Twitter for Small Businesses

Twitter for small businesses - #TwitterSmarter chat with Melinda Emerson

For a long time, Twitter has been a popular social channels for individuals and big brands. What about small business, though? Those who have a handful of employees who all juggle three job roles simultaneously? This week on the chat, we invited Melinda Emerson, who’s more widely known as the SmallBizLady, to talk about why small businesses should use Twitter to build their audience, and how they can maximize their returns. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Melinda Emerson
Topic: Twitter for small businesses
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: Is it worthwhile for a small business to invest time and effort on Twitter?

It’s quite simple, really. If you know you have an ideal audience on Twitter, then it’s where you should be.

It could be challenging, sure, but it’s also rewarding. After all, one of the greatest thing about Twitter is that it’s a perfect platform for both B2B and B2C businesses.

Not only can you interact with existing consumers and assess how they feel about you, but you can also use Twitter as a medium to engage with prospective customers and convert them. What’s more, Twitter is an easy way to keep an eye on your competition as well. The platform is loaded with features like Lists that help monitor conversations and manage your profile effectively.

Adding to what our guest said, Chelsea also made a good observation: whether or not it’s worthwhile for you to be on Twitter depends on your industry as well. For instance, some industries like transportation require a more wider presence than just Twitter. This means that you’re likely investing in other social platforms, in addition to Twitter. You need to understand what your industry requires and then evaluate whether or not you can spend the time and effort that’s necessary to be successful on Twitter.

Q2: How important is it for a small business to choose a proper Twitter name?

It’s vital to choose a name that reflects what you do and the value you offer to your community. Look at our guest, for example. When she started off, she couldn’t get her her own name because someone else with the same name had already taken it.

And so, Melinda chose a name that reflects her offering. By choosing SmallBizLady, she chose a name that not only told people what she did, but also established herself as the go to resource for small businesses. A large part of personal branding depends on how you project yourself. And for Melinda it all worked out perfectly as the SmallBizLady.

As Kofi added, having a relevant name also does your job for you, in a way. Aside from simplifying your message, it also helps people search and remember your brand.

Q3: How can a small business find and nurture communities on Twitter?

Thanks to Twitter, hashtags became mainstream. Now every social platform uses hashtags as a way to discover and connect with like minded people. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the hashtags associated with your industry and business audience.

It’s also a good idea to create your own branded hashtag, as our guest did. As SmallBizLady, she started #SmallBizChat. What began as a common hashtag to converse around, evolved quickly into a full-fledged Twitter chat.

From Twitter, #SmallBizChat grew steadily stronger as it moved into the realm of live-streaming. And all along, people could follow conversations—across various social channels—all based on the single hashtag.

From Twitter and the social sharing world, the hashtag is also now a popular podcast.

That’s the power of a hashtag—you can take it to extreme heights within Twitter, outside of Twitter, and even blow it up into a brand of itself. Melinda’s once-modest hashtag is now trademarked and an asset to her business and her credibility as the SmallBizLady.

Another great Twitter feature is Lists. As Darcy pointed out, if you’re a small businesses, consider creating public lists that help your greater community. That way, others can subscribe to your lists and you’ll constantly grow your network. You can also use private lists to categorize your audience and keep up with conversations easily.

Q4: How often should you tweet as a small business?

Melinda recommends using a 4:1 ratio of others’ content to your own. That way, you get a decent balance without seeming like selling your audience.

She also gave us an example of how she shares her blog posts on social media: she publishes 3 blogs a week and shares them each for four times throughout a week.

However, it’s also important not to bite more than you can chew. As Kevin succinctly put it, how often you should tweet depends on your ability to remain consistent. If you can do 2 tweets a day and one chat a week for 4 months consistently, then that’s still better than tweeting 10 times a day and nothing for the rest of the month.

Q5: Can Twitter help small businesses increase sales?

Seeing as how Melinda built her entire business around Twitter, as the SmallBizLady, she’s a perfect example of how Twitter can help small businesses increase sales and growth.

She’s also recognized as a Small Business Influencer because of how she’s managed to nurture her community on Twitter. That’s why community is so precious for small businesses—not only does it help you reach a large audience, but it also sustains your growth over a long period. And Twitter is undoubtedly the best community-oriented social platform.

As Bernie added, Twitter is a long term investment, and if you spend enough time on your community, helping them with their problems, that’ll translate into increased sales. Although, for relationships to thrive and succeed, they have to be genuine—you can’t go into a Twitter chat planning to make a business deal. That’s not how social works.

You can also read through Melinda’s success story on The New York Times.

Q6: What type of content should small businesses share on Twitter?

Whether it’s a specific format or a topic, there’s so much content you can share on Twitter. Whatever content you share, though, should reflect your unique voice and personality.

Twitter is great for visual content. Try and publish images with every tweet. They could be custom-made banner designs or GIFs, but either way, they’ll help your tweet stand out.

How-to content and lists are super effective on Twitter. You can also repurpose longer videos and interviews as short snippets that are easy to consume on the go.

Just remember, though, your videos shouldn’t be too long—people browse social media on their commutes and line at Starbucks. That’s why your content should be easily accessible even without sound. Don’t ever forget subtitles.

Q7: How can Twitter chats help small businesses?

We often speak about how chats can help you meet new people and engage in conversations that matter to you. If you host, however, you also build an immense influence over a large community. Look at Melinda and Madalyn for example. Both of them have become the go-to resources for any information about their respective hashtags and topics. That’s the kind of influence you generate once you’ve hosted a chat for a while.

And of course, you can’t discount the value of free education. Twitter chats are incredibly resource-filled and you get to learn from leading industry experts. And the best part is that you can ask questions in real time and get answers instantly. No one is inaccessible on Twitter and that’s helpful when learning new things.

As Jake added, chats are also the easiest way to communicate. You don’t need any prerequisites to participate in chats, and you can share as much or as little as you like. That’s why Twitter chats are so popular among introverts as well—it’s a great way to bring people off all mindsets in one place.

Q8: What are your go-to small business resources?

Melinda’s top resources include The New York Times, Inc, Entrepreneur, and Small Business Trends, and Shopify for educational and share-worthy content.

She also follows Jay Baer, Jeff Bullas, Ann Handley (Marketing Profs), and Minda Harts on Twitter.

Here are some other resources our community members love:

  • Hootsuite blog
  • Buffer
  • WordPress
  • StreamyardApp
  • Union Metrics
  • Canva
  • PayPal
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Feedly
  • Talkwalker Alerts
  • SocialOomph
  • Gary Vee

Chris also pointed out how online conferences are great as well. With most events going virtual this year, it’s an easy way to learn new things.

Well, that’s all from me this week, folks. Thanks for reading, and for more insights on our chat with Melinda, have a look at this Twitter Moment that Joana put together. And if you have some time to spare on Thursdays, we’d love for you to join us on the #TwitterSmarter chat at 1pm ET. We’re taking a break for Thanksgiving, but we’ll be back the following Thursday. Oh, and we’re also chatting on Christmas and New Year’s Eves—hope to see you there!


About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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