I don’t consider myself a particularly chatty person (others may disagree), but there’s something about 140 characters I can’t resist.
Since 2009, when I first joined Twitter, I’ve sent over 22,000 tweets. Here’s my first ever tweet, which made sense at the time but now seems slightly cryptic:
@rachillustrates thanks kid! I’m following a few job-based people but going to explore it more after Hatfield (argh) all moved in now 😀 yay
— Eleanor Snare (@ebsnare) August 4, 2009
I love Twitter because it’s fast-paced, fun, conversational and sometimes a little bit silly. You can legitimately use gifs to talk about your business. You can take part in hashtag games or business ‘hours’.
And you can connect with your potential customers in creative, engaging and meaningful ways.
“It just doesn’t work”
Recently, in an entrepreneurs’ Facebook group, I saw someone proclaim that Twitter “just didn’t work” for a particular type of small businesses. While I agree it’s not right for everyone, assuming it won’t work for your business before you’ve tried it isn’t a good idea.
Twitter currently has 310 million monthly active users. They’re still some way behind Facebook (who have 1.7 billion monthly active users) but that doesn’t make it any less useful for creative businesses looking to engage with customers and promote their business.
For example, 80% of Twitter users have mentioned a business in a tweet they’ve sent. If your Twitter handle is included in that mention (as long as it’s positive) your business is going to be reaching many, many more people than by your own efforts alone.
And over half of Twitter users have done something after seeing a business mentioned in a tweet – like visiting their website or retweeting something. So that’s even more people seeing your message and doing something which could lead to buying from you.
The key to making the most of Twitter as a creative business is to use it effectively and stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips.
Cultivate your unique voice
Sometimes Twitter can feel like sitting in a pub where you’re trying to listen to everyone’s conversation at once to work out which one is the most interesting.
By cultivating a unique voice for your business, you can attract people – just like if someone in the pub had a unique voice that drew people’s attention.
Many creative businesses don’t think twice about their voice on Twitter, but it is the thing which will make people want to follow you.
A unique voice might be:
- Funny, witty or surreal, like Arena Flowers
- Intriguing/bizarre and a little bit bombastic, like Buzzfeed
- Authentic and helpful, like Tim Ferriss
…or something completely different. As a creative business owner, you might find that the best and most unique voice is your own with a little more emphasis; a bit like the difference between smiling in real life and smiling for a photograph.
Having a unique voice is essential and many people find their own voice is perfect for attracting and engaging followers on Twitter. However, if you’re running your Twitter account as a business, you must make sure to keep things professional.
If Coca Cola started grumbling about noisy neighbours, or if M&S used their account to complain to their internet provider, their followers would be shocked. They’d think they were unprofessional and ‘airing their dirty laundry’. Yet small business owners do it all the time.
Professionalism doesn’t mean hiding what you think or feel – it means choosing how you express those things carefully. I often use Twitter to voice my political views, which I try to do as considerately as possible – and I know my political views directly contribute to how I work and teach.
They key is to recognise you are representing your business in front of potential customers, not just you, and act accordingly.
Give more than you take
One of the reasons I love Twitter is because it’s conversational – not simply a ‘broadcast’ channel. The businesses that do well are those who realise that and take the time to talk to their customers.
Sometimes, and especially when pressed for time, creative and small businesses end up just talking at customers on Twitter rather than talking to them.
So giving more than you take on Twitter is essential. Share useful tips, retweet helpful articles, provide free advice, and generally engage in conversation where you’re in it for them, not to make a sale.
People will remember your help and kindness and are more likely to turn to you in the future when they need your services or products.
Actively seek your customers
There are many ways to find and engage with potential customers on Twitter. You could:
- Find and join in with hashtags
- Take part in a business ‘hour’
- Create and use lists
- Use the advanced search facility on Twitter to find people talking about things relevant to your business
However, the best way to use all of these techniques is to think like your customer, not like your business. What do they need? What are they worried about? What problem do they need solving?
Many small or creative businesses become blinkered and only see things through their own eyes, knowledge or expressions – many of which probably aren’t the same for your customers.
Here’s a recent example: our fridge-freezer broke. I didn’t know what was wrong with it, because I’m not a fridge-freezer expert. So I didn’t Google “broken compressor” (which is what the eventual problem turned out to be). Instead I searched for “warm fridge cold freezer” because that was my immediate problem.
Use your knowledge of your customer to search for relevant phrases. Use your knowledge of your customer to join the right business hours (which might not be the ones in your local area). Use your knowledge of your customer to use relevant hashtags that they’ll be interested in.
Actively seek them out by thinking about them first.
Twitter’s not dead yet.
Twitter can be an effective way of finding and connecting with customers in a meaningful way, especially as it allows creative business owners to express their creativity easily and quickly.
But many small businesses use it as a broadcast tool, which means they miss out on the best bits. By cultivating your unique voice, remaining professional, giving more than you take and actively seeking your customers, you can feel confident using Twitter for your creative business.