If you own a business, you probably have heard how you have to “do social media” if you want to get ahead. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and start amassing “likes” and followers and somehow the money will start rolling in.

But did you ever stop and think, why? Why would somebody want to follow my business?

A good way to answer is to turn the question around on yourself. Why would you follow a business on Twitter?

According to this infographic, the main reasons people follow businesses is to stay informed about product updates and company activities, and to receive special offers and discounts. But we know Twitter users don’t want a steady barrage of product  promotion.

So how do you build up a Twitter following, engage those followers, and ultimately give them what they want? You can’t only tweet when you have a sale or product update, because how often is that? The first thing many avid Twitter users do before following an account is check to see when their last tweet was and how active they are. A tweet every two months, for instance, says that you’re not serious about this whole Twitter thing and probably can’t be counted on for much of value. On the other hand, tweeting about your product all the time says that you’re not really interested in engaging with your followers, you just want to sell sell sell.

The question is, how do you walk the line? How do you keep active without being spammy, and how do you keep your followers interested enough in what you tweet that when you do announce a special deal, there are people listening?

The key is trust. A business that provides content related to what they sell, but not necessarily aimed at selling their product, is building trust with their followers. If you were to follow @Bplans on Twitter, for instance, you’d get a steady stream of content about starting and running a small business. Sometimes  we post links back to this blog or to our collection of articles. But more often, we tweet links to articles, blogs, and news that we’ve found around the Web. If it seems like something a Bplans visitor would be interested in, we share it. And of course, sometimes we share special offers and discounts.

Here are some reminders that you should keep in mind as you use Twitter to engage with your current and potential customers:

  • There are a million sources of information on the Web. Linking only to your own site is self-serving and transparent.
  • Providing fresh, quality content on your subject matter shows that you’re actively participating, not just faking it to make a buck.
  • Sharing and commenting on other people’s content starts conversations, which is what the “social” part of social media is all about.
  • Responding to tweets and interacting genuinely with followers makes you more “real,” which promotes loyalty.
  • Once you’ve provided somebody with valuable content, they’re more open to what else you have to say.

Sharing information and proving yourself an authority in your field will go a long way toward creating trust with your customers and followers. Engaging honestly with them will make your business feel more personal, which makes it easier for people to be loyal to you. And trust and loyalty are two of the cornerstones of long-lasting brands.

So back to  the question – why should anyone follow your business on Twitter? If you’re doing it right, the answer is easy: because you’re a valued provider of content they want.

 Leader image courtesy of Shutterstock