How and why to use Twitter

It’s saved one in ten small businesses who use it up to £5,000 since they signed up. It’s brought one in three of them benefits of up to £1,000.

Yes, we know it gets pretty regular mentions in this blog, but Twitter really is proving to be a great recession-busting tool.

700,000 small businesses in the UK are now using the site, which allows users to “micro-blog” (give regular 140-character updates) for other people to see.

As such, a third of those small businesses questioned in an O2 survey admitted they were using Twitter to spy on their competition. And why not? If a rival is proving more popular than you, and Twitter allows you to openly see how they’re drawing in more online interest, you’d be an idiot not to find out what they’re doing.

Are they more light-hearted in their Tweets, do they provide more useful links to resources? Are they Tweeting more regularly? Are they more openly referring customers to competitors when they can’t help out? Do they give more personal @ responses? All points worth looking at if your rival has – and retains – more followers than you.

Another tip, albeit a rather sneaky one, is to start following a vast number of other people who are following people or businesses similar to yours. Chances are a good proportion of them will follow you back, and, hey presto, you’ve bumped up your numbers. To make this really work, look to follow at least several hundred additional people.

75% of the 500 businesses who took part on the survey said that they used Twitter to keep in touch with customers. Again, if you’re not using Twitter, this is a key insight. Twitter has broken out of the realms of the new media in-crowd. It’s getting a lot of national press coverage, and is being used by people of all ages from all walks of life – not just teenagers who spend too much time in front of their laptop.

Done right, you can drive a lot of traffic to your site by linking to the most interesting parts of it, and you can establish a reputation for being helpful and useful in the links you provide to other sites.
Keep “followers” up to date with relevant news and events, and if your target audience is more on the niche side, give them tailored news so that they know that you’re the expert and they grow to love you.

It's also worth making sure you answer questions directed to you (check your "@replies") - in a helpful and informed way, of course.

And the "search" function (at the footer of the screen) is a really handy way of tracking feedback and Retweets ("RT" - when somebody repeats your message to their friends because they've found it useful or interesting). Search for you business name and see who liked what. Then, of course, you can adapt your future Tweets to meet the wants of your followers.

What are you waiting for? If you haven’t signed up already, you’re missing an amazing free marketing tool that only takes a few minutes a few times a day to maintain. If you are on Twitter, get checking on your competitors and see if you can’t grow your popularity beyond theirs using the tips above.

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