Guest Post by Tai Goodwin
I love Twitter.
Depending on which group I am speaking to, I can’t always say that too loudly. There are some crowds that get it. There are other rooms, many of them filled with small business owners and solopreneurs who don’t get it — yet.
LinkedIn makes sense. Facebook is starting to make more sense. Twitter still feels like a whole other universe to most people -it’s even got its own language (retweet s, tweetups, hashtags, etc…) right? But here’s the truth: Twitter, when used correctly, can be one of the most valuable resources for small business owners looking to expand their network, research their niche and competition, position themselves as a leader in their niche, and grow their influence.
Using Twitter to Expand Your Network
Most small business owners have a system to connect with their customers. And in most cases you know how to reach out to your current vendors. But Twitter can help you find and connect to new strategic partners you may not have known about because they were too new or too far geographically to be on your radar. Go for quality and not just quantity when it comes to who you follow — and who you follow back. Twitter makes key influencers and connectors accessible and opens the door to connections for those willing to reach out and offer value and not just brag and sell. Remember, who you know (or follow) on Twitter influences what you know and what opportunities come down the stream — literally.
Twitter is Great for Research
Talk about information overload – as of March, 2011 over 140 million tweets are sent every day. On the bright side, there are a number of search and filtering tools that allow small business owners to sift through those tweets to find articles, tips, tools, coupon codes, offers, incentives, news, and answers. There’s even a tool that will let you send a poll question through twitter and then track and report the results. The key to using Twitter for research effectively relies on two things: knowing what information you are looking for and knowing what tools to use.
Want to Know How to Get “Expert” Status?
These days, with so much information available from everyone and everywhere it seems, it is hard to define an expert as someone who knows everything. In my book — the expert is the one who knows how to find the answers and resources needed and then is wise enough to put that information where others can get to it. Twitter can help you do that. Statistics have shown that just 20% of Twitter users create 80% of the content. If that’s so — creating and sharing more content than your competitors can help you be part of that 20%. And by content, I’m not just talking about tweeting your offers and services three times a day. I’m talking about creating and sharing real valuable content for your followers and prospective clients that answers their questions. The more information you find and share (to the right audience), the more knowledgeable and valuable you appear.
Get your “SWAY” On
According to Merriam — Webster’s online dictionary, influence is “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways: SWAY.” It’s one thing to nudge people into coming to your site because you are giving them something. It’s a completely different level when you’ve got a crowd of fans that are nudging people for you. Many small business owners understand the value of word of mouth referrals; in fact their business depends on it. Think of Twitter as online word of mouth: one retweet from the right follower or connection can put your brand or business in front of thousands. And what’s better than having someone who’s already got the relationship and credibility spread the word about what you have to offer? Without you having to pay for an endorsement?
Keep Your Sanity and Keep Using (or get started with) Twitter
So how are savvy business owners leveraging Twitter to grow their business? Here are a few practical ideas that will make your time on Twitter more profitable (or at the very least less frustrating).
- Follow the right people including prospects, clients, vendors and influencers in your industry.
- Create and share relevant content that your audience wants and needs to know.
- Use the right tools to filter, automate, track, and manage conversations
- Commit to a tactic for at least a month before saying it doesn’t work (decisions should be made on data not failure to provide immediate gratification)
- Vary your content with retweets, recommendations, referrals, quotes, images (avoid spamming followers with ads and offers)
- Start conversations and respond to people’s questions — don’t be a social media wall flower
- Learn how to participate in TweetChats (like #smallbizchat) and use #hashtags related to your niche and target audience
- Take the conversation off line when you meet VIP’s (very interested prospects)
- And always, always, always start with a plan.
Tai Goodwin (www.TaiGoodwin.com) is a social media strategist and editor in chief of Launch While Working.com, an online resource center specifically for the growing population of professionals who are launching a business while working full-time or part-time jobs. She is also co-host of #SmallBizChat.