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Tweeting for Small Businesses

This article is a little different than the typical article that I write. If you like, you can skip down to the part where I actually get into about "Tweeting for Small Businessess," however, there is a reason that I’m starting this article the way that I am.

When I was a little, my father taught me about the cycles of life and the never-ending ebbs and flow.

Like the ocean tide, it goes out, but it will always come back in. A little too philosophical for a 5yr old that was more concerned with the "fishies" in the ocean verse the symbolism it had. But I have grown to understand and appreciate the comforting feeling that although the tide will for sure go out it will always come back in.

Knowing that, the challenge is to prepare for the changes in the tide…. On both ends; being prepared for it to go out; making sure there continuity and backups in place to carry you through as well as being prepared for the flood to come back in and making sure those same systems can handle the influx.

While some may say that I am young, and I am, I have experienced the ebbs and flows of life both in business and personally. Losing all the money you have, going through short sales of properties, divorce and many other things along the way… the tide was undoubtedly "going out."

So I bring all that up for one reason… social media is no different. The phenomenal rise of social media coincides with one of the worst economic decades this country has ever seen and consumers want more from small businesses, whether it’s discounts, diversified information, tips, or resources.

Consumers are finding comfort in social media because they aren’t alone in their situation. At any given time you can go online to various forums, communities and social networks and find someone "like you." You can find an answer to a question, solve a problem or even become "friends."

Social Media is undoubtedly the "flow" of business right now.

I have said this before; social media is not a new concept. It’s human interaction, and that is what we are all after… human touches…. people buy people.

So why did "social media" take off the way that it did? In an economic time like we’ve been in, people looked more to their "friends" for bargains and general advice.

Consumers have become more skeptical traditional advertising and more dependent on the referral of others. Isn’t that what we do as a society when we get scared? Ask for advice? As scary as it may be, social media is that advice people seek.

When used right, the social network "mini-blogger" has the capability to hook a new customer and convert them from follower to loyal customer. There’s a myriad of articles flooding the Internet about how to use social media for your small business, but for the most part these guidelines and blog posts are missing actual examples small business owners can use…. And the one that people are still questioning is Twitter.

How can it actually generate business (and profits)?

Here’s a list of some of the most common types of small businesses and examples of effective ways Twitter can be used to distribute their messages.

Real Estate Agents –Real estate agents provide a service in exchange for a fee, so there’s no real product to Tweet about. However, agents can find success in growing their follower counts by becoming the "go-to" expert in their neighborhood area, Tweeting about news and local happenings, new home listings or information for first time home buyers (or luxury home buyers or any of the other niche industries within real estate). They can also build up a following of other agents and starting a referral community all based on Twitter.

Other service industry Tweets: Create a discount or loyalty system for your clients, and then Tweet about it. Maybe you offer 10% off for new customers or a discount if a customer uses your service on the weekend…. Or mentions that they saw your ad on Twitter.

Restaurateur- Restaurants of all types and varieties are seeing an uptick in sales this year over last thanks to heavy discounting and mass coupon websites like Restaurant.com. You’ll find that Tweeting about those coupons, directing your customers to specials, happy hour deals and more will not just grow your restaurant’s social following, but bring new faces to your tables too.

Other food industry Tweets: Tweet locations of moving vehicle vendors, invite customers to rate your food and interact with other customers on your Twitter feed, or hold a creative contest that somehow allows followers to win gift cards in exchange for interaction with your Tweets.

Retail – If your small business retails sports equipment, for example, Tweet about the products that are selling the best and use brand names. Describe the different strengths of that brand and what makes your product or shopping experience unique. Tweeting about your opinions on sports teams and pop culture can be appropriate, but don’t bad mouth other teams. If you sponsor a little league team, Tweet about it.

Other retail industry Tweets: Where suitable, Tweet the price advantages you have over your competitors. You can also Tweet links to pages and products on your e-commerce website.

For some professionals, finding relevant and interesting things to Tweet about can be much more challenging. Here’s some ideas to get you going if your find yourself itching to get social, but just don’t know where to start.

Lawyers – Lawyers do not typically have discounts or products they can Tweet about, however, their firms do have a brand and a reputation. Lawyers can tweet about their accomplishments and their personal approach to popular legislative initiatives. Becoming a specialized and expert voice and personality in a particularly narrow niche can help lawyers attract and retain Twitter followers.

Insurance Agents – Ironically, while insurance is a necessity for every adult in America, most of us disdain obtaining or maintaining the various policies we own. Find a unique way to make insurance-related news and information engaging. One way to keep your followers interested it to Tweet about local neighborhood resources and ways to save on insurance.

For example: Use dollar amounts and real testimonials. "John Doe saved $364 by switching to us from Generic Insurance Company" is much more attractive and effective than "Save money with us".

Accountants – With every passing year, the U.S. tax law changes, creating a vortex of confusing code, rules, and exemptions most of us need a proverbial machete and weeks of frustration to hack through it all by April 14th. As an accountant, you can Tweet tips and insights that make these changes simple and understandable for your average client.

Tweeting effectively for small business doesn’t have to be complicated, a little imagination and out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way! Don’t feel discouraged if you’re in an industry or profession you don’t feel is interesting or suitable for Twitter. As long as your service, product, or offerings bring value to customers, then so too will your words and Tweets.

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