Business development · 23 August 2016

Using Twitter to promote your business

Twitter party
Twitter can help startups identify trends and engage with opportunities in an industry

For the small business looking to start conversations, engage with customers and flag industry know-how, Twitter can be an invaluable ally – no budget required.

With more than 310m active users across the globe, Twitter has become one of the most influential digital platforms since it went live in 2006.

For businesses that master the art of tweeting, there are plenty of commercial benefits to be had. The platform offers a chance to engage customers, attract new ones and build brand awareness – all without dipping into marketing budgets – making it a place where small businesses can enjoy coverage alongside multinationals.

Investing time in Twitter can provide startups with important information on competitors, as well as helping them identify trends, engage with industry opportunities and understand the wider challenges that could impact business. The platform can also be used to gain feedback on ideas and new products during development phases.

Getting it right on Twitter

Director of publicity and events firm MOA Marketing, Helen Vinsen, said: “A great tweet is one that interrupts the feed, engages with an audience and informs them of something.

“This is often helped by using a picture, and due to the nature of Twitter, you can also link other parties into the message, which allows them to react, enhance your message and open up a dialogue.”

Planning in advance and coordinating Twitter tactics that are in line with the broader goals of the business ensure greater chances of success, and an integrated strategy is crucial to getting the most out of the platform for businesses.

Vinsen suggested: “If you have done some collaborative work with another SME, consider thanking them for the work or publishing a blog post and linking it in a tweet.”

“This may result in a retweet that extends your reach by many thousands in just a few moments, so choose what you write with care.”

Like most social media platforms, Twitter offers an advertising facility which allows businesses to target marketing efforts towards those likely to be interested in particular products or services. For those with a budget and a well-considered plan, Twitter advertising can be a powerful tool.

Tom Bourlet is senior digital marketer at the Stag Company, a Brighton-based stag party business that has experienced success on the Twitter platform. “We ran a large Twitter ad campaign when we first launched the Birmingham Zombie Bootcamp on our site,” he explained.

“This helped to increase enquiries by 70 per cent, as well as gaining us some media attention. Birmingham had not previously been a strong destination for us, but due to the campaign we ran, it has been one of our top five locations for 2016 so far.”

Bourlet added that his sales team received Twitter training with an emphasis on keyword monitoring, and using third-party tool TweetDeck to identify potential customers “who are in the research stage”. Meanwhile, his commercial team use Twitter to build relationships with suppliers, and his marketing team run Twitter ads during sale periods or when they’re looking to promote a particular product.

Among the many benefits of the platform, Bourlet highlighted the ability to find potential customers, respond to media opportunities, monitor brand mentions and handle enquiries efficiently.

“The key differentiator [from other social networks] is the ability to keyword monitor and therefore target your efforts,” he said. “While on Facebook it would be incredibly odd to add someone you don’t know, there doesn’t seem to be the same barrier on Twitter, making it a great tool to communicate with influencers in your industry.”

Fierce competition

The openness and popularity of Twitter means that competition for the attention of customers can be fierce. Small businesses and startups must truly engage with the digital community that Twitter offers in order to stand out from the crowd.

“Twitter is faster paced than any other major social media platform,” said creative head at content and communications agency, Jesse Norton. “Success comes from offering up content that’s relevant, interesting and fresh – which can certainly be a challenge in just 140 characters”.

Norton stressed that genuine industry knowledge and a willingness to engage with other companies alongside potential customers are necessary to reap the rewards of promoting a business effectively using Twitter. Those who establish a presence on the platform purely to market themselves are less likely to attract public or media interest in their business.

“Brand voice is really important, especially if multiple people are tweeting on behalf of a company,” Norton added. “Small firms should aim for consistency and coherent messaging when they engage on Twitter. They must also think carefully about the purpose of each piece of content and develop a strategy that the whole team, whether large or small, can understand and support.”

To achieve marketing success through Twitter, businesses must plan carefully, interact with existing communities and show off brand personality with creativity and flair. Twitter offers big benefits for those that become part of the conversation, and even bigger rewards for those who begin to lead the conversation through effective engagement.

Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram – which social media channel is right for your micro firm?

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Marcelino Castrillo is MD of business banking at RBS in September 2015.   Prior to to that, Castrillo was MD of SME banking at Santander, where he was responsible for leading the challenge of scaling Santander’s business bank and managed the business through a period of significant change.