Business Owner Dilemma: To Twitter or Not to Twitter?

The verdict is in: Twitter use among small- and medium-sized business owners is on the rise, especially younger ones.  In fact, more than two times as many businesses of this kind are using Twitter for marketing and branding purposes than were in 2009 according to a recent study.  Kept in context, total users still represent a mere fraction of small- and medium-sized businesses overall, and Twitter use continues to lag behind other social media such as Facebook. 

So what’s a business opportunity or other small franchise owner to do?  Is Twitter worth your time?

The truth is that whether or not to use Twitter is a decision that is unique to your business―one that must be grounded in its individual priorities, needs, goals and available resources.  Additionally, it’s important to realize that not everything about social media marketing is positive.  There are downsides.

Herewith a brief overview of what you may want to consider when asking yourself the ultimate question:  To Twitter or Not to Twitter?

How Twitter Can Help You

  • Promos, special deals, coupons and other timely offers zip right to your customer’s cell phone at a moment’s notice.  A number of applications are available to help you accomplish this task quickly and easily on a routine basis.  Because Twitter allows you to communicate in real time, business owners are using it to drive same-day traffic in ways they would have never thought possible.
  • Your customers can opt-in on Twitter, which means you’re able to focus on people who want to hear from you.
  • If your business is mobile―a food cart of some sort perhaps―you can easily alert your customers as to where they can find you at any given time.
  • Twitter is a great way to guide potential customers to your or another website for information and special promotional offers.
  • You can become a recognized expert in your field via Twitter―offering free, quick tips and other helpful hints that will whet your prospects’ appetites for more, which they can then access by referencing your website.
  • Twitter allows you to create a great visual through the use of an eye-catching background and avatar―a good way for small businesses to make an impact and establish their brand.
  • Small businesses with little to no ad budget may find it’s easier to set up and closely manage a Twitter account than it is to create and maintain a web page.
  • Twitter is the ultimate digital word-of-mouth advertising vehicle and small business owners typically get more than half of their customers this way.
  • Small businesses are no longer relegated to creating their most coveted, colloquial relationships solely with customers who live nearby.  Many are finding they’re able to close not only the geographic but the emotional distance between them and their customers as never before thanks to Twitter.
  • Twitter’s a great tool for networking to find out which suppliers, consultants and contractors offer the best products, services and prices.
  • Twitter enables you to keep track of your most important customers and then manage those relationships in new and innovative ways.
  • You can easily monitor keywords and phrases that your potential customers are mentioning on Twitter and respond or target them with appropriate information and promotional campaigns.

Twitter’s Drawbacks

  • Twitter is still only being used by a comparatively small number of people on a routine basis.  Check out the latest Pew Research Center report on the subject.  Those that are onboard tend to be younger, so you need to know your target audience really well to know if it’s worth your time and energy.
  • Negative word-of-mouth travels just as fast as the good stuff.  Twitter is being used by a growing number of unhappy customers as somewhat of a “reverse public relations” tool.
  • Keeping your Twitter account current and having something valuable to say every day is the only way to gain credibility.  This can take up a lot of time and energy, which means you’re more than likely neglecting other things you shouldn’t be.
  • The number of characters per Tweet at 140 can be limiting, so you better make it good—short and effective takes time and some degree of expertise.
  • Although they can make your life easier, the apps and shortcuts available to help you manage your Tweets can work against you if things start to look too manufactured and your customers lose interest.
  • Customers are increasingly using Twitter as a tool to issue very public complaints and demand concrete retribution, so you need to be ready.
  • Managing your own lists of people to contact via Twitter can be cumbersome; spammers abound.
  • And because spammers abound and the time between Tweets can be almost infinitesimal, it’s all too easy for you and your company to get lost in the shuffle.

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