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Twitter for small business owners can be so much more than a promotional channel. Use Twitter effectively to research and get inspired too!
Small business owners today are faced with several challenges as a part of their everyday business operations. First and most importantly, there is the basic need to survive and break-even. Second, is the focus on top-line growth through new customer acquisition or new businesses from existing customers. Third, is the focus on cost reduction, optimization or rationalization. And last but not least is the focus on profits.
Oh! I forgot to mention all the other additional aspects which running a business usually involves – like Positioning, Branding and Marketing, Innovation, Human Resource Management, Communication, Operations, Finance, Strategy, Compliance, etc.
With so many things that need to be done with limited resources and small teams, it can get really busy and overwhelming for small business owners. And it’s so easy to wonder if there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Well here’s the good news! Social media can definitely help address some of these challenges. Not only is social media cost effective, ubiquitous, easy to learn and adopt, but if a well-integrated social media strategy is adopted, the probability of business success is significantly amplified.
In this blog, I will list specific ways in which Twitter can be leveraged for the benefit of small business owners.
The first and most important task is to establish the big “WHY?” – “Why do you as a small business owner want to use Twitter?”
The question is very simple, albeit very important. But giving the right answer usually requires a lot of thought, introspection and clarity on your business goals and strategy. Once you have this answer, the Twitter journey is a lot more focused, useful, productive and enjoyable.
Small business owners could typically use Twitter for any of the following:
The only pre-requisites for this are that you should know who exactly are your customers and whether they are active on Twitter.
Case-in-point: An entrepreneur I know who runs a high-end designer fashion label was working on the Social Media Strategy for her business. During discussions, it emerged that most of her customers are not on Twitter. And hence, it made limited sense for her to invest time and effort in building a Twitter presence exclusively for her customer interactions, or for lead generation / business development activities.
As a small business owner, if you’ve established that your customers are active on Twitter, the next step is to start active engagement with them. The purpose of customer interactions can vary from announcements of new products, services, offers and discounts, to sharing regular updates on information which is valued by your customer base.
Take-Away: Be clear on who you’re customers are, and whether they are on Twitter. Then you can start connecting and interacting with them on Twitter.
Twitter can be an effective and powerful channel to establish your brand. The only pre-requisite is that you should be clear on what brand image you want to create, and ensure that you tweet in line with this brand image. This will determine your competitive differentiation, industry presence and positioning. For e.g., if you are a research firm who provides research services in technology areas, you should tweet snippets about your own research findings, or interesting data / facts and references on technology related research. This will enable you to create your own voice in the Twitter-verse.
Take-Away: Clear, consistent and continuous communication in line with the brand is the key for brand creation and brand recall.
One of the keys to success for small business owners is the kind of business networks they are associated with. Twitter can be a very powerful medium to establish new business connections and strengthen existing ones. Many times these business networks can help directly or indirectly in new upcoming opportunities. In addition to specific one-on-one networks, tweets and direct Messages, active participation in Twitter chats can be a great source for building new business connections or identification of new business opportunities.
Take-Away: Focus on building and strengthening business networks on Twitter
One of the most important back-end activities essential for most small business owners is continuous focus on research around specific focus areas. Twitter is a great platform to get real-time access to quality information on any topic. The two specific ways which are of great help in this regard are Hashtag search, and by following the ‘Gurus’ (experts) in a specific area of interest.
The good news is that research time can be significantly reduced on Twitter. Sometimes, an easy way to get answers is to ask a question on Twitter, or ask someone with a good Follower base to post the question. More often than not, this can be one source of primary research data, similar to an online real-time survey.
Take-Away: Be clear on the research objectives. And use Twitter to get direct feedback, responses or hear from the experts.
Twitter can be used as a great platform for ideation. Ideas around ‘What next?’, ‘How to grow and improve your business’, etc. can occur several times during social conversations and interactions, especially when you engage in dialogue on what would make customers happy or what are the current pain–areas which plague a specific customer segment. In addition, interacting with industry peers and in specialized forums and networks can many spark off those ‘Eureka moments’.
Take-Away: Look to Twitter to hear, discover and learn what others are doing. This is the first source of new ideas.
Constantly learning and knowing what’s happening in your industry, within the market and getting a pulse of your customers, partners, suppliers, competition, etc. is absolutely essential for small business owners. Twitter can be very effective in helping you do this! The easiest way is to identify your key partners, competitors, customers, analysts, publications and experts in your specific line of business, and follow them on Twitter (provided they have a Twitter presence). You will be able to gather real-time data and insights in trends, views, opinions and perspectives.
The life of many a small business owner is filled with moments of uncertainty, doubt, questions and lows. And giving up is not an option. You have to move ahead! One of the best ways is to stay and feel positive, inspired and motivations through the storms and rainbows.
Again, Twitter can be of immense help in this department. Following Twitter handles which usually share inspirational quotes, positive thoughts and motivational words and links can sometimes make all the difference in changing our moods, approach, thoughts, perspectives and responses. So, try to start your day by reading something positive, inspirational or motivational – this can set the right tone for your day! And if you’re feeling blue, look up the tweets of someone who motivates / inspires, and that can help you sail through many a blue day!
Take-Away: Twitter can be that one channel which brings your way the much needed inspiration, motivation, support and cheer through many a low and many a high!
As I conclude, I’m sharing below a compilations of resources which you may find helpful in your Twitter journey.
How to get started on Twitter
How to Use Twitter to Grow Your Business
Content Life Cycle on Twitter
Social Media Etiquette 101: The Basics
Why I don’t have even 100 followers on Twitter even after 3 years
Good Luck in your ventures, and hope this post helps you in the effective usage of Twitter!
And if you’ve found a specific Twitter link or reference, do share it in the comments below so that it can help others in this community
A version of this post was originally published on The Next Women
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