If you believe all the hype online and offline, your business is going to die a horrible, slow, excruciating death unless you join Twitter right now. Put down your coffee, stop reading this article and open up a Twitter account for your business. Just do it.
If every major (and minor) corporation out there is setting up a Twitter account, surely it makes sense for you to be tweeting with the masses. If Richard Branson is doing it, then so should you…
If the hype is to be believed, you’ll be able to connect with your clients, build relationships with people, expand markets and attract people who couldn’t live without your product or service. Follow the simple steps (just Google that), build a Twitter Profile and you’ll be a Social Media Guru in no time.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Of course I don’t know if my local plumber went to plumbing-school so that he could become a Social Media Guru. (And if his plumbing business fails, at least he could start workshops on Twitter Marketing — that would surely be a first, right?)
So if you’re thinking about a Twitter account for your business, perhaps it’s a good idea to take a moment and consider a few points:
1.Tweeters can be opinionated
I mean really opinionated. About absolutely everything. If you’re going to have your business on Twitter don’t expect it to be all sunshine and roses. Engaging with your prospective clients means you’re going to have to deal with complaints too.
Many of the business owners I’ve spoken to have told me they were completely unprepared for the onslaught of negative comments. And it’s really tricky to handle a complaint in 140 characters.
If you’re going to put your business on Twitter, expect people to be negative about your brand.
2.Immediate response required
Twitter makes people impatient. We’re used to the news getting to us before it makes it on CNN. If I have a complaint or query, I expect an answer almost immediately.
Don’t make me wait 30 minutes for an answer or I’m bound to tell everyone that you don’t care about your clients.
If you’re going to have a business account on Twitter, be prepared to handle complaints, queries and objections with near light-speed. And that means you’re going to have to drop everything every time you receive a tweet.
While everyone is quite happy to extol the virtues of being on Twitter, not many like to talk about how your company (or yourself) could completely ruin your reputation. It takes 1000 tweets to build a reputation, but only one to ruin it.
Picture some dimwitted client having a go with you on Twitter. In the beginning you’re really friendly and helpful – but Mr. Dimwit is still having a go at you. And he keeps niggling until you finally explode. In one hurried tweet you’ve completely lost your business/personal reputation.
It’s certainly not as uncommon as you think. And it happens really quickly. If you’re going to be on Twitter, make sure you can control your emotions.
If you’re going to be effective on Twitter, you’re going to need to set aside a good amount of time to handle your incoming stream. It’s not just about sending out adverts (please don’t ever do that). You’ve got to take the time to build relationships with people in the hope that they’ll buy from you later.
But here’s the thing: If you’re a small business (let’s say a one-man-band) then the honest truth is you can’t afford to be on Twitter. It’s actually costing you more money then you’ll make.
Twitter is a time-thief. People on Twitter will regularly admit that they are less productive since joining Twitter, especially because they have to be “on call” 24 hours a day.
If you’re looking for ways to grow your small business, then Twitter is probably not the way to do it.
I’m not saying that Twitter is bad for all business. I am saying that you should really consider the cons before embarking on it. If your company is big enough, you could hire a full-time Twit to handle the queries and complaints. There are a few companies in South Africa that have done this incredibly well (FNB, Vodacom, Virgin Active, MWEB come to mind), but that’s an extra salary to pay out.
So in conclusion:
If you are unable to commit to the time needed to run a proper Twitter account, then don’t do it — or you’ll just look half-hearted and disinterested in your clients. The Twittersphere is littered with the corpses of half-attempted small businesses. Avoid being one of them.