When I first heard about Twitter, I didn’t get its appeal. As I understood it, people could send short messages for others to read. That sounded like a public bulletin board. The Internet is full of special interest topic forums. People can send short messages to each other via emails, text messaging, online chat, and other ways.
So what’s the big deal about Twitter?
Nevertheless, I signed up for the service and listened. At first, it felt like a waste of time. Of course, I didn’t have many followers and had no clue who to follow. This was 2008 when Twitter was still young’un. The social media network was gaining traction, but there wasn’t a lot of information about using it and best practices.
I stuck with it. Eventually, I joined Twitter chats on business topics of interest. I met people, followed people, and gained followers.
Twitter is what you make of it. And I found a way to make it work for me, professionally and personally. You can take it any which way you want. It can be personal, professional, or both. Interjecting your personality helps others connect with you regardless if you’re representing yourself or a business.
Here’s an example. Passionate about running? Create a bio that mentions running, watch for hashtags related to running such as #runchat and #running, search for people interested in running, and create a Twitter list for running. In no time, you’ll find yourself immersed in the world of running in the ocean of Twitter.
You can do the same thing for your B2B business. Replace “running” with your industry.
Twitter lets you have two-way conversations with customers, prospects, and industry influencers. Adding the channel to your marketing strategy can get your business out there and connect with customers.
According to the B2B Content Marketing report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 84 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing to build brand awareness. Other top reasons they use social media include lead generation, engagement, sales, and lead nurturing. Asked where they distribute their content, 88 percent of the B2B marketers respondents say they use Twitter.
Here are seven actionable steps you can take to start strong, get your company name out there, and engage with prospects and clients.
1. Know your target audience
Before signing up with any social media network, it’s crucial to identify your ideal prospect. You can’t be on every social network. Or if you try, you may spread yourself thin. Better to go full speed ahead on a couple of social networks than a bunch where you barely have a presence.
No matter if you’re a B2C or a B2B company, it has no bearing on whether you’ll find your audience in Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else. Think of social network as a place for human-to-human connections. You might have a prospect who uses Twitter mainly to dive in to the world of running, but wouldn’t mind finding valuable resources related to your industry.
Ask your clients what social networks they use. This tells you which social network you may want to try first. You might find your business does better on Twitter and LinkedIn, but not Facebook and Instagram. Start small and test the waters.
2. Connect your business goals with Twitter
Before diving into Twitter, determine how you want to use it and your business goals for the channel. Build brand awareness? Engage? Say you want to grow your business brand. You can create an editorial calendar to help you plan your activities for each week or month.
For example, you plan to hold an educational webinar on a topic of interest to your target market. In the days leading up to webinar, tweet resources and advice on the topic. For every few informative tweets, you can link to your webinar signup page.
3. Create a complete profile
In creating an account to represent your brand, you want to pick a name that always represents your business. Try to avoid using symbols or punctuation because they make it harder for people to find and remember your ID. You also get two photos: a small one that appears with every tweet and a large header photo. If possible, include employees in the photo. Users connect more with people than faceless corporations.
In the bio, make it clear what you do for your clients. Ask someone outside of your business to read your bio to see if he or she understands what you do. Focus your bio on what others get out of doing business with you. This ensures your bio doesn’t sound like an ad, a turn off.
4. Make a list of relevant #hashtags
Hashtags, or words that begin with the pound symbol, help people find tweets related to the hashtag. Fans of #runchat can search for the hashtag to find conversations about running. You want to find relevant hashtags for your business to use in your tweets.
Think of common keywords and terms that industry experts and customers use. Do a search for that hashtag to see what kind of traction it has. No sense in bothering with a rarely used hashtag. You can make up your own, but people aren’t likely to find it as they would the more common hashtags.
There are situations that might call for creating one like for a large conference. A hashtag for conferences gives attendees a way to connect and find out what’s going on in other presentations they may not be attending. It also allows non-attendees to engage and learn.
Many tweets contain more than one hashtag. (Try to use only one to three hashtags. Some people view a lot of hashtags as spammy.) When you find influencers, journalists, and bloggers in your industry on Twitter, review their hashtags for more ideas.
5. Post useful tweets
Before you follow people, start posting a few tweets every day so people know you’re serious about using Twitter. They’ll see you’re new based on the few followers you have and give you a chance. But they need a reason to follow you. Skip promoting your business until you’ve built up a following and tweets.
How you use Twitter does matter. People tend not to follow those only link to their own content or other people’s content, post quotes, retweet (RT) everyone (they don’t have an original thought of their own), or do the hard sell.
The key is to tweet a variety of types of updates. Reply to people, retweet content you believe is worth sharing, link to people’s content (goodwill goes a long way), share advice related to your company’s expertise, and add your own thoughts.
How often can you post a self-serving tweet? The rules are all over the place. Some say one self-serving tweet for every 10 tweets. Some suggest the Pareto principle in which 20 percent of your tweets are self-serving. Then there’s the 4-1-1 rule, which is share four resources, one relevant retweet, and one self-serving tweet.
6. Follow the right people
You don’t want to follow people willy-nilly just to build up your followers. A good way to start is to seek journalists, bloggers, analysts, and thought leaders in your field. Create a list for this group of influencers. (More on that in No. 7.)
When you discover people who ask questions related to your industry, check them out to see if they’re worth following. (Cool trick: In Twitter’s search box, enter your industry name followed by a question mark such as “oil ?” and Twitter displays questions related to oil. Look for people asking questions that your prospects ask. Follow them.
Do a search for competitor mentions and add a question mark to the search. This could bring up tweets from customers who need help with a competitor’s product or service. You might be able to show empathy or provide advice without selling your company. This makes your company look good and that customer could consider switching to your business.
Another neat trick is to add 🙁 to your searches to find people unhappy with the competitor. A search for “Dell :(“ pulls up someone complaining about Apple’s service and comparing the service to Dell.
7. Create lists
You may not want your competitors to know you’re following them, but you can easily listen to them by making a private list of your competitors. Twitter lets you know when you’ve been added to someone’s list. But not if the list is private.
Consider creating lists of clients, prospects, and potential partners. To prevent others from poaching your clients and see who you’re going after, you might want to make these lists private too.
A final word
Twitter is a funny place with many unwritten rules. You’d think following many people would be a compliment. It isn’t when your numbers are lopsided as in following 1000 people with only 100 followers. Take the time to listen in on Twitter, and you’ll be speaking the language in no time.
Some people think it adds too much noise to Twitter to thank people for following. Others think it’s a nice thing to do. For many of Twitter’s unwritten rules, you’ll find people supporting both camps. The more you interact, the more you’ll figure out what works and doesn’t work for your business.
Follow Rob from CSB on Twitter at @CSBrob.