Twitter: Does your Small Business Need it?

The social media platform twitter seems to have taken its place in the list of daily tools that many small businesses cannot do without. Every day most decision makers in SMEs will check the post for mail, their phone for texts or voicemail messages, their email and now their twitter account.

But with the “to do” list getting ever longer the first thing every small business owner needs to ask themselves is this: Twitter: does your small business really need it?

1: The Marmite Factor

Twitter is like Marmite: You either love it or hate it. Social media “gurus” may say that you cannot do business these days if you don’t have a twitter account. Other people may still wonder what all the fuss is about. The truth of the matter is that you won’t really know until you’ve tried it.

You may be champing at the bit to have a go with Twitter but, after a few months of trying to boost your business on the platform you may realise that it’s not for you. Alternatively, you might absolutely hate the idea of the “twitterverse” and the propensity of its people (tweople/tweeple) to begin every reference to twitter tools and people with a tw; take, for instance, the recent twifficiency tool which calculates your “twitter efficiency”.

Twitter is littered with accounts where users have signed up to leverage the service but haven’t tweeted in months. Maybe they expected great things but have failed to utilise the service and have given up hope upon failing to achieve greater sales.

On the other hand there have been times where new users have expressed reluctance to use the service, failing to see any benefit and yet they have now adopted twitter as a useful, every day tool.

So, whatever your opinion of twitter, it is well worth setting aside some time to see if you really do love it or hate it. The results may surprise you.

2: Do You Have the Time?

Every morning bosses of small businesses will check the post, check their office phone, check their mobile phone, check their email and now they will probably check their twitter account too.

Of course twitter does send you emails when people respond to you via the application and you can set up alerts on your smartphone to let you know when someone has gotten in contact via twitter.

But twitter is more than just a messaging service or "micro-blogging" as it is often called. Twitter is a real-time snapshot of life in whichever sector or sectors you choose to involve yourself with.

And therein lies the challenge: do you have an incisive attitude, are you focused, do you dismiss the trivial, do you only follow those twitter accounts that are relevant to your line of work or do you follow all-and-sundry by allowing everything you’re interested in get swept into your twitter “following” list?

Using twitter, like surfing the web, can be "the biggest waste of time ever" but by being ruthlessly efficient you can MAKE time and make your twitter account work for you.

3: Does Twitter Add to my Bottom Line?

A good question to ask yourself: Is twitter making your company money? You’re spending some time on twitter increasing your follower count and getting your message out there but are you making sales, are you getting a return on your investment?

However, another equally important question to ask yourself – is money the only gauge of your business’s success?

Think about the value you can add to your brand by maintaining a rapport with your audience (increasing your brand awareness). Consider the use of twitter as an exercise in public relations and a great opportunity to help out and socialise with other businesses.

By using twitter as a platform in which to do more than just “tweet” you’ll be building your brand and that can only bode well for the future. Friendships built today may turn into business transactions tomorrow and then you’ll be adding pound signs to your bottom line.

Twitter should not be used as part of any “get rich quick” scheme so use it wisely and slowly build your brand and your client base – gather a following of like-minded customers and businesses.

4: Is Using Twitter for Business Sustainable?

Once you’ve got your twitter account up and running, you have a number of loyal and regular followers who interact, Retweet (RT) your tweets (and vice versa) and keep in touch you may have increased your time on twitter from a couple of minutes a day to a quarter of an hour or even an hour. You have to ask if this is a sustainable business practice?

Putting aside time out of running a business every day may seem a simple, practical plan but bear in mind that the fluid nature of twitter means you may need to check your “inbox” regularly throughout the day in order to make best use of the twitter platform. Using time-saving tools such as Tweetdeck on your desktop machine or Tweetdeck on your mobile phone may help in organising your twitter account, making it more manageable.

Alternatively delegate! If you trust a member of staff or a department of your business to run your twitter account on behalf of the business then they can develop the twitter channel for you.

Finally

There is no definitive way to use twitter for your small business. You will have to “give it a go” and find a method that works. Using tools such as twitterfeed to automatically post new content on your site to your twitter feed might help save time so try and get a routine into place for the long term.

Twitter is what you make of it. If you run a successful small business then the chances are you’ll run a successful twitter account too.

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