As is the case with a lot of new media technology, many newer businesses are launching their social media presences along with their company, giving them a leg up on established competitors who still don’t see the point in “this Twitter thing.” The truth is, any company (if you think of an exception please leave it in the comments) can use Twitter for business in ways that are beneficial both to the business and its current and potential customers.
First off, let’s address the most common complaints when it comes to adding a new social media program.
“It’s too expensive.” — Twitter is free and easy to set up.
“It’s too much work.” — While there is some initial set-up and work that goes into creating a following, once you have that, it’s up to you how work-intensive you’d like your business’ social media strategy to be. In most cases, less than an hour a day can maintain an active, effective Twitter profile. (Large corporations obviously need more manpower and work, but I’m talking about small businesses here.) Add in the fact that Twitter is essentially free marketing and maintaining a business Twitter account seems like a no-brainer.
“My customers don’t use it.” — Twitter is definitely a popular hangout for tweens and anyone who wants to talk about Justin Bieber, but they are not the only ones using it. Businesses use Twitter to network with others in the industry, answer questions from potential clients and even manage customer service issues. With more people joining Twitter’s 500 million users every day and “Facebook fatigue” setting in for many, there’s no question that your clients are on Twitter.
Now that there are no roadblocks in the way, let’s go over why businesses actually need a Twitter to be fully present in today’s online world.
- Community – The biggest and most obvious benefit of Twitter is that you build a community of Followers who are interested in your brand and services. They may not all be direct clients, but if they’re following you, they’re interested in what you have to say. The bonus for businesses is that it offers a sounding board where you can ask questions, see what people looking into your market are talking about and keep up with others in your industry by following them.
- Human Voice – People don’t like dealing with big-name, faceless companies anymore. One of the changes that social media has brought on is the expectation that there be a human voice behind the profiles of most business. Peruse a popular business’ Twitter and you’ll see that not every post is a promotion. Some are updates on people in the company, talk of what is going on at headquarters that day or conversations with followers.
- Customer Service – More and more businesses are moving their customer service to Twitter when possible. This works well for both parties involved. The customer can get their concern addressed very quickly without having to deal with hold times or website forms. For the business, Twitter is a quick way to respond, and you can take care of issues before a dissatisfied customer takes to Twitter anyway. If someone is saying bad things about your company in the Twittersphere, you have to be on it to know and address it immediately. If they’re saying good things, you can share it in real time.
- Authority – If you can consistently offer consumers information of value about your industry, then you will become a trusted source for them. The major plus of this is brand loyalty. Even better, if they trust and like what you have to say they may just share it with their followers, which leads to …
- Visibility – One of the ultimate goals of any social media campaign is to have posts “go viral.” This means that your post ends up being shared and re-posted outside of its original audience. Even if your brand’s name doesn’t end up on the front page of Forbes.com, any sharing of your information is expanding your reach and influence.
- Search Engine Visibility – Now that Google and other search engines are incorporating social media into their algorithms, it’s more important than ever to take the time to maintain active social media accounts that have a good reputation. Simple activities such as tweets and retweets are all major factors in how websites are ranked.
There are other reasons that a business Twitter account can be helpful, but these six are ones that could apply to almost anyone. The main point to remember is that Twitter’s effect on businesses is not as direct as printing a coupon or buying a TV spot. However, there are measurable returns (more on this in a future post) and brand recognition online, not sales, is increasingly becoming important tool for success. If you have been thinking about getting involved on Twitter, make sure that your business does it right with a custom-branded optimized profile. Starting out on the right foot can make all the difference.