How to use twitter for small businesses

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Stylist Team
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According to its co-founder Jack Dorsey, human interaction via Twitter is the most important thing you can do for your small business. We got his exclusive tips for using the platform to expand your start-up.

My parents have always been small business owners - my dad started a pizza restaurant when he was 19, and my mum owned a coffee store in Missouri. The thing that I found most compelling and interesting about small business use on twitter is how a business the size of IBM or Coca Cola has exactly the same tools as my Mum’s coffee shop. They both have the same access, they both have the same potential to reach a global audience, and that global audience can determine if they’re interested in the products or the store or make a visit. It’s a living yellow pages so that not only you can see that this place exists, you can interact with them, talk with them and share them with your friends and it’s a great medium for word of mouth.

Here are my tips on how to use it:

1. Get started

The hardest thing to do is to start, so you have to start tweeting about the business, what you’re doing and what you’re selling. One of the things that really resonates with people on twitter is seeing the humans behind it, the process behind it, and how it’s made. The more that you can show the humanness behind the brand and behind the small business, the more people will actually develop a fondness for it. You want to build loyalty, people who will visit repeatedly and be loyal customers - something that’s so hard to find. People don’t necessarily want a sale, they want something they can trust and they love and they want to come back to every day. Be human, and tweet about it every single day.

2. Talk to the right people

People might think two different restaurants shouldn’t be talking to one another because they’re supposed to be competing, but it actually encourages more engagement around both and hits on people who are really passionate about whatever you’re actually selling. So showing the national network around you of your interest as a shop or as a small business, is big. Starbucks created a whole fair-trade movement around where they buy their beans, how they buy their beans and the farmers behind the beans and it makes you feel better about buying stuff from there and subconsciously that adds up. They’re all tools that small businesses can use just as well, they just need the right communications platform.

3. Keep it visual

Tweeting pictures and images of things is really helpful. For example, small restaurants can tweet pictures of the daily special and the new cheese they got in, that really help build a connection to the store and the people behind it. When you see a picture of something, that just makes it more real.

4. Respond to criticism

Every single message, be it positive or negative, is an opportunity to craft into something positive. You have to look at the question beyond the question and the critique beyond the critique - when people are critiquing a brand or spending time reviewing it, they’re spending time on it and you can actually eke that out. One of the earliest examples we saw on twitter was with a cable company called Comcast in the US. When a man's cable had been broken for a week and he kept tweeting about it, Comcast saw him tweet, dispatched a truck to him an hour later and an hour after that he got back on twitter and was talking about how Comcast was the greatest company in the world. Turn that round immediately and it happens again and again. You can look at any airline and see how they do it. Flying is not always the easiest thing or most fun thing and people vent their frustrations when they can, but they are great at turning conversations around. It works well if your first response is an @ reply so you’re publically acknowledging that you’re listening and you’re there to rectify the situation if possible. From there, take it to a private forum, whether that’s DM or getting contact information from them.