Imagine how different your business could be with or without Twitter.  

I’m staring out my window right this minute thinking the following... “Imagine how successful my business could be if I had huge numbers of my target audience following The Clothes Tree on Twitter and what would my business would be like if I didn’t ever use Twitter?”

The contrast is huge. I have a colourful, busy happy picture with lots of buzz and action contrasting with a black and white picture of me dressed in a Victorian costume writing a marketing plan with a quill.

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I am no social media expert but I believe the following to be true.  If you have a business, there will be people out there who want to buy your product or service who engage in online activity in one form or another, whether it’s as simple as looking at the internet for information and a bit of a browse right through to blogging, posting via Facebook, Tweeting or Flickr-ing.  They might be totally geeking out on social media and go to discos where people listen to music in headphones or they might be of the less digitally aware tribe who still type with one finger, very slowly and talk a lot about Groupon.

They might not know that they want/need to buy your product/service.  They might not even know what your product/service is.

So – you need to reach out to them online.  You need to do the equivalent of a fly by their eyes in a small plane with a big banner streaming behind your plane with ‘This is my product/service/these are the benefits/it’s great/it’s for you!’ in big red letters.  How else will they know about you? 

It’s simple.  You need to define your offering, define your target audiences, decide what the most important things about that offering are that you want to tell people (your key messages) and then decide how you’re going to tell them.  You might use several elements of the marketing mix, delivered by a range of wonderfully creative tactics and you’ll have either totally embraced social media as a communications tool or you’ll think it’s just a “bit of an extra”.

I “got” Twitter a long time ago but I didn’t really, really “get” it until I got into it.  So – I understood what is was/did, wasn’t really that interested, didn’t think that the people I needed to communicate with as part of any of my target audiences (I have two businesses, work as a communications manager and am a blogger, so I have a lot of target audiences...) were out there in the Twitter landscape (I thought it was still just the Americans) but lo and behold once I got into it I realised that everyone was there, partying in Twitterland with their hashtags and their @s and I was the last to arrive at the party. Unfashionably late.

I dipped my toe in the Twitter pond first with The Clothes Tree.  My strategy was to build a following of people who were likely to buy and sell their children’s outgrown clothes on The Clothes Tree.  I had already done my target audience segmentation and had a pretty good idea what would interest and engage this audience.  I wanted my tweets to be fun, interesting, offer something of value, link to other businesses/people which would also be of interest to that target audience, share, laugh, provoke thoughts, inspire and generally drop precious little nuggets into someone’s day.  This in itself builds a brand and creates a community.  It creates a connection between you and your audience.  They feel they know you/your brand.  You have the opportunity to engage with them. Then when you drop in tweets about a sale, or promotion, it doesn’t sound do mercenary.  They don’t feel marketed at.  Nobody wants to feel marketed at.

I built a pretty good following on Twitter for The Clothes Tree with the tweets coming from me and my Digital Media guru and I’d like to think that we’ve created the Twitter equivalent of a fabulous little coffee shop full of cupcakes, mums and copies of Junior magazine.  I can actually picture that coffee shop right down to the table cloths and crockery.  Yes – I know.  I’ve taken that too far.

What I did was fly by my audience in that plane, with the banner and an extra tail at the end saying “Follow me for more”.

I run my own PR Consultancy and I also write a lifestyle blog so I have my own Twitter account and was encouraged by one of Scotland’s top journalists to get on twitter more and start tweeting links to my work.  Books are commissioned on Twitter.  Films are commissioned on Twitter.  It’s all happening.  It makes me wonder what we used to do.  Send stuff to people?  Don’t do it.  Tweet it.  You can drive your Twitter following to where you want them to be in less than seven character spaces. 

I haven’t had a publishing offer (yet) but I have plenty of agents/literary types and journalists following me.  If I didn’t tweet, I wouldn’t have that relationship with them.

So Twitter is not, as I once wrote (a long time ago when I did my Masters in Public Relations, when Twitter was so new it was just something that American people did) just a fancy way of telling the world that you’re having a cup of tea and a Hob Nob.

It’s probably the single most important tool that you can use to communicate with your target audience.  They’re there!  These people use the internet.  Be the Pied Piper of your business, play them a tune and see if they follow.  Try an assortment of tunes and see what happens. 

I guarantee you a number of things will happen.

People will start following you.  People will start retweeting your tweets.  Your audience will grow.  More people will retweet your tweets.  Your audience will keep growing.  You’ll stumble upon lots of news and information relevant to your business (if you’re following the right people) and you’ll start learning.  Quickly. You will start to form a relationship with your audience that you may not have had previously.  You will look forward to sitting down and sharing something of interest with your audience, a link, offering something of value, stimulating discussion, telling them about your company news.  There are so many things you can do to build a relationship with a growing audience and keep things fresh, interesting and engaging.  It’s a bit like when you’re in the early stages of a relationship and you wonder if you’re going to have anything to talk about all night and then you realise it’s 4am.  Once you start doing it, it’ll just feel like second nature.

Put it on your New Year’s resolution list.  It’s no biggie.  Just do it and see what happens. Oh, and let me know how you get on!

Good luck.