How do you use Twitter?

Alice

In marketing terms, people view using Twitter in different ways. Some see it as a somewhere to make friends and listen to lots of gossip. Others use it for fact finding and a method for free and easy research. Others regard it as a voyeur’s haven, watching what others are saying and gleaning the latest news before it breaks. And then there are others who treat it merely as a place to feed your blog into and share expertise and tips.

 
So which scenario do you fit into?
 
Do you use your name in your Twitter username? Are you interacting freely with your followers? Do you start and partake in conversations? Do you write your tweets yourself? Are they spontaneous or composed beforehand? Do you keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day?
 
Do you use your business as your Twitter username? Are you representing a corporate identity? Do you only tweet what you’ve been told to say? Are you given free rein to reply? Do you find you’re repeating the usual mantra without any personal context?

Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Do you monitor the Twittersphere to see what others are saying about your brand? Do you intervene only to correct misconceptions? Do you promote facts and figures in order to spread awareness to a larger audience?

Are you using Twitter to spread your expertise through blog feeds and top tips? Do you use an automated service to carefully space out your tweets throughout the day? Is this to give the impression of a constant presence, or to capture different people in different time zones?

Remember, using social media should be a sociable affair, to create relationships with others in order to find out more about each other, with an aim towards long-term associations, referrals and recommendations, and maybe (or ultimately) business.

This mechanism for creating two-way, even multiple-way, communications with any like-minded person should not be abused by the never-ending desire to sell and make money, for cheap and easy research, or to crow about how wonderful you are.

Using Twitter means sharing resources and ideas, problems and answers, tips and expertise without a hint of selling, gossip and laughter, making connections and above all, friendship.

What’s the best way to encourage more referrals?

Chantal

One of my clients told me that she’d given some vouchers to someone to say thank you for a referral she’d given her. Nothing new in that, I know. I do think it’s really important to send an appropriate thank you for every referral you receive that turns into work. Make it personal – don’t send wine to someone who doesn’t drink, or chocolates to someone on a diet.

It’s what my client did next that’s clever. She asked her colleague what she’d like as a thank you for the next referral she gave! It’s clever because it means you know exactly what to give that person next time; and it’s really clever because it will have that person looking for another referral they can give you. You’ve got them on the lookout for another great referral, because they’re looking forward to their next reward!

Clever stuff. And if you need a referral to a really good financial adviser, just let me know!

So what?

Chantal

“We’ve got 100 years of providing accountancy services.”

“We’ve worked with hundreds of satisfied clients.”

“Our products are the cheapest and best.”

“We listen to what our clients want and provide a tailored service.”

These are all phrases I hear at networking meetings, when people stand up and tell the room what they do. My question to them is “So what?”

So you’ve got masses of experience – so what does that mean to me? What is the actual benefit of that experience and how will it help my business? So you provide a tailored service – how exactly does that help me?

When I meet people at networking events, I want to know who they are and what they do. However, what I really need to know, before I recommend them to other people, or ask them to help me, is what benefits they provide through their products or services.

Next time someone asks you what you do, tell them (quickly!) and then answer the “So what?” question before they have the chance to ask it. Tell them how you can help them and make their lives easier and they will ask you the questions you really want them to ask about your business.

Why competition is better than collaboration

Chantal

Some networking groups only allow one person per ‘industry’ to attend their meetings. For some of us, this is not as simple as it sounds. If you’re in marketing, you could be involved in PR, online marketing, off line marketing, copywriting – or all of the above. If you ‘do websites’ you might do SEO, or website development or website design. This means that at these meetings, there could be four or five different ‘website’ companies, all only allowed to promote a small part of what they do. At other meetings, there’s just one person who does all the elements, to the exclusion of lots of other people.

This is the competitive way of doing business. This is where you ignore and avoid anyone who might do anything vaguely similar to what you do. This is a very narrow minded way of doing business.

Other networking groups allow as many people from one industry to attend. This means that you might get more than one accountant in the room, or three life coaches around the same table. Is this a bad thing? No it’s not, because not every accountant does exactly the same work. Not every life coach works with the same type of clients or issues. And then there’s the chemistry of the ‘people buy people’ issue.  Just because someone provides the service you need, doesn’t mean you have to work with that person. The chemistry needs to be right.

The collaborative way of doing business is much more fun. This is where you can meet other people from your industry and share ideas, best practice and clients with each other. While I run a marketing company, I know that there are other marketing people out there who have knowledge and expertise in areas in which we don’t. They might have a different, better or cheaper way of doing things, so I can learn from them. I can also work with them, to provide a fully comprehensive service. Sometimes we’re approached by potential clients who are not ideal for us. Instead of just turning them away, it’s much better to be able to refer them to someone who can help. That’s much better for your reputation too!

Do you do networking in the competitive way or the collaborative way?

Twitter isn’t just a gossip engine

Alice

Twitter isn’t just about sending your followers chatty messages constrained to 140 characters, or valuable tips that can be shared. You can use it like a search engine too, or a method of exposing your complaint and getting results!

Like a search engine: I have seen many questions put out on Twitter. If you have many followers, and they are of good callibre, you are guaranteed a response within a very short time, in some cases immediately. Popping a question into Twitter can provide some interesting answers, certainly a question Chantal asked recently about finding new venues in Oxford and Reading for her networking group Ladies That Lunch… And Men Too came up with lots of suggestions, and we all know that personal referrals carry much more weight than the same information found in a directory or similar listing capacity.

As a method of complaint: A friend of mine was having trouble with BT. In exasperation she tweeted her grievance to her followers about it, expecting only to get commiserations back from her friends. Instead she was tweeted by a BT representative, asking her what the problem was, and offering her his telephone number so she could discuss it properly with him. She did this, the problem was recognised and a solution was offered, BT honoured their promise to amend the problem, and within minutes my friend had her telephone working again.

These are just two examples of how to use Twitter effectively, for both business and personal use. Obviously these scenarios can be swapped over, but it is the fact that a communication tool like Twitter can be put to practical use as well as chatting to find out the latest and to feed your blog in order to spread your expertise.

How do you SURVIVE TEN years in business?

Chantal

This was the subject of the presentation I gave at a breakfast networking meeting on 16 June. If you missed it, or if you were there and you’d like a reminder, here are my 10 tips:

Smile – whatever happens, keep smiling. When times are tough or you have a difficult task to get through, find ways to keep yourself motivated and give yourself rewards for reaching your targets, however small.

Unique – what makes you different? Be clear about why prospective clients should work with you instead of your competitors. Don’t try to be unique in the same way that everyone else is!

Referrals – give plenty of referrals and you will receive plenty. Think about how you can connect people, even those who don’t need your services, because they will repay by sending referrals your way.

Voice – learn to speak in public, so you can promote your business with confidence and passion. Join a Toastmasters group and learn how to do it properly.

Ideal clients – decide who they are and then only work with them. “Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall will help you find them.

Vision – draw your dreams! Write or draw them onto a big sheet of paper. Cut out pictures of where you want to be and what you want, as a constant reminder.

Energy – don’t run out of it! Look after yourself by taking regular days off and holidays. Eat well and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.

Team – build one around you, because you don’t have to do it all. You can take on staff, work with freelancers and outsource what you don’t like doing.

Empowerment – motivate your team and inspire them, so they work hard for you. Don’t just tell them what to do all the time.

Next – decide what’s next! Set more goals; look for more challenges.

All this and more will be included in my book, once it’s published. I’ll keep publishing excerpts on this blog, so please do let me know what you think! And if you’d like me to come and speak at your networking event, do get in touch.

Bring your business to your customers, not the other way round

Alice

Gone are the days when customers came to you. The internet may be compared to a massive shopping-mall, but it is, of course, so huge, there is no way anybody could possibly walk pass your shop (website) unless they knew it was already there.

There are some websites that capitalise on this phenomenon, due to their reputation. They may display a select niche unavailable elsewhere, or provide a service that is second to none. They certainly will have a select following who sing their praises, and word-of-mouth and referrals can be the backbone of a business’s survival.

The alternative, while you are trying to obtain these dizzying heights of recognition, or fine-tune your reputation, would be to increase your visibility. To confirm my first statement, you need to go where your customers are, as well as being very easy to find.

Of course the optimum place would be on the first page on Google (every Search Engine Optimisation provider’s objective), but this is notoriously difficult to achieve. Google positioning is as unpredictable as the British weather. Research into patterns of how visitors use search engines show that many don’t pan below the ‘fold’, the area underneath what is visible, and approximately 80% don’t go further than the first page of their search.

You could spend some money on a pay-per-click campaign (Google Adwords) to achieve your first page position, but bear in mind that only about a third of surfers look at the sponsored ads. And unless you know exactly what you are doing, a huge portion of your marketing budget could be whittled away, especially if you don’t know what your objectives are.

There are alternatives to raising web-visibility. Social networking sites (Facebook is the most visited website online; Twitter is aimed at increased PR and brand awareness; LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and their Answers section could certainly raise your expertise status), blogging (which should act as an interactive hub of your online presence) and YouTube (where adverts are watched far more than on TV, and are searchable for criteria and keywords) should certainly be added into the equation, and form a considerable part of your online-marketing stategy.

So my questions are: what are you doing to bring your online presence to where your customers are? And if so, are you reaching out to the right kind of customer, or are you frequenting the correct social media for your target market? (This sounds like a subject for another post – watch this space…)