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Online Marketing Tips, Social Media Advice and Management for small businesses in Yorkshire

Twitter for Independent Retailers

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As an Independent retailer myself, I have personally witnessed how Twitter can add value to my business, both online and offline. People regularly come into the gallery and mention that they follow me on Twitter!  I love it, it’s great to get customer feedback that advertising on Twitter really does work. It’s very rewarding.

In my recent conversations with other retailers, some are still a bit unsure what Twitter is all about:

“I just don’t get it”

“I don’t know what to do”

“I’m not very good at it”

“Nobody wants to know I’m having a pastrami sandwich for my dinner”

“It’s a waste of time, you post your product and then it’s halfway down the page before anyone sees it”

If you are new to Twitter, you might be familiar with the above thoughts and have had the similar conversations yourselves.

I can guarantee with an enormous degree of certainty, that if you use Twitter ‘properly’ it WILL enhance your business and it is not a waste of your time.  I’ve pulled together a few basics that might help in your journey into the Twitterverse.

The Basics

  • Upload an Avatar straightaway. As a retailer, It doesn’t have to be a faceshot, it can be your logo if you like, but never leave it as an egg.  Nobody wants to follow an egg.  It should be the literal face of your company.
  • Be yourself but be professional.  If you are hoping that customers, suppliers and other businesses will follow you, ensure you keep your tweeting on a professional level.  It goes without saying, there should be no bitching, swearing, moaning or informing people of your gynaecological issues.
  • Fill in your bio and your location.  A customer is far more likely to follow you if they know you are nearby in their town or city. Likewise, they are far more likely to follow you if they can read a little bit about who you are without needing to read through all of your tweets. When filling in your Bio, think carefully about the message you want to get across in a handful of characters. Remember that people follow people

Connecting and growing your network

There are a few different strategies on growing your Twitter following. Some good ones, some not so good.  I’ve given my opinions below:

Don’t buy your followers.  There are many unscrupulous companies around offering you the chance to buy yourself thousands of followers.  The benefit of having thousands of followers is that, on first glance, you look like an established Twitter user who has built up a strong following.  If you are new to Twitter, chances are your tweet number is quite low, so it would be very difficult to build up a genuine following of thousands when you’ve only tweeted a few times.

In addition to this, most of these followers are unlikely to be real.  They are automatically generated in bulk and there is no human being sitting on the other end waiting to read about your latest product offering. i.e zero ROI.

Don’t randomly follow as many people as you can hoping for a followback.  If someone checks your account and sees that you have 10 followers, you are following 423 and you have tweeted 5 times, you will look like a spammer.  Nobody wants to follow a spammer.  on balance, customers don’t like being deliberately spammed.  This will give them the wrong impression of you and if you are looking to drum up local footfall, you’d be better avoiding that risk.

Don’t enter into ‘follow me and I will follow you back’ arrangements. (When I say this, I mean don’t do it willy nilly.  There are occasions when this approach is really useful). On Twitter, millions do this.  Doing this is spending valuable hours of your time building an audience that you don’t have any understanding of.  Your content (your tweets) may be of no relevance to them and it’s very difficult to build a Twitter strategy when you don’t know who you are talking to.

Do think about what you want to use Twitter for. Do you want to find new suppliers?  Keep up to date on developments in your industry? Follow updates on trade fairs?  Send out messages of your products hoping customers will see them and either buy online or visit your shop?  Chances are it will be all of these.  Twitter is such a fantastic place for networking, you will have every networking circumstance you can think of.

Do follow people you are interested in. As above, set about following people who are of interest to you.  Search for your suppliers and follow them.  Search for Trade show accounts of interest to you and follow them. Look through their list of who they follow and who is following them. This can be a great way of finding new suppliers, competitors and their customers.

Do use lists. Lists, lists, lists.  Lists are a much underused Godsend. If you are a retailer, say you followed 200 people.  You can categorise these tweeters into ‘suppliers’, trade show info’, ‘competitors’, ‘customers’, potential customers’, ‘people I like chatting to about the weather etc’.  Imagine twitter as a series of networking rooms.  You can go into the supplier room to hear all the talk coming form your suppliers.  When you’ve done with that for the day, you can go into your ‘customer’ room and listen to what they are talking about and use this as an opportunity to engage.  People are more likely to follow you back if you enter into a human conversation with them. Lists are simply fantastic resources.

Do enter into reciprocal follows with likeminded Tweeters. Random follow for follow is pointless, but it can be very helpful for local businesses to all follow each other and offer general support.  The best way to find people local to you is to use hashtags.  e.g. If you search for the hashtag #Bristol you will see a list of everyone else who is putting #bristol in their tweet.  It is quite likely that people tweeting a regional hashtag are from that town.  There are several business hashtags you can tweet that will guarantee you a retweet. such as #bizitalk.  if you type #bizitalk onto the end of your tweet, the bizitalk twitter account will retweet your message (repeat your message) to their thousands of followers. This will help you get followers who are interested in business networking.  I will perosnally retweet any tweets with the #gifthorse hashtag.

Do be social. Twitter is a Social network and works better when it is used as such.  I’ve read varying numbers across the years, but I think the rule of thumb is something like 90/10.  90% chatting, engaging, holding conversations with likeminded individuals and 10% selling yourself. This means don’t post link after link after link of products on your website.  This is the online equivalent of the loud man on the market shouting ‘Lettuces all £1″. Each to their own but this approach doesn’t work for me.

If all of this seems like hard work, you can pay marketing companies to do all of this for you. If you choose to do that, check out some of the other Twitter accounts they manage first.  Follow them and see what you think.

Hope that helps.  Please contribute any ideas, corrections and suggestions, I really welcome your comments!.

Come and find me on facebook for more tips and chats http://www.facebook.com/hoponthegifthorse

Jo

10 thoughts on “Twitter for Independent Retailers

  1. FB share, Rt’d and bookmarked for personal use!!!!!!!!!

  2. Lots of people don’t get twitter, it’s their fault, it takes time to get into. If someone is looking for way to market something using something they don’t understand is intimidating.

  3. renaissance (wo)man is back – everyone has to know everything

  4. Thanks for the mission and the blog. I tweeted. Honestly, I still don’t really understand twitter. For me it is one of those “faith” things. I know it works because I see hits on my website from twitter. I just don’t really understand quite why:) It just isn’t my style to look at tweets I guess, but others do, so that’s good enough for me.

    http://www.harveywildlifephotography.ca

  5. Good blog and helpful info for newbies to Twitter

  6. Great advice Twitter is a very useful tool , I have had lots of great opportunities through Twittter and met some lovely people!

  7. Great advice for someone starting out on Twitter! Very helpful! ; )

  8. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is
    a very well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

  9. Reblogged this on RED Brand Media Blog | Social Media and commented:
    A very good article on using Twitter for beginners. Most important – “Don’t randomly follow as many people as you can hoping for a followback. If someone checks your account and sees that you have 10 followers, you are following 423 and you have tweeted 5 times, you will look like a spammer. Nobody wants to follow a spammer…” We usually block such users. Another good article about using Twitter can be found here: http://www.learningconversations.co.uk/main/index.php/2012/04/30/twitter-do-s-and-don?blog=5

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