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Using Twitter to engage with local customers and clients

local-twitter-marketing-plan-300x243After trying to use Twitter in several different ways and finding little success over the years, I think I have enough failures under my belt to provide a little advice about how a business might use the platform effectively to connect with local Tweeps.

The big thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t just dive in with both feet without a strategy. This is how people get frustrated and end up saying that Twitter is an ineffective marketing tool. Having an organized strategy is essential and it just takes a little planning and know how to get started on the right foot.

Let me say too that using Twitter to connect with a local audience is completely different than using Twitter for your own entertainment or education. Also, using Twitter to connect and engage with local customers is completely different than a business who needs to connect with a national audience. You also need a completely different strategy than an individual who is trying to use Twitter to establish their own personal brand. I’m sure there may be exceptions but hear me out.

Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a Twitter Ninja. If you have a better way, that’s great! This is what works for me.

The following are the lessons that I’ve learned:

Decide if Twitter is right for you:

Twitter is not right for every business. If you have better things to do to grow our business then I say do it! We all have limited time and budget and we as small business owners can’t do everything well. Going into this you need to realize that effectively marketing yourself on Twitter is time consuming. It’s one thing to tweet out links occasionally. It’s a completely different animal to actively engage ongoing.

Commit to the long term:

After considering all of the marketing tools and tactics at your disposal, see if Twitter fits the bill. If you decide to engage on Twitter, jump in with both feet. Commit to the long term and don’t look back. The key to success is consistent, deep engagement and it’s not easy. Make the pledge and commit yourself to success.

Define your target audience:

Next, define your target audience and focus in on your peeps with laser precision. Is your ideal customer a local business owner, specific business employee like a marketing director, or just an individual within your geographic location? Make this decision and focus your efforts on engaging with these people and ONLY these people.

Dedicate your entire Twitter presence to your mission:

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is to try and use one account for too many things. I know that you can use lists and segment the people that you follow but in the end I’ve found this to be ineffective — but that might just be me. (Again, if you have a better way, go for it!) For me, everything about your Twitter presence needs to completely support your goals. If your goal is to connect with local business owners, then everything from your profile picture, to your bio to the list of people that you publicly follow all need to be local business owners. Everything about your presence needs to scream that you’re completely dedicated to your target audience.

Do you follow HGTV or your local sports team? Yes? Then you’re not completely dedicating your presence to your goals and it’s the first step to failure in my opinion. If someone looks at your followers, do they see people similar to them? If they review your tweets or exchanges between others, are they all focused on your goals of connecting and engaging with local business owners? If not, focus! If you want to use Twitter for fun or to follow others that you enjoy, then establish another account and have some fun. If you’re using Twitter for business it should be completely dedicated to your goals at every level. (Yes, I am constantly tempted and distracted myself but refocus and keep refining who you follow.)

Consistently show value that’s laser focused

There are a million examples that I could give here but the easiest way to distill this down is to say: If you post something, post focused, useful information about your niche business and focus it directly to the people that you want to connect to. If you’re a local car wash, continually post information about specials, discount programs, why you’re better than the competition, how easy it is to get to your location, what specials you might offer to businesses, how to care for your car’s finish, how to shine your wheels, etc. and keep the value flowing. That way when people decide if they’re going to follow you, there is a consistent and clear message of the value that you provide and they can see at a glance that you’re highly relevant.

Consistently SHARE value that’s laser focused

It’s not all about you. It’s ok to share valuable content from others. It can only improve the value that you offer your followers. Enough said.

Engage directly with your target audience and focus on your niche

Try to connect with every local person in your region that might be within driving distance of your location. Get on their radar and if you’re presence is completely dedicated to your mission and you’re completely clear in your communication of your value they’ll hopefully see it and connect with you ongoing. Share their posts that are relevant to your local community. Message them directly with questions or comments.

If you’re not focused on your target audience this type of engagement will be extremely difficult. If you focus your efforts it’s much easier to digest your own follower’s activity and engage directly ongoing,

Sidenote: I DID feel exactly the same way until I got a hold of this. Twitter was white noise because I followed anyone and everything. It was just unmanageable. Even with 100 people that I’m following it can be tough and I only skim the surface of what people are posting. But since I am following all the top peeps in my niche it really is a valuable way to learn and keep up with everything AND engage with these people ongoing. What that will mean for you? I could meant that they feel comfortable retweeting your content, asking you to guest post, asking you to speak, linking to your site from theirs and ultimately becoming a champion for your business.

Take your Twitter Small Business marketing to the next level:

So decide if Twitter and social engagement online is right for you and get started. This is neither the time, nor the place and I am not the expert you need to discuss the never ending world of Twitter marketing tactics. But let me just say that there are hundreds of great resources online to learn more and there are thousands of great tools and tactics to engage your potential customers online. A great site to check out is Social Media Examiner for timely advice. Here’s a list of some top Twitter directories that you should get listed on.

You can find local tweeps to follow on Localtweeps.comTrendsmap.comTwitaholic.com and TwitterGrader.com to grade your Twitter profile and find potential local customers and clients with top scores in your local market.

There are many more tactics that can fill volumes. Check out this post for a nice list of tactics that you can use to grow your local Twitter followers. It’s good advice that will keep you busy for a good long while.

AND… if you love tools, here is a very short list of tools that you can checkout:

Wild Fire
Buzzstream
Followerwonk
whofollowswhom

Bonus: How an active Twitter presence can help you online 

The other reason how social social engagement can help your small business is SEO. Companies need to show activity and engagement online and it’s only going to become more complex. If you’re trying to rank in a niche in the future and you have no social presence or activity on Google+ or Twitter, Google could ding you. It’s going to be expected, valued and required more and more. So I would say start now even though you think you’re behind. Choose a niche and casually post out valuable content from other sources and link to our own (it can only help you to show these incoming links and activity).

 

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Chris Auman is a veteran Internet marketer, website developer, and designer with over 20 years of experience in the trenches. As President and Senior Strategist at Sanctuary, Chris has successfully guided the online marketing efforts for companies large and small. Chris’ clients range from family owned & operated retail operations with a local footprint of 1-10 stores to multinational Fortune 500 companies.

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