To tweet or not to tweet

Just posted a reply to Sathnam Sanghera’s Times Online article about twitter not being right for business:  http://tinyurl.com/yjcr3qs

He seems to have totally ignored the small business sector when writing this article!  Strange, as they contribute a significant amount to the country’s economy.  Stats dated May 2008 from the Federation of Small Businesses indicate how much:

  • There are 4.8 million small businesses in the UK (up from 4 million in 2003)
  • 3 million businesses are sole proprietors
  • 13.7 million people work in small and medium-sized firms
  • Small firms contribute more than 50.1 per cent of the UK turnover

I have often come across this corporate vs SME (small to medium sized enterprise) bias.  First year of university saw me walk out of a university Careers Fair unable to find any company that sounded attractive for me to work in – they were all the big corporate names with some great offers, but it’s not my natural world.

It’s interesting how many people who only know the big corporate world fail to see or understand that smaller businesses tend to have a very different culture.  Sweeping statements about how twitter is not appropriate for business is unhelpful.  There are some fair points in the article in relation to large corporate companies using twitter with many people tweeting as a unified identity, which does feel somewhat phoney.

However, there are many good reasons for smaller businesses to use twitter.  Here’s a few:

  • twitter is great for finding information – follow industry leaders to keep up to date with developments
  • you can see what your competitors are doing, saying or offering – though of course they can do the same with you!
  • customers can access you directly and if you’re on the ball, get a quick response – critical if something has gone wrong
  • you can start dialogues and make connections with people who otherwise would be outside your network
  • it’s great for building customer loyalty, as your business can project an appropriate (?more personal) feel
  • those loyal customers become your advocates – they can retweet (send on) messages on your behalf to a broader audience & compliment you or your product/service to their followers
  • for homeworkers it provides a vital lifeline to human contact – essential if you work alone
  • you can source advice for technical problems without having to resort to spending money (up to a point of course!)
  • you can find out local information regarding traffic or weather which may affect business
  • you can use it for giving special offers – time limited vouchers or codes etc (in general an 80/20 rule applies – 80% of your tweets (messages) should be non-marketing, with the remaining 20% more targeted about promoting your business, products or services)
  • using shortened links through a service such as bit.ly you can track how influential you are being
  • you can use twitter to make it easy for customers to share a direct link about your product or service.  Be really clever like graze.com and you can use unique links attached to each customer to see just how well each one does at spreading the word.

So just a few ideas about why twitter CAN BE and IS useful for finding, sharing and using information!

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