4 Ways to Use Twitter to Capture Customers : Social Media Examiner

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 450,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (49 pages, 77 charts)!