Using Twitter to Engage Your Customers
Social media has completely changed the world we live in, allowing instantaneous interaction between potentially millions of people across the world. Over 82% of 18-29 year olds use social media, and most visit social media sites several times a day. You know how it is – check your notifications when you wake up and just before you go to sleep, when you’ve got a break, when you’re procrastinating, when you’re waiting for the bus… Social media is a huge part of all our lives now, and it can be a vital tool in securing the ongoing financial stability of your business. Twitter, the microblogging platform, is one of the best ways to directly engage with potential customers.
Let’s Crunch Some Numbers
Over a million people view customer service tweets each day, and an overwhelming majority of them are negative. A decisive 65% of users think social media is a better customer service platform than a call centre, with many turning to directly contacting companies on sites such as Twitter. Almost half of them expect a response within an hour, but only 36% of customers report that their issues were resolved quickly and effectively. However, over 70% of customers with positive experiences on social media go on to recommend the brand. There’s potential here to reach out to millions of people, so it’s time to ask yourself: Is Twitter part of my social media marketing? And how can I engage people online?
What is Twitter?
Let’s start with the basics. For those of you who are a bit behind on their Internet lingo, Twitter is a microblogging platform where users can send tweets, in which they share their thoughts, news, information, and jokes, in 140 characters of text or less. Your tweet can include a link to web content, a photo, or a video, and anyone in the world can see what you write. Twitter makes global communication quick, cheap, easy, and measurable. Your profile will be public (unless you select otherwise) and users can follow your profile so they never miss anything you have to say. Twitter has a glossary in case of any linguistic muddles you might have.
How Do You Start Building an Online Brand?
Once you’ve got a Twitter profile that fits in with your online brand, and you’ve got a dedicated tweeter, start building a profile that will drive people to your business.
- DO tell people where they can find you, with a business address or web address. They can’t be your customers if they don’t know how to connect with your business!
- DO make sure your profile has some personality. It has to represent your business and your unique selling point, but you want customers to have that feeling of personal interaction with your brand.
- DO start following useful contacts. It’s the quickest way of letting people know who you are and what you do. Follow business partners, suppliers, contractors, vendors, businesses in your neighbourhood, trade organisations you have regular contact with, other peers in your industry, and members of your professional network. Don’t follow people too quickly, though; Twitter might see you as a potential spammer and suspend your account temporarily.
The idea behind having a profile on such a public medium as Twitter is to build a relationship with your customers. You want them to trust you and feel that they have a relationship with your company. So just how do you start?
- Keep your tweets short and punchy; people aren’t going to follow an intense, hundred tweet conversation full of florid dialogue.
- Keep a steady flow of tweets throughout the day, but don’t overload your feed. Aim for 6 to 8 tweets in the day, and post them when they’ll have the post impact – as people are travelling to work, during lunch breaks, mid-afternoon breaks, and when they’re going home.
- What do you want to say on Twitter? How exactly do you want to sell your product? Work out a Twitter communication plan and stick to it. Find that spot between what your target audience wants to hear and promoting your business. For most small businesses that involves focusing on how you can help your customers. Provide useful information and answer questions honestly.
- DO get involved with Twitter events, such as popular hashtags, Follow Fridays, and memes…
- …but DON’T get carried away and stop thinking. There are many businesses that follow trends without thinking and consequently suffer a backlash. The PR team for Susan Boyle didn’t notice that their hashtag spelled out ‘Su’s anal bum party’ and British Gas suffered a humiliating live Q&A session when hundreds of angry customers venting their frustrations.
- Think of a way to get your business noticed. How can you one-up your competitors and make yourself seem more approachable? Penguin Books often have little interactive word competitions with their followers, and many businesses have office mascots that tweet throughout the day. Be unique and unusual.
- Keep your Twitter connected to your online presence, such as your company website or blog.
Build More Followers!
Once you’ve got a good customer base, a great profile, and your Twitter account is connected to your company website, it’s time to build a bigger customer base! Search for ways to engage directly with your Twitter audience; offer special promotions and deals to your followers, set up rewards for those who retweet your posts, and maybe arrange an informal ‘tweetup’ (a meeting in person) for your dedicated followers.
What About Negative Feedback?
When you actively engage with your customer base, you are going to come across negative responses. It’s part of life – you are never going to please everyone all of the time. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and it can spread like wildfire on a medium such as Twitter. Handling negative comments badly can be hugely damaging for your business; ignore them and you look like you don’t care, but respond poorly and you end up looking like the bad guy. What’s the solution? Add this simple equation to your communication plan, and you’ll never take a step wrong again: search Twitter for mentions of your brand, and respond personally to each comment in an engaging, funny, or humble way. Keep doing this, and you’ll have plenty of happy customers!