Should your business be on Twitter?

You hear a lot about Twitter these days, mainly because of its popularity with celebrities and the occasional person that tweets something really stupid that draws a firestorm of criticism. The social media sharing service has hundreds of millions of users who send more than 500 million tweets each day, but should your business be one of them?

Every Lorain County business needs to determine if Twitter is a good investment.

Should your Lorain County business be on Twitter?

And yes, in case you didn’t know, you can have a business account on twitter in addition to your personal account. This let’s you keep your tweets about politics and sports teams separate from a 10 percent discount offer you want to send out to drum up business on a slow Wednesday.

For those debating whether being on Twitter would be worth the time invested, here are some things to consider.

What do you want to accomplish?

If you think you need to be on Twitter because “everyone’s on Twitter,” you need to rethink your approach. A lot of people are on Twitter, but many of them aren’t getting anything out of it or have an account but aren’t active. Twitter can be a great tool, but you wouldn’t use a wrench to saw a board, so make sure it’s the right tool for the job.

If you are looking to generate general awareness about special offers, Twitter can be a good way to do that. Same goes for generating awareness about your company or organization, especially if you are creating relevant, non-promotional content that helps educate people.

If your plan is to tweet out 20 ads a day, that’s not an appropriate use and you’ll be ignored. People only see the tweets from the people they follow, so you have to give people a reason to follow you in the first place. Tweeting out helpful articles is one way, as is sending out the occasional discount offer.

But you need to know what you want to accomplish with Twitter before investing the time in it. Otherwise, you’re just tweeting out random ideas with no coherent strategy.

How frequently can you post?

Twitter posts are short-lived. Most estimates I’ve seen say the average lifespan of a tweet is about 20 minutes. After that, it just disappears into the ether where it is never noticed. The ideal frequency is five posts per day -- yes, five. That creates enough traffic to get you noticed and build followers (assuming you are tweeting something of value) and to stay top of mind with your audience.

The drawback is that creating five posts a day is a lot of work. The only way to do it properly is to create an editorial calendar mapping out topics and post dates. You can certainly post less than five time per day and see results, but getting a solid return from your Twitter efforts can be time-consuming, so be prepared to invest in it.

Where are you selling?

If your customers are primarily local, you’ll need to learn more about them -- are they even on Twitter, and how often do they check it? Unless you are an active user, it’s really easy to miss things because of the sheer volume of tweets that come through (hence the need for a high number of daily posts to stand out).

Users can search for local hashtags -- such as #Lorain or #Avon -- so figure out what the common hashtags are for your community and make sure they go in every post to help local searchers find you.

If you have online sales and are looking to get the message out about your products, you can focus on more product-related hashtags, such as #shirt to increase visibility.

If your customers aren’t on Twitter or rarely use it, then save yourself the time and invest in promotions elsewhere. If your customer base actively uses Twitter, it can be a great way to communicate special offers, store updates or a tip, but remember, your content -- whether it’s a great deal on a new item or an educational article link -- needs to be good enough to get them to follow you in the first place.

Are you B2B or B2C?

Most businesses that find success with Twitter are selling to consumers. There are some business-to-business companies that have success, but most B2B selling is more specialized and Twitter isn’t always the best tool to find these niches.

For example, if you sell industrial water pumps for the food service industry, you probably aren’t going to get much traction trying to build a big following of people that buy your product. However, if you host or sponsor an industry event where large numbers of buyers are in one place, you might be able to build a big enough following to make it worthwhile, but again, your content choices are vital. An engineer-dominated crowd wants information that helps them understand problem-solving and solutions, not a constant sales pitch.

Know your audience and adjust accordingly.

Are you a government agency or destination attraction?

Police departments, government agencies and destination attractions all use Twitter as both a general information distribution network and an emergency broadcast tool.

If you are one of these, you should definitely be on Twitter, even if you only use it for emergencies.

As an example, when a polar bear got loose in a behind-the-scenes area at the Cincinnati Zoo, the zoo used its Twitter account to communicate to those in the park about what was happening and what guests needed to do. With the timely broadcast of accurate information, (the bear was quickly contained and park guests were never in danger) rumors were avoided. The zoo regularly tweets out interesting animal facts and other educational content, so fans of the zoo were already following it on Twitter, meaning the emergency message hit a broader section of park visitors and even the news media.

Even if you don’t regularly send out content, encouraging people to sign up for Twitter alerts on your agency’s website can help get any urgent messages out when you need it.

Create an account to avoid imposters

Even if you’ve decided Twitter is not for you, I suggest you still create an account with your business name. This will help avoid anyone else using an account that looks like it’s from you (an angry ex-employee could start an account with your business name and tweet out embarrassing information).

It only takes a few minutes to sign up and create an account for your business.

If you still aren’t sure whether Twitter is right for you, Twitter has created an easy-to-read guide that explains all the benefits of the service and how it works, along with general tips.

Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge Inc. If you have questions about whether Twitter is right for your business, contact him at tshryock@emergeinc.com.

Emerge Inc. is an Avon Lake (Lorain County), Ohio-based web, content and mobile solutions firm.

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