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:
- Use Twitter Search to find leads and spot problems in real time.
- Know when to tweet and when to hold off.
- 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.