The Right (and Wrong) Way to Use Twitter to Market Your Business

When Twitter first came out, a lot of skeptics wondered how a microblogging service could possibly be of any use to small businesses. After all, a whole lot of people used Twitter to talk about incredibly dull and personal topics like where they ate for lunch, or what movies were coming up in their Netflix queue. But as time has gone on, the utility of Twitter has become clear. It’s an easy way for small businesses to build relationships with their customersat a very appealing price point (free).
Don’t think of Twitter as a branding device. It’s not the digital equivalent of a Super Bowl ad. It’s a way to be helpful to your customers by offering free advice or relevant news about your business. So, for example, a sushi restaurant in San Francisco uses Twitter to spread the word about its fresh fish of the day. A day spa in Cincinnati uses it to promote featured discounts on manicures and pedicures. In essence, Twitter does exactly what a sandwich board propped outside your physical office does.
Now, maybe you’re in a field where discounts or specials are difficult or even impossible to promote. Not to worry! You can still make Twitter work for you by using it to talk directly to your customers. Tell them what you’ve been reading (as long as it’s relevant to their interests!), an answer to a frequently asked question, or whatever you think they need to know that only you can tell them. If you’re an accountant, point them to a site that has good tax tips. If you’re a doctor, tell them how they can increase their odds of staying healthy through flu season. In other words, be on Twitter as the same helpful, friendly community resource you are in person.

To recap, get started on Twitter by doing the following:

  1. Post about a time-sensitive promotion or event. This could be a “deal of the day” or an announcement that your mobile business will be in a particular area.
  2. Post a factoid or statistic that people might find useful.
  3. Post a link to a blog or a Web article that you found interesting.

And last, two areas of caution. First: you can promote yourself on Twitter, but be sparing and specific when providing relevant information about your industry or service. Cite an item in the news or a relevant survey that backs up the value of what you offer. Second: if you don’t have the time or the interest to really participate in Twitterwhich means posting something fresh at least once a daythen just don’t promote it. It’s worse to have a “dead” Twitter account that never gets updated than to have no account at all.

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