Conquering the small business hashtag: Twitter tips for SMEs

Here, Niall O'Loughlin discusses how to make the most of your brand identity on Twitter.

On the surface, Twitter appears to be an unbeatable opportunity to establish the brand identity of SMEs in the UK. With an average of 100 million daily Twitter users and 500 million ‘tweets’ sent each day globally, the potential to be noticed is enormous.

Prior to the social media phenomenon, reaching a large audience would have required an advertising budget of tens of thousands of pounds through TV, radio and press ads. Thanks to Twitter and other networks, it is now possible to reach more prospects than you ever dreamed possible. Yet Twitter is still underused by SMEs, mainly because business owners have little idea how to use the social network to their advantage. Fortunately, learning the right tips and tricks is not a difficult process as we demonstrate below.

Target audience engagement

Once you have a Twitter account, the worst thing you can do is remain inactive. How is anyone going to know you exist if you don’t tweet regularly? Make sure you send tweets everyday but also ensure these messages are relevant.

Even a cursory search should help you decide upon the tweets you want to send. For instance, a sports company will be looking for people tweeting about playing a football match while a cake maker will have its eyes peeled for mentions of birthdays.

Remember, active Twitter users are not shy about discussing their lives so there is an incredible amount of marketing information at your fingertips if you know what to look for. It is also a great idea to respond to tweets in an authoritative manner. In other words, if you come across a conversation about something in your field, feel free to chime in with useful information.

Don’t promote…personalise!

It’s a fact that the most successful Twitter accounts belong to individuals/companies that have managed to develop a personality. If you tweet bland, corporate messages, you will be ‘unfollowed’ before you even realise it. The ideal combination is an account that offers plenty of important information in its niche along with tweets that show you’re a human being and not a corporate shill.

Develop a winning strategy

Your content strategy is an integral part of your online identity; the tweets you send will colour peoples’ perceptions of your company so take your time over this. Since there are around 20 million tweets sent on Twitter every hour, it’s easy to see how messages can get lost in the Twittersphere.

One plan is to create an ‘editorial calendar’ which helps you decide what to do weeks in advance. As a result, you can schedule a special date to offer discounts to customers for example or else you can have a competition with great prizes. I recommend using Hootsuite, a free tool that allows you to plan and schedule tweets in advance. As a business owner you can plan ahead and control the overall message you are communicating to your followers, keeping your marketing clear and consistent.

Related: Twitter marketing in less than 15 minutes a day

Once you plan ahead, you’ll be able to properly prepare for these events and be several steps ahead of the competition.

Embrace the power of the #Hashtag

Twitter users place hashtags (#) in front of words in order to make it easier to find. Every news event carries its own hashtag; as a result, all you have to do is look for the topic in the search bar and you will quickly find it and be able to become part of the conversation.

Whether it is a city, sport, industry or current event, you can bet it has its own hashtag. If you’re stuck for time but happen to be on Twitter at any given moment, simply look to the left of the screen and see what’s trending. If you see anything relating to your industry, don’t be afraid to jump in and become part of the action.

Twitter best practices

  • Choose an appropriate username: The simplest option is to use your business name as your Twitter handle. The best names are short, memorable and a good representation of your business. The longer the name, the fewer characters you get to use for your tweets.
  • Align the design with your brand: Since you’re promoting your brand online, the design of your Twitter page needs to look professional. If you use specific colours for your logo or brand in general, use them on your Twitter page.
  • Follow relevant users: It doesn’t look good when you have 30 followers but follow 4,000 accounts! Look for accounts in similar industries and geographical locations; this is important because you want to keep your Twitter feed relevant.
  • Think before you tweet: Although you can delete tweets, it is not unusual for a fast acting Twitter user to take a screenshot of controversial tweets. As you can send a tweet in a matter of seconds, take great care before publishing as one wrong move could damage your online reputation.

On Twitter, everything changes so quickly; a relevant tweet on Monday may be completely pointless on Tuesday for example. While it is good to have a schedule, real Twitter success depends on opportunism. If there is a chance to make a good impression, take it as soon as possible before someone else does.

Niall O’Loughlin is marketing manager at graphic design marketplace 99designs.

Further reading on digital marketing


Niall O'Loughlin

Niall O’Loughlin is marketing manager at graphic design marketplace 99designs.

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