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Contrary to press coverage on Twitter losing 2 million users recently, the social platform still has roughly 328 monthly active users. Sure, other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are receiving more engagement, but that doesn’t mean that you should discredit allocating some time to Twitter.

Below are practical action steps for small business owners on why and how to use Twitter.

Listen before posting

In any aspect of your marketing strategy, attributing the time you invest in marketing efforts is key. However, this can't always be accomplished with every hour spent on social media. In order to keep things practical, specifically on Twitter, one simple goal you can have is to listen to the conversations your customers are having.

Despite the thousands of free or inexpensive marketing technology tools available, you can learn a lot about your customers by simply using Twitter search. Below are a few tips to consider when starting your research on Twitter:

  • You obtain different search results when using a hashtag and a keyword (for example #Hotdogs vs Hotdogs).
  • Create a schedule for when you search. You can reference Twitter analytics to learn about your customers’ peak hours of social activity. As a starting point, simply plot three to four 15-minute periods on your daily schedule.
  • Even if it isn't relevant to your brand, search trending topics for examples of how brands are producing content to give you ideas for creating your own when relevant topics start to trend.

These are just tactics you can use a starting point. It’s important to note that the reason you want to prioritize listening before posting on Twitter is because it reinforces the habit of researching. Researching your customers’ conversations will help you optimize your content over time and give you insights into how they aren’t being served, what your competitors are doing, what news publications your audience consumes, and who’s influencing them within your industry and related fields.

Related: Converting Conversations Into Advertising Placements

Who should you follow?

You may be wondering, "when is it okay to post content?" If you're a small brand on Twitter, finding ways to engage with customers is difficult. Users go on Twitter for news about their friends, family and the world around them. If your content is too promotional, you run the risk of being ignored—even when you're optimizing your writing for users to discover you. If you want to do more than just listen on Twitter however, I recommend first finding brands and verified users in your industry to follow for inspiration and to learn how they grow their audiences.

When auditing profiles that you can potentially emulate, the main metrics to focus on are retweets and replies. Favorites and the total number of followers are vanity metrics because there isn't a clear connection to the quality of conversation that they engage in. And Twitter is all about creating conversations.

When evaluating the metrics, understand that the average number of retweets and replies should be relative to their own progress, not industry benchmarks or any benchmarks you've created for your own goals. You want to see each profile as an isolated case, in other words evaluating them to see how they've improved their engagement over time (or not).

A great example of a business that’s more than just a logo, sharing more than just promotional tweets is @Wendys. Now, Wendy's is a big corporation so the incoming engagement they receive should be taken with a grain of salt. The reason you should follow them for inspiration is simply to study how they reply to their audience. They create their own rules. It's an enjoyable experience reading what they send to their users and the impressions they receive from those conversations definitely can be attributed to foot traffic in their franchise locations.

Example screenshots below:


 

Not only does Wendy’s exemplify good customer service with fast response time, the conversations they create with their audience leads to further impressions—impressions that cost $0.00 and are truly valuable.

Lastly, create Twitter lists to categorize profiles you're studying by compositor, influenced, and miscellaneous inspiration (that's the list of categories I use). This makes studying your feed easier because you're segmenting the content that's coming in (lists are often under utilized as a feature of the platform). You can also categorize the customers who engage with you the most so you build relationships with them over time.

Measuring success

Twitter may not be your primary social platform for connecting with your customer base, however, you shouldn't discredit it as a useful marketing  tool . Keeping a consistent schedule for listening is enough to keep your finger on the pulse. You don't need to post on the platform to find it useful. Nor do you need to focus on all of the metrics that are available to discover trends and conversations that you can contribute to and study.

If you do want to understand how the metrics in Twitter work, I suggest visiting the Twitter Analytics dashboard; just click around and view all of the available settings available. There are a ton of resources where you can learn about the ads platform and how to understand your data, SocialMediaExaminer being one of many.

What's important is that you experiment with Twitter, at least for ten minutes a day. People are still using it for a reason.

Related: Data & Metrics: How Much Value Do They Truly Bring To Marketers?

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