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social media how to Are you debating whether your small business should invest time on Twitter?

Do you wonder how Twitter can help your business?

By being an active part of the Twitter community and sharing the right mix of content, you can reach a larger audience, generate more leads and become the go-to source when customers are ready to buy.

In this article I’ll show you how nine small businesses use Twitter to cater to their audiences, find prospects and expand brand recognition.

Why Twitter for Small Businesses?

Twitter has evolved a lot since 2007. It used to be about conversations, but these days some would say it’s just another way to push out marketing messages and links without true engagement with customers.

istock twitter image

Twitter is perfect for small businesses. Image source: iStockPhoto.com.

I don’t agree. I see a lot of businesses using Twitter to its full potential and cultivating relationships with loyal followers, and those relationships can turn into sales.

Twitter offers businesses of all sizes multiple opportunities to find and convert prospects, but it takes more effort than pushing out scheduled tweets about your products.

It’s worth it to invest the time and resources to develop your presence on Twitter. When you do, you’ll see more growth and loyalty from customers, as well as more sharing, engagement and leads. Consistent conversations go a long way!

The nine small businesses I showcase below show how attention to community and a little creativity make all the difference in reach and company growth.

#1: Use Twitter to Stand Out

It can be tough to be up against big brands. The hospitality business in New York City is a good example—it’s one of the most competitive markets in the industry.

Management at the Roger Smith Hotel, a small boutique hotel in Manhattan, knew they had to find a way to stand out, so they turned to social media marketing.

roger smith discount tweet

Reward Twitter followers with special perks.

To get started, hotel management did what a lot of businesses do: They invited key journalists and social media influencers to try out their services. As those influencers took to Twitter to share their experiences, the Roger Smith Hotel got its brand in front of a much larger audience.

The hotel didn’t stop there. The team took that boost and ran with it. Now their Twitter feed is lively with trivia, coupons, pictures of New York City and more. They even give discounts to customers who reserve a room via Twitter and the hotel has a Twitter kiosk in the lobby!

#2: Keep Your Followers Interested

How can a domain registrar and brokerage service like Namecheap attract more than 100,000 Twitter followers? They provide the right mix of business and fun. Trivia and giveaways have always been staples of Namecheap’s Twitter feed.

namecheap tweet

Updates don’t have to be all business or all fun; bring the two together in your updates.

During Super Bowl XLVIII, Namecheap posted 48 interesting questions related to both the big game and information technology. This kept their fans interested and related to the company’s niche.

#3: Stick With It

If you’re not seeing immediate growth on Twitter, don’t give up. As they say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Houston-based coffee shop Coffee Groundz is a great example of this.

Coffee Groundz has the distinction of being one of the first small businesses to set up shop on Twitter. Instead of being discouraged and writing off Twitter as a waste of time with no ROI, Coffee Groundz kept at it. It took a while, but they managed to get thousands of followers thanks to a steady stream of tweets.

coffee groundz tweet

Offer your followers perks.

Coffee Groundz tweets special recipes, promotions, pictures of fancy coffee beverages and interesting tidbits of online conversations. Taking the time to show the company’s personality and build trust has grown Coffee Groundz’ followers to almost 15,000.

#4: Provide a Balance of Work and Fun

Bradbury & Partners is an Atlanta-based executive recruiting firm that focuses solely on the mortgage origination industry. Having such a narrow niche can make it hard to grow a Twitter following, but Bradbury & Partners has found a way.

bradbury and partners tweet

Liven up the conversation, especially if your niche can be a little dry.

The firm uses hashtags, sharp commentary and links to questions they tackle on the Q&A social network Quora. To provide a balance of work and fun, they also post niche-related jokes, photos and cartoons.

#5: Keep Your Mobile Users in Mind

Are you ever without your smartphone? Probably not—and neither is your audience. Mobile is the way we both market and consume information. Twitter says it was “born mobile.

In the past few years, food trucks have become big business. These moving eateries frequently change location (obviously), so it makes sense to tell people where they’ll be and when they’ll be there. Enter Twitter.

Kogi Korean BBQ, a popular L.A. food truck, owes as much to Twitter as it does to its delicious and ingenious fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisine.

kogi bbq tweet

Use Twitter updates to give followers real-time information they can use.

In 2009, Kogi Korean BBQ saw that taco truck fans in Southern California were tweeting menus and locations of their favorite food trucks. They quickly set up a Twitter profile and started updating their customers with schedules, locations and pictures of menu items.

This is still relevant today. Remember to keep your mobile users in mind when using Twitter.

#6: Listen to Your Customers

You may not think of JetBlue as a small business, but within its industry it’s a modest carrier compared to Delta or United. Even so, JetBlue was the first airline in the United States to earn accolades for its use of Twitter, a corporate effort that continues to this day.

JetBlue uses Twitter as a customer service platform and has a team in place to monitor and respond to customer questions, compliments, and yes, complaints.

jetblue customer service tweet

Monitor Twitter and respond to your customers.

To engage its 1.7 million followers, the company also shares discounts and deals, travel tips and pictures from passengers.

jetblue tweet

Share user generated content to help other customers.

#7: Promote Hard to Find Products

Many small businesses struggle with whether they should be on Twitter. They wonder if it’s really the way to reach their customers.

MendezFuel was in the same boat. The owner of the company has four gas stations and needed to set them apart from the bigger chains. How do you make a business like a gas station in South Florida interesting enough for customers to follow on Twitter?

mendez fuel tweet

Put a twist on regularly stocked products to entice customers to come to your store.

Gas station convenience stores typically carry the same products and those products are generally the same brand. That goes for beer too. As a fan of microbreweries and craft beers, the owner of Mendez Fuel recognized his opportunity.

The microbrewery scene in South Florida isn’t as vibrant as in other regions, so it’s harder to come by those beers in a convenience store. By offering them in his stores, he knew his followers were likely to come to his gas stations to get their hands on a frosty and unusual craft beer.

Promote your hard to find but popular products to grow a niche following.

#8: Connect With People Who Need What You Have to Offer

Twitter is filled with medical professionals who keep busy with shameless self-promotion. New York City’s Dr. Sinkin belongs in a different category. He’s a dentist who actually engages his followers.

Dr. Sinkin uses Twitter’s search function and third-party services to find conversations related to the dental field. When he runs across a tweet related to dentistry, he engages. For example, if he sees a tweet that indicates someone has a toothache, he introduces himself as a dentist and includes a list of remedies to try.

michael sinkin dds tweet

Offering his followers useful information helps him establish authority that may help him gain new clients.

Twitter is the perfect place to search for people who need what you offer and to surprise them with helpful advice.

#9: Use Twitter for Lead Generation

IdeaPaint sells an amazing paint product that turns walls into dry-erase boards. It’s a product that appeals to a range of audiences—businesses, parents, artists, etc.

iedapaint tweet

Celebrate the creativity of your followers.

IdeaPaint uses Twitter for lead generation by reinforcing its commitment to generating ideas and supporting creativity. Their stream focuses on the collaborative and imaginative spirit a blank whiteboard presents. Anything is possible: business plans, reminders and all kinds of art. The company’s tweets often make mention of the creative process.

Some Final Thoughts…

Twitter isn’t just for big companies or spray-and-pray marketing. Any business can find a place on the platform—the key is conversation. Pay attention to your customers and respond to their questions, compliments and concerns. Keep their attention with fun facts, real-time information and local flavor.

What do you think? How are you growing your Twitter follower count? Do you have other examples to share of how small businesses use Twitter? Leave your advice and comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.
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