Small Business Marketing Success Stories: Twitter

Let’s start here: Twitter may be approaching a tipping point, although it could be years away. It has about 1/8 the active users of Facebook, and you can make an argument that the only people who should really be on Twitter are journalists and thought leaders in different industries. I like Twitter a lot, but even the notion of the “share” / “retweet” — which are core tenets of the digital democracy idea — tend to lead to a lot of clutter. If you find an article you like on, let’s say, The Atlantic — and it’s in your field/interest area/what have you, and you share it, well … let’s say when you clicked “Share” the number on the share box was 282 or something. That means you’re the 283rd person/bot to put that link onto Twitter. Since people’s follower lists tend to cluster around interests, that means someone might have seen that link 15-20 times. Good for the author and good for The Atlantic, but … if people start getting bored of that kind of Twitter context, possibly bad for Twitter.  That’s all a long way of saying: good to great for right now, but the future is, well… it’s a bit questionable.

Still, you can and should market there. For example, consider:

Twitter isn’t just for big companies or spray-and-pray marketing. Any business can find a place on the platform—the key is conversation. Pay attention to your customers and respond to their questions, compliments and concerns. Keep their attention with fun facts, real-time information and local flavor.

Yep. That’s the crux of the platform. In terms of businesses offering customer service via Twitter, some old-school types seem scared of this. They shouldn’t be. JetBlue does it fairly well, and get this: they’re winning customer satisfaction surveys. You think that doesn’t affect the bottom line? It does, for sure. I said something about this — using Twitter as a customer service tool — in an interview with Anheuser Busch last year and they looked at me like I had just spayed their pet in front of them in the cramped interview room. I still think it’s a good tool, whether you’re a big business or a small one.

Same vein:

Best Buy’s Twelpforce has answered 20,000 customer questions since July, and is featuring Twelpforce in company TV ads.

Here’s another example that makes a good point in the process:

Another Facebook fan is Alison Howell, the founder and managing director of the 10-year-old travel company Foottrails who came to social media relatively late. She made the decision to focus on Facebook and Twitter because of limited resources and has used both networks since 2012. “Social media does take time,” says Howell, who takes on most of the responsibilities for social media herself. “I think it is best to focus on just a few networks and regularly update those.”

Yep. That’s a big one. This stuff takes time and you don’t always see the dollars flow in immediately after you send out a tweet. I write on this blog like four times a day sometimes and some days, I’ll get 200 visitors total. It sucks, and you feel like “Whoa, I put in effort and got nothing.” Wrong. Effort takes time. So does social media. Especially Twitter, because over there it’s less algorithm and more when-you-log-on-and-what-you-see-then (unless you promote tweets). In the same vein, when you choose a back-end for your website, choose something like WordPress or Drupal that anyone can come in and learn pretty easily. Otherwise if it’s too nuanced, you have basically one person running it — means he/she can’t leave — and it’s a time suck. Online marketing should be integrated within the overall day-to-day of the business, not a time suck around it. That’s when people start to get frustrated.

Be “strategic” — a word often misused in business circles — around the follow and unfollow, as detailed here:

Listen. We all dream of having millions of followers or thousands of adoring fans. Problem is, focusing on numbers – especially on Twitter – is the equivalent of simply banging on a pot with a metal spoon; you’ll be generating a lot of noise. Focus on growing your Twitter following organically and targeted. The best way to achieve this is to select one of your target markets and spend some time following accounts that fall within this area. Use the search functionality right on Twitter or visit listing resources such as Listorious. Follow up to 50 accounts. Approximately 48 hours later, go to an service such as JustUnfollow and stop following up to 50 accounts that did not reciprocate. The next day, repeat this process. Keep doing this with specific target markets or accounts you wish to follow – those that are most relevant and beneficial.

And even though it can seem “un-professional,” don’t fear being casual in the Twitter space:

The most effective Twitter accounts (aside from celebrities) are those managed by folks not afraid to take chances and get creative. Here are some great examples: CoffeeGroundzKogi BBQ and Maine’s very own BeadinPath. Add some flair and personality to your tweets. As a small business, you want to be approachable and getting creative and lighthearted can help you achieve that goal.

Remember also: there are 2.1 billion Twitter searches every 24 hours (give or take), so focus on how you word things. What would people be looking for and what would they type into the Twitter search bar if they were using Twitter for information? (Also remember: for those who are good with Twitter, they realize it’s a much better source of real-time information than Google might be; this is a problem area for Google that they’ve tried to fix and not had a ton of success with, aside from the Google cards telling you about your day). Focus on the writing of a tweet, even in a small space.

Here’s a success story straight from Twitter’s own PR/marketing campaigns:

Roger Slack, the GM and Promoter of @EldoraSpeedway, uses Twitter as a central part of the historic track’s marketing and promotion strategy, bringing fans closer to the world of racing by tweeting behind-the-scenes access to upcoming races, post-race highlights and even real-time updates on race days.

For the charity event, @EldoraSpeedway used Promoted Tweets to target racing enthusiasts not only in Ohio, but also across other key U.S. markets known to generate strong TV ratings and / or ticket sales.

And here’s one from Rock/Creek:

Rock/Creek sells upmarket outdoor gear both online and in five brick and mortar stores. The company was planning a sale for Black Friday but knew that they would be competing with much larger retail outfits in the weeks leading up to the annual shopping extravaganza. Their solution was to get out in front of their competitors by advertising their sales early and creating a sense of urgency with a countdown. To do this, Rock/Creek relied on Twitter to get the word out to likely followers. (In this case, people who were interested in kayaking, camping, rock climbing, etc.) The result was a 172% increase in followers and the company’s best single shopping day of 2012. Not bad for a few well-timed 140 character messages!

Putting it to Work for You:

Create a sense of urgency: Tweets are immediate and have the potential to make followers and potential followers feel that they must act or run the risk of missing out. Consider running a countdown, reminding followers that there are only 10 sets of tickets left, or telling them how many other people have already taken advantage of your amazing deal. This is a surefire strategy that will make followers take notice — nobody likes being left in the dust, even if it is virtual dust.

There’s definitely an aspect of marketing in the moment here, for sure. The key is to (a) have a plan and (b) transparently communicate — that means in terms of writing style, responding to customers, and offering them something they want (also, please only promote the most relevant stuff, otherwise you’re burning a hole in your pocket).

Twitter also has an entire guide to this stuff — part of a bigger campaign by them and Facebook and other platforms to court small businesses — that you can check out.

Bottom line: You can do it; just remember it’s a semi-organic way to have a conversation and treat it like that. 

Ted Bauer