• How to use Twitter to engage your customers and prospects

    on 13 October 2009

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    One of the questions people who use Twitter get asked all the time is "what exactly do you get out of it"?

    I believe it's a really good way to engage your prospects, customers and let people know there is a human element to your business. Here are some thoughts for you on how you could use Twitter to help grow your business.

    1) Free real time search

    We're often willing to pay Google, Bing and Yahoo money but the very basis for Twitter (live searches) gives you the chance to be proactive rather than reactive. While only a small proportion of a total online market is using Twitter, they are communicating and actively looking for help. Why not use this as your opportunity to engage with a real person. The limited 140 characters (less their name) means that you have to be really precise with your approach, but you are going to be engaging your audience exactly when they are receptive.

    2) Better than cold calling?

    By engaging someone when they may be asking questions or thinking about their needs you can approach them when they are actually willing to listen (and even if they go offline, it will be there for them when they wake up). As long as you are genuine and empathise with their needs, you are likely to encourage a response. No gate keeper, no need to scratch around for buying signals.

    3) Establish what people need before your sell

    It's oh so easy to just say "buy my product" when they hinted they may be interested. However, why not use your introduction to engage and learn more about what they are looking for. Just because they say they're looking for food, doesn't mean they're interested in buying a pizza. Ask what kind of food they like, what they enjoy and what they are not looking for. If you can't meet their needs, you haven't wasted their time. By going in with your sell, sell, sell approach first, you're more likely to annoy than meet their needs.

    4) Be clear

    The great thing about 140 characters is that it really makes you think. Look at your tweet before you send it. Does it make sense to you? You don't have to get your entire message out in one hit. Start a conversation, see where it goes. But don't try to scrimp on grammar and spelling, it's only going to make your message unclear and difficult to understand. Not a great start.

    5) Search for your brand

    One of the biggest things about Twitter is, once again, the live nature of the search. Set up an automated search to look for keywords of your brand. Then you will be alerted when people are talking. But don't let any negativity get your back up. It's much easier to react in a calm manner if you accept that people have a right to free speech. You'll also be able to establish if your competitors are saying things about you... which can always be fun.

    6) Don't set up automated responses to keywords

    Tempting as it might be, there's no way this can be accurate. It's just going to be annoying!

    7) Don't get drawn into a follower scrap

    You don't need 10,000 followers to make this successful, you only need to approach the right people. If they don't follow you, it doesn't matter. After all, you're talking to them because you want to help.

    8) Don't spend every waking hour tweeting

    You really don't need to always be on Twitter to make this approach work. Use an application to set up alerts for the important things, but for the rest, maybe spend an hour at the start of the day and an hour at the end of the day... if there's nothing going on, don't fret, just put your time to better use.

    9) Don't spam

    Off topic, irrelevant messages (no matter the platform) are annoying and only going to give you a bad name. Many brands have fallen foul of this - do a search for HabitatUK!!

    10) Be patient

    It may not happen over night. But it will really add another string to your bow if you can use Twitter as a medium for your business.

    Overall, I think the most important way to think about this is that you are engaging in a very public conversation. If you're not sure what to say or how to say it, put yourself in their position and consider how you'd feel if you got that tweet. Would you react positively?

    If you do it right, you can get real success for very little money and not much effort. It's a great way to compliment your CRM strategy, just try not to get carried away - and certainly don't forget that it's a very public way of engaging people! Watch what you tweet!

    Posted by Sophie Le Brozec