Cape Gazette
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Business ABCs: A social media shift

Twitter is here to stay
By Lana O'Hollaren | May 27, 2013

It’s not easy staying cool - just ask the Fonz, the Rolling Stones and the CB radio. Since dethroning MySpace five years ago, Facebook has reigned supreme in the social media world. But don’t look back, Facebook - something might be gaining on you. Many teens, 20-somethings and even 30-somethings are turning to Twitter. If that age group factors heavily into your customer base,  read on.

When you were young, did you (willingly) spend a lot of time at your parents’ haunts? Probably not. So when Mom, Dad and Aunt Edna joined Facebook, millennials (and a lot of Gen Xers) started looking to other platforms for some breathing room. They turned to Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, among other social sites. But before you chase them all around the internet, start with Twitter.

For everything from national broadcasts to local activities, Twitter has become the go-to site for younger social media users. Sure, Facebook still has a larger user base. But just as with your business, the goal isn’t to rack up followers, it’s to add engaged followers - people who love your brand. Facebook has double the users, but it doesn’t translate to double the fun for millennials.

Maybe your business already has a Twitter profile. Maybe you’re late to the party. Or maybe you couldn’t care less. Whatever camp you find yourself in, here is a quick rundown on Twitter use and why it’s here to stay, as well as some tips for tweets.

Why the shift?

Twitter is attractive for several reasons. Number one: You’re not obliged to play nice. Your identity is more obscure. On Facebook, if Aunt Edna sends you a friend request, there’s an unwritten rule to accept. On Twitter, dear old auntie probably doesn’t have a profile, so even if she’s following you, you don’t have to follow her.

Twitter is also direct. It’s timely, not time-consuming. Tweets are listed chronologically, not in a popularity rating system. On Facebook, the News Feed ranks posts, which allows people to gradually catch up on the last couple of days. The younger you are, the less likely you are to tolerate this system. Twitter gives it to you now - immediate access to the most recent comments, updates or whatever topic is important to you. Additionally, Twitter is now firmly rooted in traditional media, as a news source, on broadcast shows, for company announcements, you name it - Twitter is in the regular rotation.

Today’s lesson is brought to you by the letter “H.”

Let’s look at two basic Twitter terms: handle and hashtag. A Twitter handle, e.g., @VisitSouthDel is simply the username someone selected. Choose yours wisely. Keep it simple. If you want to respond to someone’s handle, lead your tweet off with it.

Now think back to those AOL chat rooms in the ’90s. Hashtags are the 2013 version. A hashtag marks a particular topic or keyword. Since posts are chronological, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Hashtags make Twitter more searchable. Use them to increase the chances that your tweets are seen by the right people. Identify what local trending topics matter to your business, then jump in. Get creative. Figure out a clever way to contribute to the conversation. If you can tie in your products or services without sounding too “salesy,” you’re really starting to speak the language.

Listen up. Speak up.

If you’re going to do it right, you should tweet every day. Come on - it’s only 140 characters. Of course, you’re allowed to schedule posts in advance, but be sure to remain social and spontaneous. Keep your finger on the pulse of local developments. Mention and share what others are saying. Tweet cool information, pictures and deals, but only if they’re fun, conversational or shareable. Don’t waste time with boring business updates, and if you must boast, boast about your employees. Offer expert tips one day. The next day, ask people to take some kind of action: Come by tonight b/t 7 and 11 for #karaoke. Can’t sing? Bring some friends to drown you out. #Rehoboth

Sniff around a bit. What are others saying about your business, industry and competitors? Respond promptly. If someone mentions your business, get back to him or her within a few hours. If someone’s not happy with you, take the conversation off Twitter. Offer a direct phone number or email address to resolve the issue.

Show me the numbers.

Check your Twitter statistics every few months to see how you’re progressing. A combination of free and low-cost measurement tools can tell you quite a lot. Is Twitter driving traffic to your website? How many people are sharing your tweets? What proportion of your followers is local? Look back and compare to previous months to see if you’re gaining any momentum.

It’s easy to spread yourself too thin on social media, but if you serve a young customer base, your time on Twitter has the potential to pay off considerably. Now, if you already have a Facebook page, stick with it. More than two-thirds of all internet users have Facebook profiles. Just don’t be surprised if your Facebook posts aren’t making any waves. While the total pool is certainly smaller, Twitter users are generally active and engaged, so get in there and get their attention - before your competitors do.

Have questions about getting started? Visit business.twitter.com.

Lana O'Hollaren is an account supervisor for ab+c.

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