I was speaking with a business owner recently about a number of topics and we got round to marketing and then on to Twitter. While many businesses large and small have decided to take the plunge, to varying degrees of success it has to be said, this business had made a conscious decision not to go down the Twitter route at this time. The reason was simple. They figured that the type of clients they were after, larger companies and public sector, wouldn’t use Twitter so why waste scarce effort that could be better utilised on other activities.
That reasoning got me thinking a little about the whys and wherefores of using Twitter for business. Take up of Twitter has not been universal and varies across the world with the US as ever leading the way. It isn’t yet the case that there is an expectation that every company has a Twitter account in the same way that there is now an expectation that every company should have a web site. This might change in years to come but until that time there are probably four main reasons why a company would choose to start down the Twitter road.
With the ever increasing numbers of people and organisations using Twitter and many of them using it as a source of information in addition to search engines the chances are that if you don’t engage then your business might be missing out on another opportunity to be visible to the ‘outside world’. Just what the size of that population might be will always be difficult to judge but it’s reasonable to assume that there will be some people and organisations out there that use Twitter who may not be aware of what you have to offer until you start tweeting – providing you get them to follow you. Much has been written about the ability to provide quick updates to followers showing that you always keep up to speed with current events etc., something that followers (and customers) appreciate.
The argument that potential customers of your business won’t be using Twitter so there is no point investing time and effort in it is an interesting one. It will depend on the type of product or service you sell and whether it’s B2C or B2B. The best way to find out is to ask your existing customers if they actively use Twitter and if they do what they use it for. It’s easy to do a search as well to see if they have created accounts and are using them or to see if there is a ‘Follow Us’ link on their website. Your marketing strategy will also have pin-pointed potential targets so do a search on them too. That covers those targets that you may well be aiming at anyway, regardless of whether you use Twitter or not.
The difficulties arise when either a Twitter account name isn’t directly related to the company name or when it’s individuals in the company who use Twitter perhaps in a personal as well as professional capacity. No-one truly knows who their customers and clients will be in the future and you don’t always know how they find out about you. The more channels you use to engage with potential customers the greater chance you have of gaining new business.
Opportunities for Collaboration
Much is said about gaining paying customers directly but a tool such as Twitter helps with networking with similar businesses or individuals. We all know competition is healthy but many companies collaborate with others to ensure they can deliver a range of related products and services. The very nature of Twitter means that people are attracted by the content of what you tweet so your followers will have something in common with you. The use of Lists for grouping similar followers is another way for people to track down Twitter users that interest them.
For businesses, Twitter is often used for passing on information and content of interest, often by linking to websites, blogs or articles as well as direct marketing (best practice suggests this is kept to a minimum). This seems to be the major differentiator between the professional and personal use of Twitter at present. Providing business owners or whoever tweets on behalf of the business always keeps this in mind there ought not to be too many difficulties. Blogs provide businesses an easy way to write short pieces about subject matter that is relevant to their offerings. In the same way Twitter offers an easy way to very briefly add commentary to relevant subject matter and stay connected with followers who may already be or may become customers. Even if your followers don’t have a need to engage you in business they may well, based on how they perceive you from your tweets, refer you to people or businesses they know and referrals are what most businesses crave for.
So, should all businesses be using Twitter? It’s a judgement call and one based on a number of factors and not solely on where you think your potential customers may be in terms of their utilisation of social media. At the end of the day it’s down to individual businesses to decide but even if you decide not to start now you should review that decision every three months or so. After all, done properly, even the smallest of businesses can dip their toes into the world of Twitter with just a modest amount of effort.