A look at tools and resources for local businesses to connect with people on Twitter who live or work nearby.
Twitter is an online application for microblogging on an open and public instant messaging platform. Only short messages of 140 characters or less are permitted.
While it's not the most popular social media site, it is perhaps the easiest first step for local businesses to take into the social media world. There are an estimated six million active Twitterers. Surely, some of them are near you.
If you haven't experienced Twitter, that may not sound very useful. But it won't take you long to see how practical short messaging to a group can be once you get going.
You may choose to follow people who are of interest to you or converse about appealing topics. Likewise, others can choose to become your followers.
When you post a message, it immediately shows up for everyone who follows you. The messages, or tweets, you see are those of everyone you're following. This allows people to communicate with others with whom they normally wouldn't exchange e-mail or instant messages.
You can set up your Twitter account in about 10 minutes. It will take longer to customize it with tools and applications, but you don't have to do it all at once.
To be effective, you should plan on spending about 15 minutes a day tweeting and finding tweeps (Twitter people) to network with. Read up on Twitter etiquette, bookmark a glossary of Twitter terms and you'll be ready to get started.
Here are some ways you might think about using it to promote your business:
Talk About Your Products and Services
Offer information and expertise, but don't do it in a promotional way. No one will follow you if it's all about you. Most people will unfollow you if they think you're always trying to sell them something.
Instead, help people solve their problems by offering friendly advice on things you know a lot about. Offer opinions and product comparisons. Talk about common problems in your industry and advise people where to find solutions.
Everybody loves a real deal. Offer coupon codes and other special discounts to your followers or to those who retweet (check the glossary!) deals.
Encouraging and rewarding retweets helps your messages to be seen by those outside your circle, which may result in new followers and customers and continually expand your network. Use Twitter to drum up business in slow times with limited time offers.
Inform people about special things happening in your industry and business. If you are having a sale, received a new product, are holding an open house, or are sponsoring an event, let people know about it on Twitter.
Tell your followers about daily specials, overstocked, and one-of-a-kind items. If you have a blog, use Twitterfeed to automatically push links to your blog posts out as tweets.
Twitter Tools for Local Businesses
Local businesses might find these tools and applications useful in finding their audience on Twitter.
Other tools will help you find people on Twitter near you, but this is enough to get going without being overwhelmed. Instead of continuing to wonder what the hype is about, set up your own Twitter account and try it. (Use your business name as your Twitter name, if it's available.)
Twitter isn't for everyone, but some of you will unlock it's potential for marketing your businesses online and kick yourselves for having waited so long to get started.
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Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.
Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.
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