This is a guest post by Mark Hayward on driving traffic to your small business blog with Twitter.
Based on the success of the recent ProBlogger post, Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using LinkedIn, I thought it would be useful to put a resource post together for small business owners who would like to use Twitter to drive targeted traffic to their blog.
But how the heck do you use Twitter to drive more traffic to your small business blog?
If you are a small business owner like me, then you are no stranger to the fact that learning how to master Twitter can seem a little bit like wrestling a hungry alligator. Meaning, there is a steep learning curve and if you mess up it can be deadly.
Figuratively speaking, of course!
After using Twitter for the past couple of years, and following a lot of trial and error, below are ten ways that I think you can begin to use Twitter to drive more traffic to your small business blog.
#1: Change the Default Logo
After creating your small business Twitter account, change the default logo to one that represents your style and helps to brand your small business. Twitter is not a ‘join it and they will come’ small business marketing tool.
If you are hoping to reap the rewards and added blog traffic that Twitter can offer, then you have to be willing to put in the time to build trustworthy relationships with potential customers. To that end, when it comes to any business on Twitter, people want to feel like they are engaging with real human beings.
The profile picture is the first thing that new followers will look at. You need to create a logo that quickly gains follower interest if you want them to carry on further and check out your small business blog. By all means, if you use a personal picture make sure it does not portray you as an axe murderer.
Below are two examples of small business profile pictures, and I’ll let you be the judge of which one will work best.
I think this next one is better. How about you?
#2: Show Up
As noted in the intro above, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to using Twitter to drive traffic to your small business blog. According to a recent article in Adweek:
Only 17 percent of Twitter users updated their accounts in December — an all-time low. An earlier study by the Nielsen Co. revealed 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next.
However, I think a lot of small business owners show up once and send a Tweet similar to the one below.
When business owners don’t get any @ replies, identify any new customers, or gain new traffic to their small business blog they feel like they are wasting their time and are gone for good.
Using Twitter properly as a tool to drive blog traffic requires a long term outlook, persistence, and a consistent effort every day.
#3: Complete the Bio Profile
Similar to a mini ‘About’ page, Twitter gives you 160 characters in your profile so you can write a brief Bio to describe who you are and further specify your business. Make sure the link to your small business blog appears somewhere in this section. Or, even better, include your blog as the one html link you are allowed to have.
I am amazed at how many small businesses skip the Bio step. The results of not taking the time to fill out the profile section will give your business a look similar to the one below. Ask yourself, would you visit the small business blog of the ‘iamabusiness’ profile?
If you are not getting targeted traffic for your small business blog from your Twitter Bio, try spicing it up with something similar to SmileMakers INC. When I read the profile for SmileMakers INC I don’t have any questions as to what business they are in.
#4: Brand Your Small Business Twitter background
The available Twitter background space is like getting free real estate where you can create an online billboard. When properly used, the background can help to build your small businesses image and highlight your brand. If you struggle with design work then use one of the many online background creation tools that are available, such as, TwitterImage, TwitBacks, and TwitrBackgrounds.
Although ProBlogger is not a ‘brick & mortar’ small business, Darren has an easily identifiable Twitter background that helps to pique interest in what he is about and can drive casual follower traffic to his blog.
#5: Social proof matters
When it comes to getting traffic for your small business blog on Twitter, the ugly truth is, social proof absolutely matters!
The number of followers you have, the number of people you are following, and the number of Tweets you have sent out will all be a determining factor in the minds of potential customers.
You don’t need to wait until your small business account has as many followers as ProBlogger, Chris Brogan, or even John Jantsch. Although, it certainly helps to have a few hundred followers and to be following a few hundred (see: #2 show up above) before you promote your small business blog on Twitter.
#6: Be Sincere
If you are sincere in your interactions on Twitter, after the initial frustration and dip of feeling like you’re in an echo chamber, you will slowly gain a following that you’ll be able to direct to your small business blog.
Try starting off the morning with a friendly greeting like Jonathan Fields.
When you interact and engage on Twitter in a sincere manner, and follow Jeff Pulver’s 95% giving & 5% taking rule, potential customers will slowly begin to trust you and this will gradually open them up to visiting your small business blog.
#7: Use Twitter Search
Twitter Search is a valuable tool for any small business owner who wants to increase traffic to a website or blog. Searching for relevant keyword terms related to your business niche, and finding traffic for your blog, is made much easier with this tool.
However, when using Twitter Search the key is to provide valuable and helpful information in your @ replies and to not press people with spam.
For a bit of a real life example, the other day on Twitter I was looking for some input on web hosting companies. The amount of spam I got back in my Twitter stream was unreal. The reply below stands out in particular as an example of ‘How not to drive traffic to your small business or blog’ when using Twitter Search.
I know you are going to be absolutely shocked! But when you click on the link included in @forsgren’s Tweet you find out that he actually OWNS the company and website that the link directs to.
For the record, I have absolutely no problem with him directing an @ reply to me. However, please be honest and disclose up front that you own the hosting company. In this particular case, my trust has been lost and the potential for him to gain my business is gone. Additionally, I will never look at his blog. Period.
#8: Collaborative Relationships
When attempting to get more traffic for your small business blog, find out who the thought leaders and influencers are in your industry and connect with them on Twitter. It does not always get discussed out in the open, but collaborative partnerships, particularly with people in your industry, can send a tremendous amount of targeted visitors to your blog.
As a personal example, the actress Alyssa Milano happens to be a passionate animal rights advocate. At present, I help to do the social media activities for the animal rescue organization on my tiny island, and through the magic of Twitter I was able to connect with Ms. Milano.
The animal rescue organization has (what is essentially) a small business blog, which is used to update people on stray animals who need help and any current rescues who are looking for a home. On a couple of occasions now Alyssa has been kind enough to help get our message out over Twitter. In fact, back in June she Tweeted about one particular dog that was really in dire need of some help.
Because many of her followers are also animal lovers (i.e targeted traffic), below you can see the spike in visitors that was generated to the animal welfare blog from her Tweet, which is a site that typically gets about fifty visitors per day.
#9: Useful Links & Hashtags
Once you have gained a few followers and created some collaborative relationships, you should start sharing useful links that are related to your small business. Sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit make it easy for you to search and discover the best of what’s on the web in your niche.
If you’re sharing good stuff and educating your followers, then their natural tendency will be to investigate your profile further and visit your small business blog.
For example, if I owned a bike shop and wanted to drive traffic to my business blog, I would begin Tweeting all of the useful links that I could find on the subject of bikes and bike riding.
When it comes to increasing follower count, resource posts always seem to get ReTweeted well. Be on the lookout for ‘Best of’ and ‘How to’ posts. When Tweeting links, if space provides, you might want to create a branded hashtag for your small business as well.
#10: Power of the Picture
Who you are and what you do on a daily basis at your small business matters to your followers. Tweeting pictures provides a contextual basis to your daily activities, which goes beyond the normal status update.
In order to gain more targeted traffic to your small business blog, I would highly recommend utilizing a Twitter photo-sharing site like TwitPic or Yfrog. These sites allow the small business owner to share cool photos from their typical business day, or while plying their craft, so that people get to know you. Photos help to build social trust and intrigue, which leads to more traffic on your small business blog. Have a look at this Tweeted photo that I just sent this past Friday and one of the responses I received.
Below, Tim demonstrates perfectly why photos matter!
As a final note, I have said this before, but its importance cannot be overlooked. It can take a very long time to develop a trusting follower base for your small business on Twitter but it only takes one Tweet to alienate and lose the trust of your followers.
What other suggestions would you offer to those small business owners who are looking to use Twitter to drive traffic to their small business blog?
Mark Hayward owns a small business in the Caribbean and when it comes to social media he is passionate about helping other small business owners with avoid the online mistakes he has made. You can follow Mark on Twitter @mark_hayward and you can subscribe to his RSS Feed for weekly small business social media marketing tips.