These days, it's unusual to hear this objection, since Twitter has reached a mainstream adoption level. Personally, I find this refreshing and wish I heard this objection more often. Instead, what social media consultants will hear is, "I need to be on Twitter. How do I do that?"
The answer to both objections is a question: I don't know. What are your small business' marketing objectives? And that is followed quickly by another question: where are your customers?
Step 1: Establish marketing objectives
There is no point to initiating any marketing campaign without solid objectives. What would you say to someone who says, "I need to be on a fax machine. How do I do that?" Twitter, like a fax machine, is a communication tool that serves the needs of its master. Or rather, its master's goals.
And "getting more followers" isn't a goal because it carries no inherent benefit, just as "sending a fax" isn't a marketing goal. To whom? For what purpose? To what end? Sending a Tweet with no goal is like sending a fax to a random 10-digit phone number; it's pointless.
A few sample marketing goals that might carry a benefit, especially for a local small business:
- Increase awareness of the organization's charity efforts
- Increase attendance to a particular event
- Build customer loyalty
- Build personal relationships within the community
- Establish our organization as a thought leader in X category
- Increase foot traffic to a specific store or set of locations
- Provide immediate customer service
- Establish a channel for crisis communications
- Establish a loyal user focus group for product development
Step 2: Marketing research
Before initiating ongoing participation and engagement through any new social media tool, organizations must first determine where their fans and customers are gathering. In short, it's important to fish where the fish are. To determine if local content enthusiasts and experts are actively engaged on Twitter, begin by doing Twitter bio keyword searches with a series of keywords. FollowerWonk allows for easy searches of Twitter bios with the option to search by city/location.
For example, if a Seattle green construction company is considering reaching out to the Twittersphere, the marketing research would entail tracking down Twitter bios with the keywords Seattle, green, construction, building, environment, sustainable to get a feel for the number and influence level of both individuals and organizations participating in related discussions via Twitter.
If those searches turn up a level of active accounts engaging the public on these topics, it's a sign that the Twittersphere is likely a viable channel for a local green construction company to achieve some of its marketing and PR goals.
Step 3: Monitor key influencers
The next step is to follow and monitor the influencers discovered in the first phase of research with the goal of gaining insight into the type of content that is most relevant to key influencers and followers within the local green building community. Which conversations generate long threads? Which posts get reTweeted the most often? Which hashtags and Twitter chats are the most active? In this phase, the organization should:
- Follow relevant accounts and follow new accounts daily (be more concerned about who you are following rather than who is following you--this is your information stream)
- Track and monitor relevant hashtags
- Track and follow relevant lists
- Begin building Twitter list of key influencers
Step 4: Develop content strategy
Armed with information on the dynamics of the relevant community on Twitter, the organization can now develop a realistic and relevant content strategy for posting content on a regular basis. And a quick note: it's okey to insert some personality into a corporate Twitter account. Let's not forget that Twitter is for people with common interests to connect, so it's perfectly acceptable to be personable.
Step 5: Measure, rinse, repeat
Content creation and community engagement is an ongoing process. It's less important to have the perfect content right from the start but rather to use tools to analyze metrics for ongoing analysis of the most relevant and engaging content. HootSuite, my favorite free tool, provides fantastic analytics as to which links gained the most clickthroughs and which Tweets were referenced and reTweeted most frequently.
Tweriod is also useful for determining the best time of day to Tweet based on your followers' online availability. I recently posted an analysis of my own Tweet timing using Tweriod. Your metrics will tell you if your content and conversations are relevant and if you are ultimately reaching your marketing goals, and they will also tell you how to redirect if the current strategy isn't working as well as you'd hoped.
To sum up, Twitter isn't a set-it-and-forget-it tool. As with any social media tool, it requires a level of strategy for content and for ongoing participation and engagement. What would you add to the four steps?