The Top Twitter Strategies for Businesses

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Great Tips for Businesses on Twitter

Brandon De Hoyos/About.com

While many corporations and even mom and pop companies have rushed to join the flood of businesses on Twitter, many are figuring out the hard way that their Twitter-based marketing just doesn’t pay out.

The problem, according to Twitter users, is a flood of one-dimensional tweets marketing wares without any real connection between a business and its followers.

"People aren't on Twitter to be advertised to," said Nathan Mathews, social networking consultant for Kuru Footwear, an active footwear company in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"They joined Twitter to become part of a bigger conversation that crosses borders, ethnicity, cultures, and religions."

These days, Mathews is walking the talk.

For followers of Kuru on Twitter, the dialogue Mathews preaches is exactly what their online fans have come to expect from the business.

The bottom line is serving the customer vigorously, even on a medium like Twitter, Mathews says.

"Remember, if the customer is what matters most, then anytime we interact with them, whether they be a prospective customer or a current customer, its important that we help them with information most relevant to them."

Ready to start using Twitter to engage your customers? Believe it or not, using Twitter to build up your business isn’t as hard as it might seem, and the time investment can be less than you think.

Keep reading to learn 9 Twitter business strategies we've learn from businesses from coast to coast, and even across the pond.

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No. 1: Become a Business Expert with Twitter Content

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/titancommercial

Titan Commercial, Chicago, Ill. (@titancommercial)

Want to build your business as an expert on Twitter? For Titan Commercial, a single word each day has spelled out exciting results for the business on Twitter.

"We brainstormed ways to engage followers, and one of the ways we thought of was to have a “Titan Word of the Day," said Emily VanderBeek, marketing director for Titan Commercial, a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Chicago, Ill.

Each day, VanderBeek spends about a half hour monitoring the media to search for trends in the market, pushing out tweets to their Twitter followers with interesting articles and the popular “Word of the Day” feature.

The minimal time investment, VanderBeek says, has yield not only greater brand positioning as Titan Commercial establishes itself as an expert on Twitter, but regular engagement by followers re-tweeting Titan's content-heavy tweets.

By creating interesting content, the hope is Twitter followers and persons interesting in buying or selling property will remember Titan’s "continual connection," VanderBeek said.

"All conversions with a potential customer are beneficial – so Titan wanted to reach out on Twitter to allow individuals to stay connected with our brand even though we may not be doing business with them at the time."

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No. 2: Provide Excellent Customer Service, Collect Feedback

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/hbros

Hummus Bros, London, UK (@hbros)

Want a better way to measure customer feedback and provide excellent customer service?

Businesses on Twitter should look to London-based Hummus Bros’s example, where a delicious bowl of hummus and your choice of beef, chicken, fava beans and other toppings isn’t the only thing the restaurant is serving up.

The joint, popular with students, theatre goers, media industry types and professionals, recently added Twitter to its growing list of mediums the restaurant uses to solicit customer feedback, said Christian Mouysset, of Hummus Bros.

The end result, he says, has been nothing short of delicious as the company spends upwards of three hours a week checking up on the experiences of patrons to their locations in Holborn, Soho and the heart of London’s financial district.

"When we take the time to respond to customers that have complained and spend time explaining what we will do differently to avoid making the same mistakes," Mouysset said, "these customers will speak to a lot of people very positively about their experience."

The time investment, however, seems to be a perfect recipe for success.

"Customers in London are often very surprised by the level of service at Hummus Bros," Mouysset said. "They really appreciate that we take the time to check up on them."

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No. 3: Solicit Job Openings and Engage Active Job Seekers

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/mdpathways

MD Pathways (@mdpathways)

Need to hire new personnel at your business? For MD Pathways, trading traditional jobs web sites for active job seekers on Twitter has been an interesting exercise in tapping into the power of social networking.

A producer of interactive viral videos for hospitals seeking to recruit authentic candidates, MD Pathways only recently began tweeting healthcare job openings on its Twitter account, Pathways CEO Danny Gutknecht said.

While Gutknecht admits the jury is still out on Twitter’s effectiveness in recruiting for jobs, he says the potential is great for hiring healthcare professionals.

"Recruiting higher educated skilled professionals is much more about branding, and Twitter can help with that process," he said. "Twitter is working well to generate awareness, [but] the higher up the educational ladder you go the less feedback one receives on Twitter."

At best, Gutknecht says feedback from posting these job opportunities is good, and traffic to links of the MD Pathways web site are growing.

At worst, soliciting job openings for businesses on Twitter may be hit or miss.

"Twitter is a hot topic right now and we will need more evidence and more time to determine the long term usability of Twitter," he said.

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No. 4: Solicit Bids and Raise Your Company's Profile

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/rfpdb

RFP Database, Northampton, Mass. (@rfpdb)

Need to solicit a bid for work? Since 2004, businesses have turned to RFP Database to request proposals. But, while RFP Database has gained rapid patronage, lately it's their Twitter activity that has founder and president David Kutcher excited.

Whenever a RFP Database client posts a proposal request, the solicitation is auto-tweeted to their Twitter account, whereas the proposal would sit on the company’s web site in years previous; the result, Kutcher said, is a wider, instantaneous audience like never before.

But, the real secret to RFP’s success is through the peer-to-peer interactions happening on Twitter every day.

"Twitter is a great source of content, and a great way to promote your content to an entirely new and connected demographic," he said.

"But what's especially nice about Twitter is the behavior of retweeting, immediately having someone take your content and republishing it to their own followers."

Through the regular practice of retweeting by RFP followers, Kutcher says traffic to the site has increased exponentially and has created instant value for the company and their clients.

"We've encouraged this behavior since it would immediately make you more valuable to your followers if you just notified them about a $250,000 project for a website redesign and they just happen to be web developers," he said.

"All of this taken together actively makes us a recognized expert on the subject and increases the value of our businesses."

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No. 5: Target New Clients with Twitter-Based Search

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/timbury

Timbury, Central New Jersey (@timbury)

Advertising fall flat? When you need to target new clients, Twitter is a great way to find new customers, according to Tim Kissane, the purveyor of New Jersey-based Timbury Web Hosting.

Each day, Kissane says he monitors Twitter for users tweeting keywords related to the web hosting business using the Hootsuite web client. Such keywords include "web hosting," "recommended host," "which host," and "linux host."

Kissane then tweets about two to three times a day to users based on search content, offering information about his business or answers to their queries sent out on Twitter.

"I monitor Twitter all day, everyday, while doing other work," he said. "Almost all the clients I have were found on Twitter."

Despite some success marketing on Twitter, Kissane remains cognisant of the often "spammy" nature of businesses on Twitter and says businesses should avoid being overly promotional using their accounts.

"Although I don't use bots or auto [direct messages], I have lost a few followers who thought I was spamming them," Kissane admits.

"I never send a direct message or at reply unless the person requested info on a host, or expressed displeasure with their present host."

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No. 6: Use Images to Tell Your Story, Sell a Product

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/kristensteinart

Kristen Stein Fine Art, Philadelphia, Penn. (@kristensteinart)
and Kilwin's, Jacksonville, Fla. (@kilwins)

Are 280 characters on Twitter not enough to sell your business? For businesses on Twitter, images are a great way to "show and tell" for your Twitter followers, says Kristen Stein, CEO of Kristen Stein Art.

As an artist and jewelry designer, Stein has found a sort of creative renaissance on Twitter from fellow artists and consumers who enjoy her work. Linking to her newest works on Twitter, Stein says traffic and sales have jumped exponentially as followers generously retweet Kristen Stein Art content to their followers.

"I've seen a large increase in the amount of followers from using Twitter and I have received requests from other websites to repost pictures of my items or information that I've provided in blog posts," Stein said. "I've also received a few art-related press and media inquiries as a result of posts made on Twitter."

According to Google Analytics, 33 percent of traffic to Stein's online store now comes from her social networking traffic, including tweets sent on Twitter.

But, while Stein is able to harness quality traffic online, Camille Gregg of Kilwin's, a chocolate, ice cream and fudge shop in Jacksonville, Fla., is proving even brick and mortar business owners can see the same Twitter traffic in their stores and businesses.

Each day, as the store prepares their delicious assortment of carmel apples and other goodies, Gregg, the store's social marketing and PR director, tweets photographs of the fresh sweets rolling out the kitchen along with specials of the day. The photos are phenomenally colorful and have really caused a stir, she said.

Within hours, the "Sweet Tweets," as Gregg coined them, yield lots of retweets, at mentions, and best of all, foot traffic into Kilwin's store full of delicious treats.

"We notice a jump," Gregg says. "[Twitter] is a fun and effective way to market and share information about our products and services, [and] it boosts the sweet bottom line."

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No. 7: Multiple Business Locations? Going Local with Twitter

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/camp_bow_wow

Camp Bow Wow, Boulder, Colo. (@campbowwow)

Are you a corporation or business with multiple locations? If you are like Camp Bow Wow, one of America's fastest growing pet care franchises, Twitter can be a great way to give local and personalized attention as this company has learned. No bones about it!

As an early adopter of Twitter (even earlier than Oprah, quips Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow), the company has benefited from location-level accounts, providing exceptional customer service, information and even pictures and stories from satisfied clients and their pets.

"The feedback from our clients has been tremendous," Ganahl said. "We live for their status updates about dropping their pup off at Camp, snapshot pictures from our Camper Cams, and retweets of stories about us. It’s such a testimony for how much they love our brand and see it as a part of their lifestyle."

In addition to offering public online web cams (or "Camper Cams"), clients of Camp Bow Wow have come to expect the company to take a greater emphasis on technology in the future. Twitter, Ganahl says, is no exception.

"Our target customer is very technologically savvy and they expect us to be on the cutting edge in every way," she said.

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No. 8: Support Your City, Build Tourism and the Local Economy on Twitter

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/visit_jax

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville, Fla. (@JaxChamber)
and Visit Jacksonville, (@visit_jax)

Want to support your city, build tourism and improve the local economy? The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Visit Jacksonville have taken to Twitter to help support local businesses and tourism.

In addition to advertising events and tourist attractions, both organization's Twitter accounts have become a great avenue for supporting local businesses, highlighting best bets, popular businesses and more.

The end result is a consistent source of all things Jacksonville, and a resource for information on what's hot around town for locals and tourists alike.

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No. 9: The Most Important Thing is to Have Fun on Twitter

Courtesy, http://twitter.com/whereisgw

Gary West Smoked Meats, Jacksonville, Oreg.

Still haven't found an out of this world Twitter niche for your business? For Gary West Smoked Meats, an Oregon meat company which prides itself on its award-winning jerky, the jump to Twitter presented a great opportunity to have some fun and gain exposure around the globe.

Enter "Where is Gary West?", the company's new interactive Twitter game where exciting clues and geographic trivia can lead winners to a bounty of Gary West jerky for guessing where the company's products will turn up next.

Already snapped at the Golden Gate Bridge in California to Innsbruck, Austria, Gary West's Caleb LaPlante says the game has started to take on a life of its own, as more Twitter users are becoming familiar with the company--and the game.

"We are reaching existing customers in a new way, and Twitter users who have never heard of us before are finding the game and being exposed to our brand for the first time," he said.

"The strongest response has been from customers who are eager to take our jerky along with them on their travels. I think I have 50 photos from all over the world and U.S. already."

LaPlante says the hardest part is coming up with clues to go along with the multitude of photos of Gary West jerky in far out and exotic places.

"It’s tougher than you might think!," LaPlante exclaimed. "Our customers have proved to be very capable sleuths. So we want to be sure to give them a real challenge. This time commitment has certainly paid off so far."

Since launching the game last fall, Gary West has awarded five winners with some cool jerky swag. The company hopes to excelerate the game to at least once a week throughout 2010.

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