Many small businesses are in a bind. With social media becoming more and more prevalent every day, it's a tough decision for any business owner to make whether they want to outsource their social media efforts to a marketing firm or try to build their presence in-house.
I can say first hand, I would love it if every small business owner came to my marketing company looking for social media help, but that's not my intention. I want to give everybody a feel for how Twitter can be leveraged, and how your business can improve its social media efforts quickly without having to dish out big bucks to an agency.
What separates Twitter from Facebook is its ability to create and build unique relationships. While Facebook is a great way to communicate more directly with your most loyal fans and customers, Twitter can be more of a public relations device for your company. Like Facebook, your fans will drive your interaction, but it is the relationships you build with the local community -- media, businesses, nonprofits -- that increase its utility.
In my social media marketing experience, Facebook is more of a "feature" for your brand. The content you post can be seen through thumbnails, which allows you to feature specific products, promotions, videos, blog posts, etc. Twitter, on the other hand, is just links. There aren't image previews, so to get people to click through, your writing must be swift, efficient and to-the-point... in 140 character or less.
So how does Twitter work?
Not to undermine anybody reading this, but the hashtag (#) is the foundation of the internal search for Twitter users. For example, if you tagged your tweet with #Pizza, any user that searches for #Pizza will find your tweet.
While this is a great way for users to find content, it is also the foundation of how you should begin your Twitter marketing. Continuing with the same example, if you are a pizza company, you want the people you will be following to be somehow related to the pizza industry. This could include the likes of pizza parlors in your specific location, world-renowned pizza "artists," suppliers of fine ingredients, the best roasted red pepper chef, etc. Anything associated with #pizza, you should immediately follow.
So now you're following 100 people, and have 0 followers. What gives? This is where your content comes into play. On average, you should be tweeting at least 10 to 15 times per day, spread out throughout the day. While you want to tweet about daily specials, current promotions and your "pizza of the day," this alone won't build your audience.
Your future audience will want to know about your company. Why do you exist? Is this a family business dating back to the early 1900s? Is your pizza parlor the only one that offers rare European ingredients? Has your sauce recipe been passed down generation-to-generation? What makes your company unique?
You tweet: "On this day in 1972, we opened our doors for the world, and gave them a taste of what true Italian pizza tastes like."
So, this is how you leverage your company's "uniqueness" into your Twitter strategy. Unfortunately, this, too, won't be enough to build your audience. As you will be tweeting 10 to 15 times a day, you will need to find other unique content to post. This is where you get help from those you are following. Through retweeting (RT), you can pull content from others and share it with your followers. Say, for example, the pizza artist you follow posts a picture of his newest creation. You would want to RT the tweet, and add your thoughts.
You tweet: "Now THIS is a pizza folks. RT @pizzaartist Check out my latest creation The Greek Pizza. Spinach, Feta, Tomato, and a secret ingredient. bit.ly/4321"
"Now THIS is a pizza folks" would be your added thoughts, and at the same time, @pizzaartist will see that you RT'd him and will be inclined to either a) follow you or b) retweet your thoughts because he appreciated them. Suddenly your tweet is seen by all of @pizzaartist's followers, and in turn you may gain five new followers because of it.
So that is the content aspect. What about the public relations/media outreach aspect? As mentioned, Twitter is a great way to connect with your local media and other local businesses. Say you are holding a special event later in the week; why not try to get the media to talk about it?
You tweet: "We're having a History of NYC Pizza event this Friday. Pizza from every generation will be available! @nbc2NYC @NYCHerald We'd love for you to check it out!"
"Hey @EastSidePizza @PizzaUptown we'd love for you to showcase your best pizza at our History of NYC pizza event this Friday. You up for it?"
By sending just two tweets out, you have let the two biggest news stations in the area know about your event, and you are trying to build relationships with other pizza parlors in the area. While they all could ignore your tweet completely, if one of them decides to RT your weet to their followers, look at the immediate visibility your History of NYC Pizza event just received. And, if one of them does respond, you should always thank them.
You tweet: "Big thanks to @nbc2NYC for spreading the word about our History of NYC Pizza event this Friday. Cya there... Free slice on us!"
You've now built a relationship with one of the most influential media outlets in your area because you took the time to be courteous, and showed them that your business has a personality.
Ultimately, the goal of your Twitter efforts should involve many aspects that come together to support one another. Through a consistent and well-planned strategy, your Twitter feed will not only promote your daily specials and be an outlet to provide customer-service, but will be the place where fans can see a YouTube video of the "amazing pizza spinner" or a picture of "the prettiest pizza in all the land."
Twitter will allow you to create relationships with people and businesses that you normally would have no contact with, and over time will evolve to become the "go to" source for all things... #pizza.