Twitter for Small Business: Keeping it Fun Keeps it Effective

customer engagementAfter mentioning whiskey in a tweet several weeks back, I noticed I had picked up a new follower to my Twitter account. It was a stone mason whose product is a soapstone disk that lives in your freezer until you add it to a glass of your favorite whiskey- the idea being that it chills the drink without diluting it the way ice does as it melts. Simple, nichey, almost boring; these guys sell rocks.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but decided to take a look at their Twitter profile. At the time of this writing, they have 1,801 followers and has only been online for 3 months. That’s over 600 new followers per month for a small stone mason business in New Hampshire… Selling rocks.

Some of you already participating in Twitter are looking at that number in shock. Some of you may have larger follower counts, but I doubt you got there as quickly. So what are these guys doing that’s working so well?

In a word: Engagement.

Engagement is the point of having a Twitter account for your small business. The term “Social Media” wasn’t pulled out of a hat- the medium exists to allow people to socialize. If you want to engage your customers, you need to socialize with them. Think of the “good old days” when people knew their local merchants and service providers all by their first names.

A quick look at this Twitter timeline shows a mixture of jokes, links to interesting articles relevant to the product, conversations with followers and a near absence of product promotion. That last point may come as a surprise, but it’s worth repeating. These guys hardly ever promote their product in their Twitter timeline. For them, it’s all about being liked. It’s about getting to know their customers and interacting with them the same way they would with their friends. It’s about making people feel like every hand-crafted stone was made just for them, by people they know and like. This approach has obviously created a level of brand awareness and affinity these guys can be proud of.

How can you replicate this? I would avoid copying this approach directly. Selling rocks to chill whiskey means that they can probably get away having a public image that’s a little rougher than what would be appropriate for you. The principle behind their success, however, is applicable to anyone.  Search for discussions on your industry and join in, follow the people that you talk to as well as those who are following you and share links to relevant and interesting content. Twitter isn’t a direct response sales tool, so don’t hit your followers over the head with a sales pitch in every tweet. The occasional coupon or discount offer is fine, just remember you’re there to build relationships, not move product.

The more relationships you build, the more people get to know your brand and your business, the more customers immediately associate you with your product or service. At that point, customers start doing business with you because it’s a pleasure to do business with you. If you can build that kind of following and that level of engagement, tweeting stops being a marketing chore and starts being a whole lot more fun.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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