Does Twitter Fit Your Marketing Plan? 5

Trends: solopreneurs, the new artisan economy, social media, a lot of one-on-one relationships, the long tail, splitting larger groups into smaller groups. More channels, each of them more focused.

With that in mind:

For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing. It is far easier to set up and update a Twitter account than to maintain a Web page. And because small-business owners tend to work at the cash register, not in a cubicle in the marketing department, Twitter’s intimacy suits them well.

That’s from Marketing Small Businesses With Twitter from yesterday’s nytimes.com.

Small businesses typically get more than half of their customers through word-of-mouth, he said, and Twitter is the digital manifestation of that. Twitter users broadcast messages of up to 140 characters in length, and the culture of the service encourages people to spread news to friends in their own network.

Examples include a food cart in San Francisco, a sushi restaurant in San Francisco, an antique store in Ohio, a bed and breakfast in North Carolina, etc. My favorite is from Becky McCray, a Twitter friend of mine. She runs a liquor store and cattle ranch in Oklahoma, and does a blog named Small Biz Survival:

In towns like hers, with only 5,000 people, small-business owners can feel isolated, she said. But on Twitter, she has learned business tax tips from an accountant, marketing tips from a consultant in Tennessee and startup tips from the founder of several tech companies.

What I particularly like about this idea are the focus and specificity. It’s target marketing executed well, using a good tool.

One word of caution: I don’t know the rest of these small businesses, but I follow Becky on Twitter and she’s there as a person, not a product, not a company. From what I see on Twitter, that’s an important factor. Relationships are between people, much more than between companies and people. Sure, there are exceptions, but that’s the rule.

About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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  • http://www.recessionwire.com LK

    I completely agree about Twitter being effective for people versus businesses as far as sharing and obtaining real, useful advice. But I think some media businesses are doing a good job using Twitter as a syndication tool (Good magazine, Nielsen’s Consumer 360). And some small companies that Tweet links of interest to people in their industry, and/or potential customers don’t need to do so from the personal POV of owners. I’m curious which companies you think are some of the worst, current users or abusers of Twitter as a marketing platform. (You can write me back privately if you don’t want to put them down in this public forum. Hee hee.) Though I love the company’s service in general, I am annoyed by Overstock.com’s constant Tweeting of every deal and coupon they have to offer, for example. Certainly, some small companies must be equally offensive.

    • http://timberry.bplans.com Tim Berry

      Thanks LK, I appreciate the addition. I don’t think I can give you a good answer to your question about which companies I consider the worst, because (part of the reason I like twitter) as soon as it starts looking or feeling like spam, I unfollow. I don’t give them a chance to annoy me. I generally like getting twitter updates from blogs I like to follow, and particularly twitter news updates from news media beginning with the Huffington Post and then also the New York Times. I’m using TweetDeck most of the time, so when I see a blatantly commercial tweet, then unless it’s from someone I know who doesn’t usually do that, I’ll immediately unfollow.

  • http://www.smallbizsurvival.com Becky McCray

    Tim, thanks for your kind words and for connecting with me. Twitter, at it’s best for me, is all about people. That’s where we get a chance to learn, to share, and to relate.

  • LK

    OK, following on your reply comment above…Do you subscribe to any Tweople who are actually selling you services? As a customer, or prosepctive customer, I mean (versus as a business guru). Throwing Tweetdeck in the mix makes Twitter more effective for marketers. But I *still* wonder if it’s necessary to post as yourself, and really relate to people (“tweople”) in order to effectively win some attention and maybe customers for your business. And I still wonder if customers are earnestly seeking out business services they’d be willing to *pay for* on Twitter, yet. I’m looking forward to learning how PR firms, and agencies that study the effectiveness of branding, marketing and PR quantify use and results of such campaigns on Twitter. And I’m also curious to see if any business can win my customer dollars thanks to Tweeting. So far, that’s a no for me.

    • http://timberry.bplans.com Tim Berry

      LK, I do follow two or three local restaurants that I frequent and two or three or maybe more software companies or web application vendors whose software I use, so I am following some several who tweet with the company name, as a company, rather than an individual.

      The examples I’ve seen, including those in the story I cite in this post, are intriguing. I’m told there’s a traveling taco vendor (a truck outfitted and licensed, set up to sell food, that goes from parking lot of parking lot) that’s successfully using twitter to tell potential customers where they are at the moment.

      But I’m with you on your basic premise, I wonder, like you do, whether tweeting as a business rather than an individual can really work well. I think it’s essential personal, one on one, so personalities within businesses can help the businesses, but as people, not as companies.