ask the expert | How Twitter Actually Makes Your Small Business Life Easier

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Today we have a post from our expert partner in online marketing: Martina Iring from Small Business Bliss. She is answering a question I get asked often...

"Is it worth getting started on twitter?"

Many little biz owners find Twitter synonymous with a “waste of precious time”.  Many think that it's a total time suck.  Or that it can't possibly help their small business.

If you’re ignoring Twitter, leaving it out of your social media marketing scheme because you don’t really get how it works, you are ignoring a wonderful tool that can be a huge help to you. 

The key to Twitter (especially for all those small business owners out there without marketing departments) is to use your Twitter time strategically. Like Facebook and other social media channels, Twitter can be a black hole of productivity. Let’s ditch the random surfing around! Read on for some ways that Twitter can actually make your small business life easier.  Maybe you’ll decide that it’s not so bad after all!

Easily find people talking about your product or services

This is a top business opportunity on Twitter - you can easily find potential customers who are actively searching for your product or service.  A friendly tweet is a simple way to let people know your business is here and could lead to future business contracts or paying customers. I personally have gotten clients and made fantastic connections with this trick.

In Twitter, go to the search option and enter in your keywords (words that someone would use when looking for your business’ offering).  The more specific your keywords the better, as it will help narrow down your search results.  Entering in a location is a must if you’re a local business, as it will narrow down the search to people looking for your offering in your area.

If you’d like a little more help with this, check out the how-to video in this post: How to use Twitter search.

Once you have found people who are looking for or talking about what your small business does, this is a wonderful chance to engage and get tweeting.  You come the customer!

Quick and dirty networking

A great organizational tool for Twitter is the create a list option. One of the biggest complaints about Twitter I hear from small business owners is “How could I possibly keep track of hundreds (maybe thousands) of Twitter followers?” The answer is – you can’t! Lists to the rescue.

To create a list, from the Twitter home page, go to the “lists” tab, and there will be an option to “create a list”.  You can chose to make a list private (only you will be able to see it) or public (anyone on Twitter can see the list you've created). 

Whether you go public or private with your list, you can now keep track of and interact with the businesses and people that you want to stay in touch with, without having to sift through all the tweets in your stream.

Spy on your competitors

This is the perfect non-confrontational way to check in on your competitors and see what they're tweeting about, who they're tweeting with and what tweeps (aka Twitter users) are saying about them.  Simply search their name, and have a look at what they're up too.

Do some free market research

Trending topics on Twitter are those topics that are the most popular and are tagged more than others on Twitter.  It's a great way to tune in to what people are talking about and what's going on. When using the Twitter interface, you can see these topics right from the homepage. If you’re more interested in seeing popular topics in your geographical area, click here to get instructions on how to do this from the folks at Twitter.

You can also just use the search function (as we discussed above), looking for conversations around certain keywords to see what people are talking about.  Twitter is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to market research for your small business.

Easy testimonials

Even better than what you have to say about your business is what your customers have to say about it. Twitter makes posting testimonials easy as pie. If someone says something positive in a tweet, it’s a very simple process to tag it as a favourite and get it up on your website in a special Twitter testimonial bar. Click here for some great step by step instructions on getting this set up from the folks at Social Media Examiner.  The best part is, you don’t have to ask for permission. Tweets are public information.

Twitter is not for everyone and may not be an ideal channel for your small business - despite what you might read online with gurus insisting you have to be on Twitter. You always have to take everything with a grain of salt! However, gaining a better understanding of how it can help you empowers you to make the right decision for your biz.

On to you, do you use Twitter for your little biz? Have you tried the ideas above? Do you have other Twitter tips to share? Let’s hear it in the comments! 

Martina Iring works with entrepreneurs overwhelmed with all that web stuff. She’s on a mission to help the little guys make sense of internet marketing, teaching small business owners how being online is not only profitable, but enjoyable! Her blog, Small Business Bliss, offers up gobs of marketing info and doses of inspiration just for little biz owners. Be sure to go visit and grab a free website improvement guide.

further reading on twitter: your one stop guide to using twitter