social media how to articleTwitter marketing is on the edge of going mainstream, and although much of the market doesn’t quite accept it yet, the truth is that it’s coming, and now is the time to get in on the action.

I began as a direct marketer, doing business face-to-face at a kitchen table with a phone call and a handshake. Back then, getting customers was tough work. These days, they are all over, just waiting to be found.

On any given day, there are millions of people looking for something on Twitter, be it a cup of coffee, a snack, a nice book to read, or just something to help them pass the time.

Add the fact that smartphones and other mobile devices have given the average consumer the means not only to find what they want online, but also to talk about it, and you’ve got the perfect situation for finding new customers.

“Ugghh, just woke up… need coffee”

This is an average tweet that I see when I start work in the morning. People are waking and they want their coffee. As I’m not in the business of selling coffee, this isn’t of much interest to me, but to the local coffee shops trying to compete with Starbucks, this is a goldmine.

Now, if you run a local coffee shop, you’ve got a chance here to win a new customer. But unless you interrupt their pattern of either making coffee at home or going to Starbucks, then you’ll miss out.

How can you turn a random tweet into a potential customer?

1. Go Local With Twitter Geotargeting

Using Twitter Search, you can use geotargeting to find tweets from your area. To do this, simply use Twitter’s “advanced search” function.  Or use the following syntax: coffee near:”New York” within:15mi.

I also recommend setting up custom searches in a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or Seesmic. That way, you’ll receive real-time results and can reply on time.

Alternatively, you can use a tool like TwitHawk to automatically find tweets for you. This service uses custom search queries to target potential clients and sends an email notification when it finds a match. It’s perfect for those of you who just don’t have time for Twitter.

Geotargeting to find potential local coffee customers

2. Join the Conversation

The first step obviously is to have a Twitter account built on your company name that you can use to respond to tweets. If it were my coffee company, I’d respond with something like: “Mocha… cappuccino… just coffee? I’ll give you 50% off your first cup.”

If you’re using TwitHawk, you can create a list of built-in responses and choose to rotate among them, or manually submit a response. At just a few cents per tweet, you can create a campaign that runs on autopilot for you. Just make sure you keep an eye on the results so you can reply when necessary.

Now, given your response, the customer has the option to either respond back or ignore you. Not all will respond, but some will, and over time you’ll bring more new business to your coffee shop. If you do a good job of “friending” the people who seem interested, it gives you a chance to follow up in the future. That’s the difference that turns cold prospects into loyal customers.

3. Do Something Unique

An alternative, or rather an interesting way to beef up your capabilities, is to become known in your area for giving out discount codes online via Twitter. Whether it’s the media that blasts your tactic to the public or a strategic marketing campaign, the point is that by being known for giving “today’s specials” on Twitter allows you to capture an audience that might not have been there before.

In the past they went to Starbucks, but now they follow you on Twitter to look for specials… not because they like your brand necessarily, but because they like Twitter and you give them a reason to use it more often. Like them, you’re trendy and hip, and you speak the same language. That’s how you break into new markets with Twitter.

I realize we’re speaking in generalities here, but the bottom line is that Twitter marketing works. And once you’ve expanded your area of influence beyond your current clients and prospects to their friends, then you’ve reached a second level that very few businesses achieve without spending thousands of dollars on traditional marketing campaigns. You’ve done it by just being there and reaching out.

4. Use Contests

To build even more buzz around new or existing products, you can create contests of all types and sizes. You might remember the #moonfruit contest, where anyone using the hashtag #moonfruit was entered in a drawing for a free MacBook (everyone loves MacBooks, right?), which was so popular that it made the Twitter Trends list.

More recently, a fellow blogger and I launched a Twitter contest to promote our blogging book. This was perfect for what we needed, which was to have our hashtag repeated often enough that people became curious.

We didn’t reach Twitter Trends, but we sold a lot of books. People said they heard about our book all over the place, even though the tweets were small in comparison to other trending topics. However, in the space we marketed to, you couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without seeing someone tweet about our book. That’s social proof right there, and that’s worth its weight in gold.

How we created contest buzz:

1. We created a simple contest page, explaining the prizes and the rules.

2. We created a graphic that made it easy for people to retweet our message. The banner was placed at the bottom of the page and was loaded with a built-in message.

3. We used a call to action, inspiring people to retweet our message.

4. We placed a real-time search results window, courtesy of Tweetizen, to highlight the large number of people already entered; a bit of “social proof,” if you will.

Tweetizen real time search results window

The Bottom Line

The trick to attracting new customers on Twitter is to start by being there for them. Make yourself known by listening and responding when necessary.

When you’re ready to step it up a bit, you can start nudging them over to your shop with a coupon or discount. People love personalized interaction, and if you get them in once, provided they have a good experience, they’ll be back again… eventually with a friend.

Lastly, when you want to kick it up a notch and build momentum to launch a new product or service, you can get it done quickly, efficiently and cheaply by using contests. Everyone loves to be a winner. In running a contest, both your business and your customers become winners.

Have you tried geographical Twitter searches? What about contests? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

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  • Guest


    Nicely explained. You just gave a twitter 101 course. I will make sure I bookmark this for future reference.

  • Appreciate the insights. Bookmarked, and will share. Love the “just got up, need coffee” remark.

  • I really like the geotargeting idea – never really thought of that before. I’m gonna have to take advantage of that. 😉

    The discount codes, as well – it’s going on my list of things to start doing.

  • I am going to put that contest idea to work today, I was thinking about a few weeks ago, this was the nudge that I needed!

  • Mary Fletcher Jones

    Fantastic post! Thanks for all these great new Twitter resources, which I’ve been exploring all morning. You know, I just learned of Facebook restrictions on contests, so running a contest or promotion through Twitter sounds like a better idea (at least for me). And now I know how! Your blog rocks…

  • Hey, great post and totally agree that twitter is quickly becoming mainstream. When you see big companies advertising the fact they are on twitter on main streets in the capital (Dublin, Ireland) then you know it’s only a matter of time..we have run quite a few contests via twitter and each one has been a success I think..a great way to get the word out what we’re doing and meet new people…tweet on..

  • I like the Contests idea.

    Will have to come up with one soon 🙂

  • The key is in point number two. Making sure that you keep the conversation an engaging one and not just a robotic response. There are too many businesses/people who just schedule tweets and leave adding to nothing but noise. I will definitely refer to this post when I work with my clients to remind them that social media is an engaging process and not just posting ads!

  • One of the best tricks is to use ? in your searches. So geotarget anyone using a ? in your area, or even “Your area name?”

    What you’ll get is everyone asking a question about your area, and this gives you a great opportunity to help them out. In turn, they are likely to find out more about you and visit your bio.

  • Thanks Tad, appreciate that.

  • I’m still waiting for a local coffee shop to step up to the plate 🙂

  • Yeah, there are some really really cool advanced search features with Twitter. Just make sure you send me one of those discount codes 😀

  • Awesome, let me know how it goes!

  • That’s why I like Twitter so much more than Facebook. Much less red tape.

  • Yeah, I think Twitter has finally caught on. The next step is to convince people that it’s not just a toy, but that it has serious value.

  • Just make sure you find a good way to track them by using a hashtag.

  • I can’t tell you how many people have asked me to manage their Twitter accounts for them…I always say no.

    It’s just not the way to do business and quite frankly, it doesn’t work.

  • That’s a fantastic point Mike…really good tip.

  • Excellent post especially the part about running a contest! Thanks

  • Hey Nathan, great post about the benefits of using a twitter campaign. But I’m sceptical about Twitter’s capabilities to reach out to all audiences. Twitter is perfect for daily consumables and mass-produced brands, but Twitter can’t brand or sell niche mediums like pharmaceuticals or custom publishing, which doesn’t work on daily needs or point of purchase. Discount codes or overload of tweets would only kill the product in such cases, don’t you think? I’d love to hear about your view on this. I am the C.E.O. of a media house and have a lot of clients who see a lot of benefits from social networking sites, but twitter is just way too fast for extremely niche mediums. Have you worked around this problem yet?

  • Some really useful tips there, thank you 🙂

    Fairly new to using twitter to create customers though it definitely sounds worthwhile.

  • Excellent article. Am looking forward to putting this into action with tomorrow’s contest on QQM’s blog. Just got my Tweetizen group set up too! Thank you, Nathan!

  • what type of custom publishing do you mean?

    Sure, there are some things you’ll have to change, but the approach is still solid. Paying attention to branding and industry trends isn’t a bad thing.

    In your case, I think the key is to pique interest rather than directly sell. People probably don’t know about companies like yours unless someone is there to tell them. What are your thoughts on that?

  • It’s also useful to keep customers 🙂

  • Fantastic, let me know how it goes 🙂

  • That it is 🙂 Still working on my product though, so no customers as yet.

  • This was a great explanation; very simple, yet informative. Definitely something I’ll incorporate in the future (as in right now!).

  • Twitter geotargeting? I had no idea! I do know of & I’m tracking select keyphrases related to my marketing interests. But I’ll certainly give geotargeting a try. Thanks for the informative article, Nathan

  • Hi Nathan.

    As usual a great article from you.

    Geotargeting has been a feature for Twitter for a while.. Twitter Search has had this option for a while. Recently Twitter added Geotagging – Twitter’s Geotagging feature allows users who opt-in to the service to selectively Geotag their tweets with their exact location and provide more context to users about their surroundings.

    With services like Nearby Tweets and Localtweeps you can find fellow Tweeps in your area.

    Twitter use Geotagging now for trends in local areas. But it just shows limited areas at the moment.

    I am very excited about Geotagging, this gives an opportunity to do more for the local community with Twitter.

    From a article I wrote at Twitip you will see I am a big fan of #2.

    #4 is something I have on my plan, so have to see what I do there..

    Cheers.. Are

  • Thought you did a great job on the piece. We feel Twitter is a great meduim to reach customers ,and 2010 will finally find more businesses embrace the Technology.
    We have used Twitter Geotargeting for our clients to reach a local customer base with great success.
    Twitter is a great research tool to reach whatever specific market you are targeting.

  • Love love love it….and, I have managed others’ Twitter accounts with fantastic success: response, conversations, Follower/List building, ReTweets, promos, value content and being of benefit to our Followers. It can and does work. Will be adding these ideas to the arsenal…thanks Nathan.

    Tia Dobi, Hypnotic copywriting and niche marketing

  • Great advice Nathan, really. It’s been great connecting with you and nice to see we have some things in common as far as what we know and what we talk about/teach. You so totally stole that geo-targeting for local businesses from me though 😉 Just kidding, awesome overall information. Just bookmarked this post and put it under my social media folder.

  • It’s hard to say, you know, rousing interest about a niche product using a medium like twitter that has posts changing every few seconds doesn’t seem easy. Confetti Media is mostly into custom publishing of inhouse magazines, and also online branding campaigns, and I’ve found twitter to be very effective for my clients in the hospitality industry like hotels, spas, and coffee chains. Tourism and malls too get a lot of hits through them. But my pharmaceutical clients don’t get any help from twitter.

    For example, twitter may be good for clothing brands, but Twitter wouldn’t be the best advertising medium for the company that manufactures the clothes for the same clothing brand, though they’re all really selling the same product in the larger frame, and all the big brand does is add a price tag to the clothes. The manufacturing company wouldn’t get followers unless it accepts spam, and twitter users wouldn’t really want to know what a manufacturing unit would be up to, to start following them on twitter. And even regular tweets from the manufacturer wouldn’t really interest the common twitter user. On the other hand, people would love to follow the clothing brand, and would wait to read their next tweet.

    A twitter campaign wouldn’t really help in the long run, because even a huge twitter campaign from a manufacturing unit might just turn into another #moonfruit. People love it while it exists, they don’t care about after the week long campaign. So is Twitter worth the effort for niche mediums which doesn’t directly sell to the end consumer? I haven’t seen a proven working theory for niche mediums anywhere. Yet.

  • Great Blog Post! Really think some Social Media phobics should read it to see the power behind it.

  • I’ve had great luck with contests for clients in attracting new Fans to their facebook pages.

  • Frankly, I think the most important part of this strategy or any is to test, test, and test more. There aren’t any bulletproof systems. You have to work your way to them.

  • Awesome, thanks for sharing your success.

  • Do you find that managing Tweets for others works effectively? I’ve done it, and just didn’t get the commitment I needed from the other party in order to make it work.

  • haha! I wrote it 3 months ago, so take that!

    j/k man, thanks for sharing the story.

  • Very cool. I’d love to hear more about your experience doing that on Facebook if you have time.

    In fact, if you’re willing, I’d love to publish a story like that at

  • Yes, my experiences managing (writing/posting) Tweets for others works effectively (as noted in first response).

    Peace and profits.

    Tia Dobi, Hypnotic copywriting and niche marketing that sells more

  • I totally agree with you there…

    It’s like you done in this article describe some principle you have tested and found works for you. I like them all and follow them, but I might tweak them a little here and there to fit my approach.

    And it is so true that you have to test them and work your way over time.

    Cheers.. Are

  • What does everything think about how to use Twitter for a company who sells mainly to dealers who sell to the public? Thoughts?

  • joshgroth


    Great post. Well thought out and organized, and I liked the bit about geotagging.

    Word of advice, the Twitter contest/sweepstakes is a great idea and highly effective, but if done incorrectly, very illegal. Just because it’s easy to have someone RT an item doesn’t make it legal. Sweepstakes are federally regulated, and there are state, national, and international considerations that you have to take in order to legally run one. It doesn’t matter what you’re giving away, if it’s a sweepstakes you have to have a terms and conditions drawn up to protect your (or your client’s butt), and it should be done by a lawyer that specializes in sweepstakes. The very nature of social media being an international medium, forces anyone wanting to hold an online sweepstakes to limit it to US residents (or write in qualifying terms for other countries) because the US has different sweepstakes rules and regulations than other countries.

    It’s tough because they’re so easy and effective, but the truth of the matter is, that it is still a sweepstakes and is therefore regulated.

    An excellent example of an effective (and legally covered) sweepstakes is the Jay-Z and NJ Nets promo. They’re promoting it on both Twitter and Facebook. To cover their butts, they used these terms and conditions:

    The other thing to consider is that each social media platform has its own rules regarding sweepstakes. Twitter hasn’t really defined their own rules yet, but Facebook has an extensive list of rules that you must comply with:

    Sorry for the extensive reply, but it’s a key legal consideration that is glossed over and is leaving both individuals and brands exposed to potential lawsuits.


  • Any business can benefit from Twitter

  • Excellent info I will bookmark this one. Thanks

  • This article provides a great deal of useful information and excellent tips. Even though I’m in two mentoring programs that include lessons on Social Media, it’s great to read another perspective and I’ve learned a couple of pointers from your article. This is an area that I’ve not been using to the full so thanks, Nathan, for a great article; and thanks to Michael for sending to my e-mail box.

  • Great reply, and well considered

  • Hi Nathan Hangen, I read your blog today and found it really informative. I wanted to connect with you because I think you and your readers would be interested in MemCatch. It’s a new platform that has some great features. MemCatch has developed a very easy and simple way for you, and the general user to get started, and be productive with their social media activities across Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. We have also developed metrics to track the content you share. MemCatch includes the sharing component that can be found in some other apps, but our platform also offers functionality for collecting content across the web. We have packaged all of the basic social media steps together into one user friendly platform.

  • Sure thing, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Back then, getting customers was tough work. These days, they are all over, just waiting to be found.

  • Hotels

    Twitter could have been one of the best marketing tool many people could use but since it was heavily abused by many people to gain money.

  • Great post and I had no idea that I could go local via geo targetting, its going to be very useful for my business.

  • I have been twitter for a while and have found it to be a great tool in getting some leads, although not to convert sadly 🙁

  • Pingback: Business 101: Twitter by the numbers | Daly-Swartz PR Marcom Digest()

  • It serves no purpose to learn all about your prospects – because they have, what they do not want, what they think of your competitors, etc. – if you’re going to keep all this information for you same. So make sure you use all the information to get an idea on Twitter to add to your CRM data.