Twitter for Small Business

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: Business, Social Media, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Social network

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Social Networking is the buzz these days.  Big brands are investing heavily in Customer / User generated content.  Dell reportedly has 34 heads dedicated to brand management in the Social Networking sphere.  With sites like Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed and others generating a whole industry of Social Networking consultants small & medium businesses might feel that once again the big guys are going to corner the market.

This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.  Small & Medium businesses have always known that customer feedback is the core of their business.  They usually have a much more personal relationship with their customers than the big brands.  Most Social Networking tools are simply trying to replicate that “personal” feel that people look for from smaller enterprises.

Small businesses have used networking tools for a long time, whether its national based professional organizations or local Chamber of Commerce small & medium business owners and leaders have generated business and brand awareness through these direct tools for a long time.

So do small & medium businesses have to be bothered with online social networking tools?  I say definitely.  But they don’t need the vast array of expensive tools and consultants that the bigger brands are investing in.  They most likely already have the skill set in house – good listeners, people who are responsive to the voice of the customer.  After all its harder for a small business to come back from a bad customer experience because they are dealing with a smaller customer base to start with.

Communication Tools

First decide how you are going to send your Tweets.  You can start with the basic Twitter interface but you are likely to find that you out grow this quickly as you increase the number of people that you are following and as your own following grows.

If you want to stay using a web based interface then I recommend using iTweet. It has a better organized interface than the original and allows you to view more information on one page than the original.  However, if you are ready to move away from a web interface then you are better off exploring either Twhirl or TweetDeck.  Having used both I have a preference for Tweet Deck, but you will find your own reasons for using a particular tool.

Where is everyone?

Ok so now you are able to Tweet. Great what next?  First you should find people to follow.  The best way for a small business to do this is to use to Twitter Search.  The advanced option is where you want to focus your efforts. This allows you to make selections based not just on keywords, which of course are important, but also on the type of Tweet – was it a positive comment, a negative comment or a question, Geographic location, did it contain a link.  By using these options combined with phrases that are unique to your business you can find people who are talking about your business.  Having found them you can follow along for a while before you start joining the conversation.  Small businesses are good at this type of communication.  Listening twice as much as they speak (you have two ears & one mouth).   Once you start to understand the way in which Twitter conversations happen you can expand your ability to find conversations that make more business sense.  Tools like TwitterBeep which allow you to set up email alerts for particular keywords. 

So how do all these tools come together into a cohesive Twitter plan? The communication tools will allow you to start joining the conversation.  The search tools allow you to find people to followers and the alert tools allow you to find conversations that matter to you.

As a test I set up alerts to find Twitter conversations where people were asking for recommendations for a Mechanic in Austin (where I live).  Twitter search returns results 15 to a page.  I gave up counting after 8 pages of results!  Had I been a mechanic shop, I think I would have found enough new business prospects to keep me busy for at least a week of Twittering.

Brian Solis maintains a great list of Twitter tools that will get you started.

Are you a small or medium business that is having success using online social media tools?  Share your story here and let everyone know what worked for you and what didn’t.

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