Jim Harrer


A Twitter Guide for CEOs and Business Owners

Twitter for business owners, explained.

Admittedly, Twitter is an application that most business people never get. You need to live in Twitter and study how other people are using Twitter successfully to connect with existing customers while finding new sales prospects. My goal in this blog post is to highlight how I think businesses should be using Twitter. I also plan to give you some examples of how businesses in different sectors should be taking advantage of Twitter.

First, if you own a business and you’re new to Twitter or still, just don’t “get it” let me give you a quick overview. Twitter is a micro-blogging application designed to send updates or notices to a group of followers. The founders picked 140 characters because that was the limit on most SMS phones for text messaging. The application quickly found a home beyond cell phones where 140 characters could have easily been expanded. However, something interesting happened by accident, the 140 characters made people “get to the point” by using their 140 characters wisely.

If you own a small business owner and wonder how many people in your local area are potential customers, check out a site called LocalTweeps (http://bit.ly/6Sl16o) and do a search by zip code. LocalTweeps' audience is less than 1% of the people in your area using Twitter, but it’s a good place to find people in your area that have established followers. You should add your Twitter account to their free directory while you’re on the site.

Why businesses should use Twitter.

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m only going to focus on two reasons you should create an active Twitter social media program. Obviously, there are more, but let’s stay focused on these two: 

  1. Find new customers, sell more products and services.
  2. Improve your relationship with your current customers and stay connected with them.

Every message (known at Tweets) you send via Twitter should keep this in mind. If you feel compelled to share messages off-topic, then create a personal Twitter account and use that for friends, family and colleagues who might want to hear about such things. Your Twitter account representing your business brand should stay on point, before you send it you should make sure it meets our two goals (1&2 above).

Why is staying “on message” important? Because businesses that use their Twitter accounts to post irrelevant content reduces the attention rate of those people following you. Most social media ad agencies suggest that the average Tweet is read by 1% to 3% of the followers. This is about the same rate for direct mail. So, if you have 1,000 followers, a high read rate would be considered 30 reads, the low end is 10 people seeing your message. If you have 200 followers, we’re talking about 2 to 6 people seeing your Tweet.

I think you’ll agree with me, those are discouraging numbers. However, if you follow my advice and make sure ALL of your Tweets meet our two stated goals, you can significantly improve your statistics.

You need to be able to measure every Tweet you send. So I recommend you set up an account on bit.ly which will allow you to create tiny urls that you can track. You’ll be able to measure how many people click on your links within your Tweets.

Learn from a great example.

My favorite example to use is Trent Reznor, the front-man for the rock band Nine Inch Nails. I don’t want to get caught up in the current gossip of the band, what I want to write about is the fact Trent’s Twitter (@trent_reznor) account currently (Jan 2012) has 1,099,734 followers. Look at an earlier chart when Trent first started on Twitter.

trent reznor twitter followersOn March 8th, 2009 he had 13,000 followers, April 1st 191,000, May 1st 417,000 – you get the picture. This is extremely impressive. You don’t see this type of explosive follower growth on many new Twitter accounts (On January 1, 2009 he had 31 followers).

So, what happen? Trent connected with his fans. His Tweets were relevant to what his fans wanted to read. Trent used Twitter to get personal with his fans. It was as if each Tweet was a personal message directly to a friend’s cell phone. His fans (customers) we’re reading his Tweets and taking a personal interest in his products and services (music and events).

Then as they geared up their concert tour in March & April 2009, Trent started sending Tweets like “Giving free tickets for our concert in West Palm Beach, get ready!” Ten minutes later, he would Tweet “First 10 people to visit http://www.nin.com – get free tickets”. The traffic nearly shut his website down. He would continue to Tweet about the concert tour, how they came up with pricing and other things about the band. Then you would see another Tweet, “Giving 10 free tickets to our concert in Phoenix, stand by”. A few minutes later, another Tweet, “First 5 people to send me a DM get two free tickets.” A DM is a Direct Message you can send via Twitter. A few seconds later, he would Tweet, “Got the Winners, thank you for trying. Winners are….” And he would include the five people’s Twitter usernames in the Tweet so we could all congratulate them.

Word spread throughout the NIN fan base that Trent was giving tickets away via Twitter. People would RT (ReTweet) Trent’s message announcing the winners. More and more people started following Trent, as you can see from the graph.

However, besides building a quick following of fans, unlike most celebrities on Twitter, Trent’s messages were being read by the way more than 3% of his followers. People were glued to Trent’s Twitter page and read each and every message he posted. 1) They were trying to win some free passes to his concerts and 2) his messages were relevant to his fans (customers).

Radio stations have used these methods since they first went on the air. However, most people don’t call all their friends and tell them to listen to a station giving away concert tickets. Twitter takes viral marketing to the next level by allowing people to easily ReTweet a message thus repeating the message to everyone following them.

venturebox teamDon’t underestimate the power of people forwarding your message on to their friends by using the Twitter’s RT feature. You can improve your chances of people repeating your offer, simply by asking people to RT when you send your message. Each time someone ReTweets your message, all of their followers see the message and can also ReTweet it. This is why Trent’s follower count grew so fast, friends were telling their friends about Trent’s free tickets resulting in over 600,000 people reading each and every one of Trent’s messages.

Trent would also Tweet about things that happen backstage or would comment on the location or the fans. His Tweets we’re written in a single person as if he was talking to you as a friend. They’re insightful and real. He also doesn’t go crazy with the number of Tweets he sends. For example, he’s sent 680 Tweets while Ashton Kutcher has sent over 7,300. My guess is, more people actually READ Trent Reznor, even though Ashton has an impressive 9 million followers.

A couple Twitter examples

I enjoy stories of how small businesses use Twitter to drive customers to their location. when recently asked, Guy Kawasaki said, "I look at the small companies that have done it really well. There are examples of bakeries that tweet when cupcakes are out, or Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles that tweet out street food locations. And 100 people show up. To me, a street food vendor driving their business like that, that's a cool story."

Here are a couple of other examples to give you some ideas:

A Local Restaurant

For goal #1 – Tweet about SPECIAL coupons only available via Twitter. Have the weekly coupons go out once a week. Then when business is slow, Tweet a special offer – first 5 people to DM get a buy 1, get 1 free or other compelling offer. Make it big enough, if you’re afraid it’s too big of an offer, limit it to the next person who DM’s you. Need larger parties at your restaurant? Simply create a program to support that. Free bottle of wine for a table of six or more is a great example. It’s important when you ask people to DM you that you send another Tweet that a winner has been named. I like naming the winners by their Tweeter username just to make it all on the up and up. You can also Tweet about coupons that are going to appear in the newspaper or mailbox so they look for it.

For goal #2 – Hand out business cards with your Twitter name and ask people to send you a DM about the service or food. Put a coupon on the back of the card and to make the card more valuable to them. Ask people to Tweet about their meal and to include your @TwitterName – reward one person a week with a free cocktail or glass of wine. Catch your employees doing something right and Tweet about it, things like, “I’m so proud of the great service Helen gave the Johnson party of 6 last night. Great job Helen!” Then watch your customers come in and congratulate Helen and ask for her by name.

A Local Golf Club

For goal #1 – Give away a free round of golf, after 2pm. You can place limits like, must not have won in the last 30 days if needed. You can modify is as needed, like free round with a full price round. Is the restaurant slow? Offer a free round of golf with a lunch meal of $25.00 or more. Does the pro shop needs more traffic? Offer a free towel with the purchase of $50 dollars or more. Do your pros need more private or group lessons? Make some incredible deals for immediate bookings and don’t let a block of time go unused. Again, as in the previous example, make the offers unique to Twitter so you can track and measure.

For goal #2 – Tell people about any hole in ones. Announce the top place finishes in the weekly men’s and woman’s league and tell people how to join those leagues. Tweet about all charity events at the club. Surprise people with TwitPics of "best dressed" winners from any theme events you've had. Engage the pro shop, if someone buys a new set of clubs, take their picture and post it on Twitter. This will keep it social and fun.

I hope some of these examples help bring you some clarity on how to use Twitter for your business. I think it’s also helpful to discuss what I perceive as “half baked” implementations by companies who should know better.

@IZODOutlet : Active inspired casual sportswear and accessories, for use on or off the course.

IZOD has 1,100 followers. They consistently make two mistakes: 1) Their offers are not special. Anyone with their rewards card gets the deal. All they're doing is remarketing their current programs via Twitter. There is no incentive to follow them, let alone read their Tweets. 2) They don't use a link tracking with their offers (they drive everyone to http://www.izodrewards.com) instead of using a tracking url (like bit.ly) – this forces them to rely on their website analytical tools to measure their Twitter hit rate. Recommendation: track everything with bit.ly, make offers on Twitter only available via Twitter and make the offers so good, people want to ReTweet them.

@mtbachelor : Oregon's largest ski area.

Mt. Bachelor has 5,800 followers. Seldom makes any offers. Is more of a personal Twitter account, I doubt it is run by their marketing department. Recommendation: On extremely slow days on the mountain offer $20 ski passes to the first 10 people to send a DM – good for that day only. When the ski shop is slow, offer special deals on Demo’s to the first 10 people to mention the special in the ski shop. When you have a Host working the lodge, and the lodge is slow, offer 10 free coffees to the first people to DM. Offer a free fountain drink with the purchase of any food item to the first 10 people to post pictures on Twitter, using TwitPic. Look at areas of your business that need more foot traffic and use Twitter to make special offers to drive traffic to that area of the resort on that day. Reward people for reading your Tweets.

So there you have it. If you need specific advice for your business please feel free to contact me. If you would like me to work with your staff, to build an effective social media program for your business, I would be happy to do so.

Twitter can be an extremely useful sales and marketing tool for businesses. Just remember, business uses are different then the way people use it to communicate with their friends. Keep it relevant, on point and make sure each Tweet meets either goal 1 or 2 and you’ll be on your way a successful social media campaign.


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