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How to use Twitter in business

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For a small business, using Twitter is more about customer or prospect engagement than advertising or branding. Twitter – like all social media – is all about creating conversations, rather than pushing out a one-way message. It can be an incredibly useful way of engaging with customers, prospects or influencers such as analysts or journalists.

But as with any activity, assess the merits of using it before you jump in. Ask yourself the right questions.  Who are the people you want to reach? Are they (or their influencers) using Twitter (or are they likely to start soon – remember, it’s a fast-growing platform)? And do you want to start two-way discussions with them?

If the answer to these is no, then stop reading here. Twitter’s not for you.

But if you are interested in talking to (not at) your audiences, then Twitter offers a simple, effective way for you to engage with and respond to people, fast.  Using the search.twitter.com tool, you can find out what customers or prospects think about a company, or issue. It gives you the opportunity to respond directly to ideas and complaints; thank people for positive feedback; test new ideas for products or services; keep your target audiences up to date with news; or just keep involved with what people are doing in your industry.

If you are going to get involved with Twitter, make sure you do it properly. Don’t bore people to death with what you had for breakfast, or use it as a glorified RSS feed. Send tweets about things that your audience will be interested in, and you’ll soon be followed by people interested in your area. Tweet regularly, but not obsessively. Think of it like a conversation at a party: no-one likes the person who says nothing, nor the person who takes over.

Kate Hartley is a partner at technology PR firm Carrot Communications.

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