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Three Essential Tips to Growing Sales and Service, One Tweet at a Time

This guest post is written by Phil Hollows, the Founder and CEO of FeedBlitz.

Twitter offers small businesses and independent professionals unique opportunities to out-maneuver their larger competitors, by using the social network as a real-time prospecting and customer service system. You can improve your pipeline and grow a stellar support reputation simply by following these three simple tips:

  1. Use Twitter Search to find leads and spot problems in real time.
  2. Know when to tweet and when to hold off.
  3. Use Twitter’s Favorites function to aggregate testimonials.

1. Get vain! Twitter search is real-time market intelligence.

Tweets are, effectively, people shouting from the rooftops, in public, about what they’re doing. Some of their cries will be relevant to you and your business. The trick is to find the signal in the 1,000 Tweets-per-second noise.

What you need is one or more well-tuned Twitter searches, running in a good Twitter client, such as TweetDeck. Once you’re set up, you can quickly identify the people talking about your industry, you, or your competition. I have TweetDeck’s audio alerts set to go off only on the relevant searches; when I hear it chirp I know there’s something I need to pay attention to.

The first essential tip is to start with a so-called “vanity search”—to find people talking about you, your business, and your niche—at http://search.twitter.com.

You’ll probably find there’s too much information with your basic search criteria. To tune the results, go to the advanced page at http://search.twitter.com/advanced to add filters and get more granular. For example, I use a search that excludes the text “http” so that I avoid (re)tweets referencing my own company’s URLs. This narrows down the search to people who are talking about us (which is what we want) instead of people who are simply using the service.

Once the search is tuned, add it to your Twitter client, then rinse and repeat for your competitors and industry terms. You should monitor them the same way.

You’ll quickly discover service and support opportunities from people who need help. You’ll find sales openings when people talk about your industry, the problem you solve, or frustrations with competitors. You’ll find new communities you can join and influence. I guarantee that you’re going to get some surprises and insights long the way!

Working this way, you can solve problems before they become crises, or close the deal before any competitors know there’s even new prospect in the market. You’ll be permanently one step ahead of everyone else.

Tip 1: Twitter search, properly tuned, is free and as timely as you can get it—right when the user is articulating a need you can address.

2. Tweet! Don’t tweet!

Now that you have some hits, it’s the perfect time for you to introduce yourself.

Having found a conversation you want to be part of, you must be sensitive. I recommend sending exactly one tweet, something like: “FYI, saw your Tweet, this might be of interest” (for sales), or “Hi, I’m Phil from FeedBlitz, how can I help?” (for support). No matter what the purpose of your tweet, link to a page or URL that adds value to the conversation.

Examples of great URLs to send include:

  • a feature comparison matrix
  • a relevant ebook, online video or podcast
  • a support page or knowledge base entry
  • a Wikipedia entry on the topic
  • testimonials and recommendations (your LinkedIn profile, perhaps).

Whatever you send, it should be one link, at most two. Your tweet goes directly to the right person at exactly the right time.

Then, stop. No more tweets for you! Anything more than a single tweet with a relevant resource is too much. It’s a very short step from relevant interruption to spam. Don’t do it.

With luck, you’ll get a reply and the conversation will open up. If nothing else you’ll get kudos, and potentially have your tweet retweeted to the user’s followers—that can pay dividends later on.

Occasionally, folks will get angry about your talking to them out of the blue, even though they’re talking in public. In my experience, engaging with someone who takes this perspective is usually a lose-lose situation. Self-righteousness is immune to logic, and you’re better off leaving well alone. As long as you’re following the “One Tweet and Out” rule, just mark it up to experience and move on. It’s hard to do, because the criticism feels very personal, but it’s essential that you don’t talk back.

Tip 2: Tweet only once. Tweet with relevance. Then stop.

3. Use Twitter Favorites as real-time testimonials.

Eventually you should have enough Tweets from customers and fans that it’s worth favoriting them. In Twitter, favorites have their own RSS feed. I don’t really think anyone else is going to subscribe to it, but it’s a fabulous resource to send to your business’s new prospects: a list of real testimonials from real people in 140 characters or less.

To find you Favorites feed, go to your account at twitter.com. Go to your Favorites, and from the RSS options your browser gives you, choose your Favorites feed. Bookmark the feed’s URL. Done!

As an example, here’s my raw Favorites feed, which I use to track customer service praise for my business, and send to sales prospects looking to switch from other systems. Of course, since we’re FeedBlitz, I actually run it through my own service first to make it pretty, change the feed’s title and add social media sharing options. What I send in practice, then, is this.

Excellent customer service can help close the loop for sales. Don’t miss out on that opportunity.

Tip 3: Twitter favorites become a great resource for the times when people ask what it’s like to work with you.

All you have to do is tweet back “Don’t take my word for it, see this…” and let your fans do the convincing for you. It’s simple, powerful, and effective.

Twitter is your real-time sales and service secret weapon

Sales and customer service are both hard to do well. Twitter search makes them easier, by providing you with:

  • direct access to the right people
  • direct access at the right time.

Used well, Twitter Favorites give you the resources you need to make these tasks easier and more productive as time goes by. How else do you use Twitter to promote your business or blog?

Phil Hollows is the Founder and CEO of FeedBlitz, the email and social media marketing automation service and premium FeedBurner alternative. Phil writes the FeedBlitz News blog (subscribe here) and the weekly “List Building for Bloggers” series. Follow Phil on Twitter as @phollows, or read his full bio here.

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Comments

  1. 3BDEsigns says:

    This is a very good article. I agree it really works!

  2. Ray Higdon says:

    Good use of twitter favorites, cool stuff

    • dotCOMreport says:

      I love the use of Twitter favorites…really cool.

      I love the ‘One Tweet and Out’ rule…Google seems to love it too.

      • Phil Hollows says:

        Yeah, you really have to stick to one and out or it gets too spammy too quickly. Takes discipline to not have “one last go” but it’s really important to resist the temptation.

  3. Hi Phil

    Great (easy to understand) twitter tips.

    I think people really underestimate the power of twitter. I know I used to, til i started taking a proper interest in it. As soon as I did, my traffic increased considerably.

    I will be applying your teachings.

    Thanks again

    Dwayne

  4. Alberto says:

    Good advice! Sadly, here in Italy, where I live, Twitter almost completely neglected. Here there is only facebook. In the last few months, I’ve been wondering how and to what extent these effective Twitter strategies can be replicated on Facebook, given there are not hashtags and the noise level is probably even larger.

  5. Jef Menguin says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing your ideas on how people can make business out of twitter. However,I still do not understand how all of these can help me grow my business.

    I guess I simply need to star looking into these thee steps.

  6. Philipp Meichsner says:

    Very interesting article, thank you!

  7. Phil Hollows says:

    Thank you all for your comments; I hope you can put the tips into practice. @Jef: If you are selling something – it can be your time, physical things, or ideas – you can use these tips to find the right people to communicate with at the right time to help get your word out and ultimately revenue in.

  8. Nice Work!… I’m almost up to 5,000 followers… Hoping to establish a platform for 2011!…

    :]

  9. I use twitter to my advantage but try not to get so caught up in it, I have learned if you stay consistence on there..then people will follow.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  10. Saleem Yaqub says:

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for this insightful post, I’m becoming an avid reader of this site and there is a wealth of excellent info for the taking. If I may, here are a few more ways that Twitter can be used for business:

    Run a contest and reward your customers for tweeting about your brand. I’ve seen quite a few companies doing this and very little investment is required. Winners can be randomly selected from tweets.

    Monitor what your competitors are up to by setting up organised lists.

    Ask your followers to contribute ideas for content, new products, etc.

    • Phil Hollows says:

      Running contests or other incentivea are great promotional techniques (also surveys). My caution to your would be on focusing on growing Twitter followers. Size is isn’t everything; quality is much more important. You don’t want to get a load of followers simply because you’re giving something cool away.

      Instead, you want followers who are interested in what you have to say.

      Secondly, why focus on Twitter followers specifically? Arguably you’re much better off using that incentive to grow your email list – it’s a much more powerful database that you can do much more with in terms of branding, targeting and more than you can with Twitter.

  11. Tornado says:

    Nice article. Twitter is cool and useful.

  12. Hmm, some new things for me to try, still really struggling with how to use twitter. I tried the first idea, searches, and was having trouble thinking of the right phrases to search for. To specific and I get nothing, more general and its a lot of stuff that has nothing to due with what I need. Guess I’ll just have to spend more time trying.

    • Phil Hollows says:

      Keep at it – getting the search right is the key to success here. It’s a balancing act to make the filter’s narrow enough to keep the noise out but broad enough to catch the majority of relevant conversations. It may not work for you in the end. Try searching in Google instead and when you have that about right translate the search back to Twitter.

  13. Very nice post. This is an excellent way to keep up with customers in real time but are there any tips for part time bloggers who can’t sit at their computers all day to use twitter more effectively?

  14. Nasrul Hanis says:

    Gosh. I have to focus back on tweeting!!!

  15. Phil Hollows says:

    @John: Unless your industry / niche and related search is very busy, the search results will still be there when you start back on your blog. Even I eat, sleep, remind my wife / kids what I look like occasionally, and so miss out on actvity then. You can catch up later, and when you do your intro might not be so timely, but if it is still relevant and you still have a good chance.

  16. Emind.In says:

    I have started using tweeter few months ago. Right now I have around 800 followers. Looking forward to get more followers. Your ideas really good. I hope they work for me.

    • Phil Hollows says:

      I hope so! But don’t focus on followers just for the sake of having a bigger number. Like in email, quality counts. Stay relevant, add value and your followers – now your fans – will grow quickly

  17. contrarian says:

    Very helpful primer on Twitter. Thanks for the informative post!

  18. Steve says:

    Great to see really solid advice about using Twitter, especially advice that emphasizes restraint and a selective approach over the scattergun one.

    Will definitely set up a favorites feed.

  19. StormDriver says:

    Nice tips, Phil, and these can really help if you haven’t garnered enough following as yet. In fact this can also help you build the number of your followers if you track conversations and politely begin to participate. Yes it might be difficult to take the initiative because we all fear some sort of backlash but that is a risk that needs to be taken if you want to reach out to people and strike up new conversations.

    • Phil Hollows says:

      As long as you’re relevant, timeley and follow the one-tweet-and-out rule there’s nothing to fear (except fear itself, of course). Using Twitter search to focus, being polite and not being spammy is the recipe for success. Sooner or later someone will whine but by that time you should have amassed enough experience with the technique for it not to phase you.

  20. Phil Hollows says:

    Quick reminder – if you found this post valuable, please retweet, like and share on Facebook. Thanks!

  21. Great tips on how to use Twitter! I like the idea of Tweeting with some help, support, a resource or something else useful in response to someone who is looking for help. Great idea – and particularly like the One Tweet then Stop strategy. Definitely makes sense! ;)

    • Phil Hollows says:

      Thanks! The resource makes it more valuable than a simple interruption. Providing a useful resource up front really works as a token that you’re serious and can be trusted.

  22. I love using Twitter to meet new people!

    That Twitter Search is just plain invaluable. Thank
    you for the awesome tips! A lot of people could
    really benefit from using Twitter properly!

    Thanks,
    Gabriel

  23. Mike Sweet says:

    This is an awesome article.
    As quite a newbie to blogging and certainly twitter and finding fantastic piece of advice littered all over the Internet. Because of this post I’m sure I will be able to incorporate Twitter in my effective marketing campaign. So far I’m up to 750 followers!
    You’ve given me more of an insight to how and why twitter should be used within the marketing campaign for my new blog.

    Great stuff!
    Thanks
    Mike

  24. jason says:

    I am so glad that you focused on twitter for this post. I love using twitter as a social network tool, and would love to hear more of your ideas.

  25. Mitch Owens says:

    You are so right about the twitter search being on time. This has the ability to give you up to date information which when it comes to looking for information is as important as the relevance.

  26. Love the tip about using Twitter Favorites to gather up and save testimonials! I’ve done this often but also use favorites to save articles for future reference/reading when I’m on the go.

    When joining other online conversations/discussions that are taking place around a hashtag, my policy is: Seek to be helpful, first. In other words, don’t tweet my own stuff but rather direct people to resources and things that I’ve found elsewhere and that I think they might find useful. This has worked out great as people then connect with me in a more genuine fashion and I don’t come off in a bad way as being self-promotional ya know.

  27. I should use twitter more to do more sales may be 10,000 flight tickets per day

  28. Nice post.

    I use Twitter everyday,
    I think it is a useful tool to meet people or to market your products.

  29. Nick Hall says:

    Excellent article, but I can’t find my ‘Twitter favourites’. I’d love to make use of this brilliant suggestion. Pls provide more detailed description of how to find. Many thanks!

    • Phil Hollows says:

      The new Twitter UI does hide them well, doesn’t it? Good news, though: the feed for your favorites is easy to find. Log in to twitter and click the RSS icon in your browser. That URL is your favorites RSS feed.

      To view them as HTML in the UI, do this:

      1) Go to your user page at Twitter (i.e. twitter.com/yourname )
      2) Favorites is the link / tab next to the timeline tab, where your tweets are. Click!

      Hope that helps,

      Phil

  30. Ron says:

    I’m only using twitter as an automation tool to push my posts at this point. I just can’t seem to make time to use it more, or maybe I’m just not making myself.

    • Phil Hollows says:

      Try these tips. You don’t have to use it yourself as a messaging vehicle, but your market is. You can still find prospects and offer fast service usign Twitter as a research tool. It gets a LOT easier to use (and becomes much more conversational) when you use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or Seesmic.

  31. Michelle says:

    That was by far the absolute best advice I have read about Twitter and the use of the tools to enhance the experience. It inspired me to not only utilize the same steps for my business but for my clients as well. Thank you.

  32. Matt Clark says:

    This is a great little set of tips. I have some clients and we talk about the aspect of social media in there business and they say it is to much work. These 3 little tips will help people get started with some good options for results.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Cloud Computing

  33. Hi Phil,
    Twitter is excellent for building relationships, try to market/sell and you will lose followers quicker than you can get them. I use it for traffic to my Blog, I make sure there is value when they get there.
    Thanks for your great advice. Consider this article Tweeted.
    Pete

  34. trailsnet says:

    This article was very helpful & answered some of my questions. However, one question I still have:
    Is there a quick & easy way to figure out which of the (Twitter) people I’m following are following me?

    • Phil Hollows says:

      Why does that matter? Seriously. If you follow someone it does NOT create an obligation for them to follow you. You follow them because you like what they have to say; it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reverse is true. Follow someone because you want to and be grateful, flattered, excited about those who feel the same way about you. But it isn’t a trade, scratch my back and I scratch yours. Plese don’t treat it like one.

  35. Wyatt Fisk says:

    Sending a link (via tweet) that has VALUE to a conversation is absolutely vital, and that is one of the most important things you’ve pointed out here. Twitter is not an article directory, and it does not reward spammy tactics. As a social platform, we marketers need to be able to access it in order to reach out to our customers… but we need to remember to keep treating them like customers, i.e. people who have a problem that we can help them solve, rather than targets for link bait. Thank you for the insightful article, Phil!

  36. I have never really done much with Twitter, but I have finally decided to start educating myself as to how to make it work for me, and I need to before I get left further behind!

    I appreciate articles like this that help to make the whole twitter process a much easier journey…

  37. Great Tips! We are still new to Twitter but already can tell that it is a great way to engage with our customers and future customers. We have been promoting our Holiday Specials and it is a good way to direct people to our blogs.

  38. Dan Herie says:

    This article is 100% for real and this blog is one of the best i’d have to say thanks for all the great info.

  39. ViqiFrench says:

    Nice tactics for making Twitter work better! The one thing I would add to this is a section underscoring the SEO relevance of your tweets. Keywords matter on Twitter, and not just as #SEO #hashtags either. :)

  40. I have had a difficult time understanding Twitter, since you are unable to respond or engage in conversation, but this has made it a bit more clear.

  41. Joseph says:

    I’ve been using Twitter for about a year, I’ve got followers but unfortunately most of them are promoting websites or products. I want regular people to follow me on Twitter then click through to my website. I’m still trying to figure out how to do this. Does anyone have suggestions?

  42. Michael says:

    I’ve never been a big Twitter fan. And I guess I never really understand/stood it. It makes more sense now.