Is Twitter Still Relevant for Small Businesses?

In the first quarter of 2017, Twitter experienced its first drop in year-over-year revenuesince it rose to fame in 2013. Then in the second quarter, the company reported $116 million in losses, a 14% drop in stock, and flat user growth.

While Twitter ultimately did see some growth in 2017, it's clear that it isn't booming like it used to be. There's a flood of theories as to why Twitter isn't performing as well as its more popular counterparts like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram—ranging from information overload to its reputation as a place for “trolls" and antagonists who want to cause trouble—and as many opinions about what the future might bring. Busy business owners are asking: Is Twitter still relevant? Is it worth my time?

While Twitter may not have the powerhouse reach of other social media platforms, it can still provide businesses with some significant advantages—but only if they engage and delight their customers. Here are a few ways to make the most of this platform.

Focus on Being There for Your Customer

Without true, meaningful engagement, Twitter is just a whirlwind of white noise and empty ads that users are inclined to skip over.

The good news is that Twitter is still a top channel that users turn to for customer service queries. A Twitter study surveyed participants who sought customer service and had a positive experience, finding that 96% would make another purchase from that brand. Businesses can take advantage of this by ensuring that they're always on their toes, responding to every comment and mention and taking every opportunity to show them that there's a person behind the keyboard who really cares about the customer's experience.

To help stay on top of this, entrepreneurs can benefit from using a social listening toollike HootSuite, TweetReach, or Klout. These tools notify brands of any mentions so that they can respond accordingly, as soon as possible. You could also consider carving out some time each week to respond to everyone who tweets at your brand, even if it's thanking them for a compliment they gave your company. With meaningful, human-to-human interaction on Twitter, brands can still see a positive ROI.

Take Advantage of the New Character Limit

In November 2017, Twitter doubled its maximum character count from 140 to 280. Despite initial backlash, data shows that these longer posts generate more engagement.

Small businesses can—and should—use this to their advantage. They can complete thoughts and points more robustly without having to abbreviate, and say more in each tweet. However, users shouldn't feel pressured to hit 280 characters if it causes the message to become forced or watered-down.

Social analytics company Simply Measured does a great job of this. It uses the extended length to preview blog posts and add space to make tweets more scannable.

Image: Social Media Today

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Image: Social Media Today

 

Work Smarter—Not Harder—on Twitter

Using Twitter successfully needn't be about using your precious time to send out a tweet every hour. Instead, use the platform's updated tools and capabilities to send fewer but more strategic tweets. Here are a few examples:

  • Use the advanced search tools to find relevant discussions that you can join. Twitter says: “You could see every Tweet from today, by someone in your city (or another location), with the phrase "what should I have for dinner?" You could filter to see everything a particular account (maybe your competitor) Tweeted in October. You could find a Tweet by remembering a phrase in it—even if you forgot who Tweeted it. You could find all the users who have "fashionista" in their bios and so much more." By chiming into conversations with relevant customers instead of just sending your Tweets into the ether, you're more likely to get their attention.
  • Use the improved Tweet threads capability that helps to string together a series of tweets. While this was always possible, Twitter added a special plus sign button in the tweet composer to make the process faster and simpler. Using these creatively—for example, to add more detailed explanations, additional context, or step-by-step instructions—can help garner more engagement as users read through the whole thread.
  • Post more videos. Research across the board shows that video generates consistently high engagement rates—Cisco predicts that video will account for 82% of all web traffic in 2021. Even if you don't have the budget to produce your own videos, find relevant content across the web to share with your customers, or even record a quick message or tip for them using your phone camera.

Twitter isn't performing as well as it used to, but that doesn't mean that it's irrelevant and useless. With the right strategy and customer-centric approach, small businesses can still reap huge value in boosting their brand's reputation and driving customer loyalty.

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Monday, February 12, 2018