recipes, or do a Meet Your Server post on your blog and tweet that out. Tweet about the benefits of organic foods over processed or 10 Ways to Cook a Steak. Just don't try to sell. It's okay to have selling CTAs (call-to-action) on your site. Just don't make them the main focus of your Twitter strategy.
Remember every tweet ends up in the feed of all your followers. Try not to go on bursts and send out 10-15 tweets in a minute or two. This will cause people to jump ship fast. Schedule your tweets with software like HubSpot or Hootsuite, then you'll be able to schedule them to post throughout the day. It's okay to send anywhere from 4 to 15 tweets a day, your audience's engagement will give you a good idea of what a good tweet amount should be.
Twitter like other social networks is all about being social. Obvious, right? Break the ice with interesting and relevant information, but also make sure to talk with them, ask them questions, and encourage them to talk with you. Twitter is one big conversation.
Take part in one-on-one conversations and tweetchats. Doing this can tell you what people like and what they don't like about your brand. They can also tell you what they want or what their pain points are. If you listen, you can learn how to improve your products and better fit their needs. Engaging with people on Twitter can also help shape your content strategy, giving you ideas on how to better solve their problem. Give your brand a human voice and engage with others, do this and people will engage with you.
Twitter is a unique platform for marketing your business. Using Twitter for business is completely different than using Facebook, YouTube, or Google+ for your business. It's more conversational and great for mining information, but it's harder to manage properly. Don't broadcast, listen, add value, don't overshare and be human—if you follow these best practices your business will be on the path to Twitter glory!