We recently won a pretty large client very simply through Twitter
and as I said on Twitter at the time "It helped me feel better about the hundreds of hours I had spent dossing on Twitter". Nobody needs to preach to the merits of Twitter to me but one complaint that I do often hear people saying to me is Twitter really worth all the effort and will I get business out of it? Just last week we conducted an extensive interview with Loraine from La Cucina a business that is using social media effectively to bring real customers through the door and she said that Twitter was the least effective tool for getting customers to come to her shop although it was good for networking with other food bloggers. The thing with social media and Twitter in general is that it changes so quickly and trends can appear from week to week so I wanted to get a discussion going and run a poll and see what the majority of people out there thought. For what it is worth here are some of the thoughts that I have on the issue...
The Wow Factor Has Gone
As recently as six months ago being a small restaurant, bar or local business on Twitter was a big enough story on it's own, you didn't even really need to be doing anything innovative. Chances were that if you were sending out special offers or pictures of food etc people would have passed them on to each other and you would have been able to build a buzz on the basis that you were ahead of the curve. Those days are gone as all sorts of people or on the service and you now need to add real value to stand out from the crowd.
Is It A Customer Service Tool?
For bigger companies I would say Twitter becomes far more useful as a customer service tool rather than for making direct sales although many people have made money including Dell computers (apologies for using the most over quoted and obvious example of a business making money on Twitter but it does stand out). The real value is looking after your existing customers using twitter and providing them with the sort of customer service that will not only make them stay with you but also to spread the word about the positive way in which you look after your customers. In other words the sales might not come in directly from Twitter but they may come in an indirect manner.
Should A Small Business Have A Twitter Account?
If you had asked me this question a year ago I would have said 100% yes. I'm not so sure now. Is the return on investment there, I'm not so sure it is. There are too many small companies and businesses out there creating too much noise to really get yourself noticed. How many times have you followed a logo on Twitter? It takes time to build up personal reputation and business logos just tweeting links to content is not going to get a following. There are some great examples of small businesses using twitter well but it is very very hard to build a decent following from scratch these days and in terms of making cold hard cash from Twitter I would certainly advise smaller businesses to stay away from it if that is their only goal. If you are talking about cold hard measurable return on investment it is just not there. Bigger businesses who have larger marketing budgets to include competition giveaways and other innovative ways to use Twitter without needing to worry about the bottom line and return on ROI would still be advised to use it. I know loads of people will say "oh you are a social media agency and doesn't everybody need to be on Twitter now?" but to be honest something like a leaflet drop or email marketing campaign might work better for you and increase sales. Twitter is not always the answer.
This Is Completely Foreign To Some People
I have given loads of training days and preached to people about how to use Twitter and when I am in the training days or selling them the merits and possibilities their mouths are open in amazement and they all vow to become converts of the service. What happens next invariably is that they dabble a little, get bored and never come back. I have seen this pattern repeated so many times and it is often because people simply don't have the time. It is easy for me to use Twitter because it is part of my job. People like Pat Phelan have huge success with it as a tool because they live and breath the service all day long and can access it on mobiles and through fancy Twitter clients etc. Small business managers or people from a non technical background don't think like us and we often forget that. Most people don't know what blogs are yet alone read them so the whole notion of using Twitter is just alien to them, they only log in to their email once every couple of days never mind using Twitter clients. I think some of us in the industry forget that sometimes when we say Twitter is for everybody, it really isn't, some people are far too busy serving at the counter or painting walls to even think of the computer.
Twitter Is Not Always the Option
There are hundreds of people out there advising people to embrace Twitter but these days I take as much heart advising people not to use it and look at more effective channels. At the end of the day business owners are usually pretty smart people so if after using Twitter for 3 months they have not seen a single sale through the service they will just stop using it and not employ you to advise them on social media strategy any longer so far better that you look at their business at the very start and see if Twitter is actually the right tool for them to be using rather than wasting 3 months of their time tweeting away and copying what the other cool kids and media are telling you to do.
What Are Your Experiences Or Opinions?
What about you, do you use Twitter for business? Do you think everybody in business should be on Twitter? Is it worthwhile?