Marketwired Blog

Twitter for Small Business

By Tannette Johnson-Elie


Call him the king of the tweet.  It’s a moniker befitting Jeff Carrigan, who runs an Internet job posting site for people in marketing communications. The entrepreneur spends up to four hours a day on Twitter, sharing pertinent information on job leads, professional seminars and industry trends.


Carrigan, of Milwaukee, is founder and owner of Big Shoes Network Inc., a niche job-posting website that helps thousands of employers and job seekers in the Midwest get connected to one another.


Twitter is an inexpensive way for small business entrepreneurs like Carrigan to connect with a community of followers and influence the right people. The online, micro-blogging service lets users post short messages – known as tweets – and allows them to monitor conversations on a plethora of topics.


“We put out a job opening at the top of every hour (10 to 12 hours a day),” said Carrigan who launched Big Shoes Network in 2006.  “We also try to make people aware of the different professional associations and all the meetings and seminars they’re putting on.”


It’s a lot of work for a small outfit. But well worth it as Carrigan’s tweets have yielded dividends: The addition of 12 new clients and increased traffic to his website – which averages 4,500 visitors each month.


“Twitter has been great for us as a company,” he said.


Nevertheless, Carrigan is more the exception than the norm when it comes to Twitter usage among small business owners, research shows.


In a recent survey of 835 small businesses conducted by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Vistage International, just 3% of respondents said they found Twitter beneficial for branding and reaching potential customers. LinkedIn was rated as their top choice, while Facebook ranked second, according to the survey.


The problem is that many small businesses struggle with how to use Twitter in a meaningful way, leading them to doubt its effectiveness as a marketing tool, research shows.


In today’s fiercely competitive and brand-driven marketplace, it’s probably not a smart move to ignore Twitter. The question is: How can you use Twitter successfully without tarnishing your brand and losing customers and sales as a result?  Here are some tips on how to make Twitter work for your small business:


Find your voice by tweeting regularly.


“The more frequently you tweet, the more comfortable you’ll get sharing things on Twitter in a compact way,” said Phil Gerbyshak, chief connections officer for Milwaukee Social Media, which helps organizations create strategies to connect to their customers and prospects using social media.


Don’t go looking for the hard sell, but approach Twitter as a channel for having a conversation, sharing ideas and being a resource to others.


For example, when initially connecting with followers, learn as much as you can about them, says Gerbyshak.


“Once you learn that, and that takes time, you can find out if they might have any interest in your idea by simply asking them if they’re interested. If they are interested, share more with them,” he said.  “If they’re not, don’t invest any time in marketing at them or they will simply ignore you, or worse, they’ll block you from sharing anything more with them.”


Talk about what you’re passionate about even if it doesn’t directly relate to your business.


“People buy people first, not businesses,” Gerbyshak said. “By sharing your passion, people see you’re a person and not just a business.”


Share what’s keeping you up at night or what’s helping you sleep.


“Your struggles and your successes shared without whining or bragging are great things to share,” Gerbyshak said.


Participate in a variety of Twitter chats, connect with other small business owners and share their content – and ask them to share yours. 


“Write articles that you can share in this chat, retweet others best articles, and follow and engage these folks in conversation about their points,” said Gerbyshak.


Twitter can be an invaluable tool for small businesses that want to leverage the power of information and use it to build their reputations and get their messages in front of the right people who potentially could be converted to customers.


“It allows you to get your message out there, and get it amplified, in a real-time, meaningful way,” Gerbyshak said.


Just ask Carrigan, the Big Shoes Network founder: “We’ve gained so much exposure by utilizing this free platform to get the word out about who we are and we what do,” he said.

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