How to Leverage Twitter for Business

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on April 23, 2013
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Can Twitter boost your business?

The social media site credits itself with myriad success stories, such as driving sales for HubSpot and increasing store visits for Brooklyn-based retailer Alter, through regular and sponsored tweets.

Yet most small-business owners are unimpressed. According to a study by the Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, only 3 percent of 835 business owners surveyed in January said that Twitter offered “the most potential to help” their companies. When it comes to social media, they preferred LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook.

Should Twitter have a place in your marketing strategy? Here are four ways you might leverage it to your benefit:

1. Beef up your testimonials. Posting customer testimonials on your company website can be a powerful way to convince prospects to give your small business a shot. In a Nielsen survey of 25,000 internet consumers from 50 countries, 70 percent of respondents said they trusted consumer opinions posted online.

Sharing tweets from satisfied customers on your website is simple. Log into your Twitter account and hover your cursor over any tweet. Click on the More option you’ll see at right. Select Embed Tweet, copy the HTML code provided, and use it to post an image of the tweet on your website.

2. Answer customer-service questions. Twitter can be a cost-effective means of providing customer service, provided that you meet client expectations around response time. A study by the Social Habit showed that 67 percent of social media users expect a response from a brand within 24 hours, and 42 percent expect one within an hour.

Not all issues can be resolved in 140 characters, of course, but Twitter can act as a real-time means to address concerns. It may also improve conversion in cases where customers tweet questions about product or service details in the midst of placing an order on your website. Tools like Zendesk can facilitate the process, so that you’re alerted when customers tweet — and can address their needs right away.

3. Gain followers with promotions. Twitter offers an easy means to run “flash sale”-style promotions that engage current followers and boost your overall follower count. For example, a hair salon might promote business with a tweet like “Please RT for your chance to win a free cut and style.”

Need more followers to promote your business to? Pay attention to how you construct your tweets. In an analysis of tweets and click-through rates, social media expert Dan Zarella found that tweets containing the terms “via,” “check,” and “please,” and the symbols “@” and “RT” have higher click-through rates than those that don’t. He also found that simply using the phrase “Please ReTweet” increases the likelihood that your tweet will be shared (by as much as four times).

4. Build relationships. You’ve likely noticed hashtags (indicated by a # before a word or phrase) on commercials, on the news, and on your favorite TV shows. This is because Twitter has become a powerful means for businesses, personalities, and the media in general to facilitate audience conversation beyond the one-way communication that is a barrier in traditional marketing.

Small-business owners can use a hashtag to start conversations with their followers around specific ideas or topics. They can also reach out to target customers in the Twitterverse by commenting on hashtag topics related to their industry or company. When you’re actively engaged on Twitter, you build a two-way relationship with customers, which is ultimately how you build loyalty and generate referrals.

Stephanie Christensen is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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