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Monthly Archives: December 2011

How to Build Your Small Business Brand on Twitter

Do you have a small business? Have you thought about expanding your social media brand on Twitter, but you could use a few tips to get started? As a small business owner I’ve come to appreciate the power of Twitter as a form of marketing. But more importantly, I’ve discovered the secret to building brand success lies in how you use Twitter.

I’ve been sharing my Twitter tips with small business clients because I think it’s an immensely powerful tool if used correctly. Since I believe marketing can be a D.I.Y. skill, I’m going to share some of these tips with you too.

10 Tips to Build Your Small Business Brand on Twitter

1. Logo is the Way to Go

Like all forms of marketing, social media is an opportunity for you to build your brand image. Your logo is the face of that brand. If your twitter account is representing your business, use your logo as the profile pic (aka avatar). Remember, your twitter avatar is tiny. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a detailed picture of your product, seaside location or your dog in a bowtie. Save that for a creative ad campaign where we can make out the details.

2. Consistency is Key

It’s confusing to your followers when you change your business avatar like a runway model in a fashion show. Remember your avatar appears in a constant stream of icons on your follower’s feed. It should stand out and be recognizable to them. A loyal follower may be scanning their feed to see what clever remarks or customer special you’re offering. If they’re searching in vain for the avatar you used last week you’ve just lost a point of contact, and possibly a follower.

3. Don’t Fear the Unknown

Twitter is a great place to follow and be followed by strangers. Unlike on a personal Facebook account, on Twitter anyone can follow you. That’s the nature of the medium, so go with it. When you receive a follower, follow them back if they are legit. And don’t be afraid to chat with a total stranger. They might become a huge ambassador for your brand.

4. Follow Your Yellow Brick Road

Everyone has a different approach when it comes to following on Twitter. My personal strategy is to find and follow businesses and people in four categories: my region, my interests, my customers, and my followers. Start by following other local businesses. It is a great way to connect with your community. Then search Twitter for topics of interest to you and those that affect your business. Next, look for your customers on Twitter so you can build that relationship. And finally follow back those who follow you. They are obviously interested in what you have to say, so why not reciprocate? If you discover their tweets are not what you’d hoped you can always unfollow.

5. Hashtags Help

If you’re on Twitter, you must speak in the native tongue. And that means hashtags. Whether you choose to use them or just follow them is up to you. For the true beginner, a hashtag is any phrase that is preceded with a #. The phrase must appear with no spaces and the # sign first.

Find out what hashtags your industry is using, and add them into your tweets. There are local hashtags like #TCMI for Traverse City, Michigan, industry hashtags like #Marketing and #Design, and niche groups that gather to share ideas, frustrations and links. Places like #youmightbeanautismparentif is where parents of autistic children unite. Searching through hashtags is a great way to find new followers and engage with those who share your passion.

6. No Pushing

If you’re considering using Twitter for your small business I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you already have a business Facebook page. And you may have discovered you can push your Facebook posts automatically to Twitter. That sounds like a great idea. Two birds with one stone, right? Not in my opinion.

These shortened posts, which often end in broken sentences followed by a link to Facebook are not the same as posting your content on Twitter. It’s an illusion, and your tweeps (Twitter peeps) are quick to realize you’re not really there. Would you use an automated system to call your customers with news about their account, new products or events? No, because you aren’t there to answer their questions. The same standard applies here. If you’re not really there, people will know. And more importantly they’ll turn their attention somewhere else.

So what can you do to post content to both Facebook and Twitter in an expedient way? Check-out HootSuite and TweetDeck. These are online tools (and apps) that allow you to post to multiple social media channels. Using their dashboard you can cater your messages to each platform and audience.

7. Please and Thank You

Twitter is all about recognition. People and brands love to see their @name in the Mentions column. The trick is to acknowledge, engage and thank your followers as often as possible. And your brand will grow. But don’t be disingenuous. The point is to get involved with your audience by responding to their questions, commenting on their content and thanking your followers when they have mentioned you. A great way to start this tradition is with #FollowFriday or #FF.

On Fridays you’ll notice a slew of posts that are filled with @mentions and a hashtag or two. That’s a Follow Friday post. It’s Twitter’s version of a shout-out. Some people choose to fill their post with random names from their follower list. Some repeatedly offer #FF to the same group of tweeps. I think the most successful #FF posts are when you choose one brand or person to mention and offer up a reason why someone should follow them. It’s sincere, it’s focused, and it’s helpful to those of us who don’t know them.

8. Tweet and Re-Tweet

If you made it #8 on my list you’re serious about building your small business on Twitter. So this point is critical. Tweet good content and re-tweet that of others.

Twitter is, by far, my best resource for industry related news, events and articles online. Find and follow people and brands who are sharing great content that would matter to your followers. Then re-tweet it. If you’re sharing a link that you found through someone you follow, give them the credit of a RT (re-tweet). You can do this automatically, or add your own twist on the tweet and add “via @mention” to the end. RTs will earn more followers and encourage your followers to share your content.

9. Critical Response

Many small businesses shy away from social media platforms because they fear criticism. They imagine customer complaints posted out there for everyone to read, and spread like lice in a kindergarten. But the truth is, as scary as it is, social media is the perfect place to deal with criticism head on. You might be surprised with the results.

When I first started Twitter I had just launched my new iPhone app, Traverse Traveler. I was excited to see followers in my area. Those whom I followed were beginning to find me and comment on the app. And then one day I opened my feed to find a follower complaining about why I didn’t have specific listings on the app. I feared the worst and figured they were unhappy with our product and would continue to share their unhappiness with the world through Twitter. So I put on my big girl pants, took a deep breath and responded to the tweet. I explained that the businesses in question hadn’t yet listed on the app, but I would see what I could do to get them involved. I received an immediate response thanking me for answering the question. And a few weeks later, when said businesses did list, I was able to contact that follower with the news. What appeared to be a customer unhappy with our product has become a follower who gladly promotes us to family and friends.

How you respond to criticism and complaints will speak loudly to the online community. If you ignore them, they tend to perpetuate and spread. Or you’ll confirm their fears…that you just don’t care. Responding to complaints on Twitter directly, and offering assistance shows your brand is involved. You do care. And you are willing to work with your customers.

10. Lurk, Listen and Join In

Twitter is one of those weird places where voyeurism is encouraged. It’s like one giant coffee shop where people are chatting about hundreds of topics and you can sit and listen. But the best part is, without warning or misstep you can join in. It’s encouraged in most cases. Ever wish you could be two places at once? I’ve followed the hashtag for two different conferences occurring at the same time three time-zones apart and felt like I was there. I’ve cheered on the Detroit Red Wings, commiserated with Apple fans when Steve Jobs died, and made many new friends on Twitter that I’ve yet to meet in person.

Just remember one thing: You Must Be Present to Win

This is the big one. Twitter moves too quickly to watch from the sidelines. It’s not a spectator sport. If you want to build a brand on Twitter you’ve got to get in the game. You need to BE there. Following the steps above will help you establish a brand, but to build it and make it successful you have to get involved.

Do you have a small business on Twitter? Share some of your tips for Twitter success in the comments below. And by all means, follow me on Twitter at @TraverseTravelr !

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