Why your local business can thrive on Twitter
Virtually any local small business can be successful on Twitter – if your customers are on Twitter, you can thrive there. You can use the platform to find out real-time information, discover what’s going on in the wider world, and to share ideas and opinions. Twitter content is short, succinct and informational.
Twitter is one of the few social media networks consistently used by both younger and older generations with the largest age segment using it being 25-34 year olds (29%), followed by 35-49 year olds (28%). It’s great for driving engagement and interaction with your audience(s) and increasing reach for your website news, blogs and events. You can also use it for successfully building relationships with key influencers who you can bring into conversation with @ mentions, likes and retweets.
Achieve your business goals for social
Think about what you want to achieve through social media – is it creating awareness about your business? Driving traffic to your website? Generating leads? Increasing conversions on your website? You’ll need to plan your strategy accordingly and then set some SMART goals to achieve your aim. Every post and comment you put on Twitter should ultimately support your goals.
It’s essential to think about your business’ values and target audience. How can you help these people? Research which social platform they are most active on, especially if you don’t have time to invest in multiple social platforms. Ask your current customers if they are on Twitter, look at your own competitors – are they active on there? Does your target audience fit Twitter’s audience or are you better off spending your resources elsewhere?
Set up and optimise your Twitter account
If you think Twitter could be for you, make sure you are setting up your Twitter profile to create a strong first impression for new followers that reflects your brand and values. Click here for instructions on how to set up a Twitter account.
Twitter handle – this must be fewer than 15 characters. This must be unique to your account & should be consistent with your other social media profiles. A Twitter handle is not the same as a Twitter name. Twitter handles appear after the @ sign in your profile URL – eg @in_hounslow – and must be unique to your account. A Twitter name (eg inHounslow) is to help people find the company they’re looking for.
Profile photo – this appears next to every tweet you post and ideally should be your logo. Check you are using the right dimensions.
Background header image – this appears on your profile page. You can update this to support your latest campaign or event, or to provide further information about your business.
Twitter Bio – this is your chance to tell your audience what you do but it is limited to 160 characters so needs to be to the point. Good to use a tagline or incorporate some brand personality here if you can.
URL – this is where you can link to your website. You can update it to drive traffic to a particular campaign or event page when appropriate too.
Location – this is very important for local businesses, especially if you have a physical presence.
Pinned Tweet – this stays static on the top of your profile so it is the first thing they see when people visit your profile, no matter when you tweeted it. Choose your pinned tweet carefully – ideally one that has a high level of engagement (RTs, likes), a great image, a strong CTA (call to action) and hashtag (either your own or, if you are new to twitter, use a relevant niche hashtag so you can jump on the back of hashtags that are already popular).
What to tweet?
Think about what you can do for your audience – how are you going to appeal to them? What can you do
for them? How can you help them? Your content should be either informative, topical, humorous or beautiful. Try to be relatable, not salesy – it’s best to mix in your promotional posts with other styles of posts (try one third of tweets promoting your business, one third engaging your followers, showing the human face or your business & your brand and one third sharing curated content with helpful/informative insights and ideas from experts or influencers).
Remember that your audience’s attention span on social media is very short so ideally your content can be read or viewed in just a few seconds, so you will need some snappy text (each tweet is limited to 280 characters) and great visuals (images, videos, gifs) to stand out.
How can you create really engaging content? Try to create content that people will want to get involved with or that provokes a reaction in the audience. Make it shareable. (competitions, questions, polls, surveys, giveaways are great).
Re-purpose your existing content – do you have any blogs, videos, vlogs, photos, customer testimonials, FAQs that you could adapt to use on Twitter?
Be topical – react and give your (business’) take on current news and trends, particularly local ones. This can be a great way to connect with your audience and share your values.
Be humorous – (if appropriate for your brand) – this can make your business seem more human, approachable and relatable.
Make the most of visuals – they say a picture is worth a thousand words – even more so on Twitter where you only have 280 characters and images/videos/gifs don’t count towards the character limit! Tweets with images get up to 3 times more engagement and videos 10 times more engagement than a simple text tweet. Why not back up an informative tweet with an infographic or chart, use your best photos to showcase your products. Videos can be even better for capturing attention and communicating your brand personality. Gifs can be amazing for stopping the scroll and increasing engagement too.
Planning ahead with your content – this will save you time in the long run. Research and list national or local events , holidays or “national days” which your brand can tie into, then create a content calendar so you plan your posts around those days.
Live Tweet an event – if you’re going to a relevant local event, live-tweeting your experiences using the event’s unique hashtag can really get you noticed. As well as helping your target audience follow along through your tweets you’ll also be noticed by fellow event attendees who might choose to engage and follow you too.
No matter what your approach to Twitter, always remember to stay true to your brand and business by relating any content or comments back to the business (not your own personal views).
How to tweet and when to tweet
- Show your business’ personality – across all the platforms you need to be consistent with your brand voice to get across your brand values.
- Show the human side of your business – be real and sincere – use everyday language not jargon.
- Don’t be spammy – post original tweets and don’t repeat identical posts.
- Be generous – remember to retweet and share other people’s posts if you think they are relevant to your own audience.
- Bring other people into your conversations by @ mentioning relevant accounts, but be careful not to overdo it as this can look spammy & annoying to the people you are trying to engage.
- Use 1-2 hashtags maximum per post.
- Check your notifications regularly and thank & engage with people who have mentioned you or replied to you – try to keep the conversation going.
Because social media algorithms consider “recency” as an important ranking point, posting when people are active is one of the best ways that you can improve your organic (not paid for) reach. So, be active on Twitter when your audience is on Twitter. Ask your target audience when they are using social media most (evenings, weekends, during their commutes?). Look at your own website stats to gauge when your audience is viewing your content. You can use a scheduling tool (eg Twitter itself, Hootsuite, or Buffer) to save you time to post things you have planned in advance at the optimum times, but it’s important to be online to post “in the moment” so you can join in conversations in real-time and respond to replies and mentions.
It’s important to strike a balance between being informative without being annoying! For maximum visibility on Twitter, it is recommended to post between one & five times a day.
How to amplify your messages and increase engagement
Engagement is the most important element of social media – the best way to show the human side of your business and start to get seen by your target audience. Commit to spending time daily engaging with other tweeters and topics that matter to you.
Social listening: Research your keywords and use Twitter Search or tools like Hootsuite to monitor the conversations around them, then join in with current conversations. You can also follow a topic on Twitter by entering the subject into the search bar then following that topic. You can also search your own business name to see what people are saying about you.
Be a conversation-starter: Ask your existing followers pointed questions about timely topics going on in your community.
Join Twitter Communities – these are ongoing conversations & groups of Tweets around a specific interest and hashtag, e.g. #MotivationMonday, #WednesdayWisdom, #Hounslow. To find some to join, just look at accounts similar to your own for the hashtags.
Identify which influencers you are keen to get on the radar of, or whose messages you are aligned with: These could be accounts in your local area or organisations/businesses within your sector. Take an active interest in what they are posting and who they are interacting with. Who is following them? What are they retweeting? Identify and then engage with them, by liking, commenting, RTing or quote RTing their posts- but no hard selling or self-promotion!
Engage slowly to gain credibility & trust and they will start to engage back with you. This will be key to growing your account and increasing awareness for your business. Set up Twitter lists for these accounts so you can easily access & engage on a regular basis. Your own lists can be set to private or public. You can also subscribe to other people’s lists.
If someone is asking a question that you can answer, then join in the conversation and help them out. Actively monitor your mentions and brand hashtags to respond quickly and helpfully to customers — not only will it help that person, but it shows everyone else that you care.
Best practice on responses: respond in real time, or as fast as possible! The average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours, while the average user will only wait 4 hours. Your responses should use the person’s name and aim to give a genuine, personal response that enhances the conversation. “Thank you” isn’t enough!
Tips for increasing visibility and engagement
Hashtags – These can make your Tweets more discoverable. Research which hashtags are right for your sector, location and niche. New businesses can jump on existing popular niche hashtags to help amplify their tweets (don’t choose very general hashtags as your content will get lost). Check out what hashtags your competitors are using to get ideas. Your own branded hashtags can be useful for keeping track of conversations about your own topics, promotional campaigns, competitions and user generated content. Get more tips here about how to use hashtags.
Twitter polls: How can you ask engaging questions around a subject? Ask questions that will provoke thoughtful answers (not one word ones!). Can you incorporate a poll? Twitter polls let you ask questions & include up to 4 answers for users to choose from. Polls are a great way to engage your audience as they are easy & fun, plus people love to express their opinions about minor topics on Twitter!
User-generated content (original brand-specific content made by people published on social media, not the brand itself) is one of the best ways to entice and attract people to engage with your business. UGC can take many forms, including images, videos, reviews or a testimonial. Brainstorm how you could encourage this. If your business is a cafe or bakery, maybe you could encourage customers to post how or where they are enjoying their morning coffee? Or an “unboxing” of one of your bakery treats? People trust other people, so authentic User-generated content acts much like word of mouth marketing via social media. There’s also Employee-generated content too – where employees can show original behind the scenes images or videos, showing the value and story behind your business.
Ask your audience what they would like to see more of – send out surveys, ask for feedback, or even create a Twitter Chat to generate more content ideas.
Retweeting your own posts – if any posts are doing particularly well on Twitter, you can always RT them yourself or add a quote RT later in the month.
Links to Twitter Account – remember to include links to your Twitter account on your website, other social platforms and email signature, or you could embed tweets on your website.
Twitter Analytics are easy to use to see how your account is performing. Here you can see your top tweets, top mentions as well as impressions, engagement, engagement rate per tweet and the account performance over various time periods.
Engagement is the most important measure to see how many people are actually seeing and then interacting (liking, RTing, replying, clicking) with your content. A high percentage of loyal and engaged followers with a small number of followers is better than a large following with low engagement. High engagement means you have the right people following you on Twitter. Other useful metrics to monitor for brand awareness are the number of impressions and to a lesser degree the number of followers. Here’s how to set up Twitter Analytics.
It can take a while to get a Twitter account off the ground, so a brand new account’s follower count and engagement rate will be low to start, but if you post consistently, engage with your followers, and encourage the right people to follow you, your account will start to grow.
Don’t buy Twitter followers! Fake followers can get you banned from Twitter (Twitter’s algorithm can spot a distorted follower/following ratio), they’re easy to spot and they can damage your reputation and credibility.
Advertising on Twitter
If you have the budget, then advertising on Twitter can help you grow your audience, promote your products, drive traffic to your website, and more. There are different options for advertising – for example, you can either promote your account to get more followers, or promote individual tweets to help engagement especially if you are running a particular campaign or event.
There are detailed analytics to help you reach the right audience and monitor costs and results of your campaign. To run Twitter ads you will need to sign up for a Twitter Ads account.