Twitter is getting a lot of attention, with mentions in national media, being used on the news, and articles in all kinds of business publications. But, is Twitter worth the effort for a small town business?
Businesses of all sizes are sharing impressive results. Dell announced it has made $3 million worth of sales through its Twitter efforts. Even small businesses in big cities have started benefiting. Small bakeries can now buy an oven-gadget that automatically announces when fresh baked goods are available. Small restaurants in big cities are filling seats and retailers are selling specials with simple announcements on Twitter, thanks to the large number of potential customers online.
But what about small town businesses? We don’t have the same share of our local customers on Twitter. How many people can you realistically reach if only 5 or 10 out of your town’s 5,000 people are signed up? How can that be worth the time and effort?
There are two ways Twitter can be worth it for such small businesses. The first is to follow smart people. It’s worth it to have small business insights from bright entrepreneurs. It’s worth it to connect with others in your industry, but far away geographically. It’s worth it to discover other points of view. You have the chance to follow small town luminaries such as Jack Schultz, Tom Egelhoff, and Marci Penner of Kansas Sampler. Every day, you will learn new things from them, gain some added enthusiasm, and get ideas.
The second way to make Twitter worth it is to start with your existing fans. Let’s say you run the small town quilt show. You may have some email address lists already or you can start by building them. With those email addresses in an online address book, like Gmail or AOL, you can check to see if they are on Twitter. You want to start with people who have attended before and people who are now supporters of the event.
We are measuring small business success by big business standards. The right 15 followers may be much better than 1500.
How about buying lists or gathering lists of people who might potentially be customers? Could you find and follow them? That was the question posed to me by an ag-loan group. Could they not just get the list of emails addresses of everyone who received the right government payment, and start by following them? I said no, because there is no existing relationship with those people. The difference with the quilt show list was it included people who already have some relationship with your event. They know you, and they already like you. The farm payment lists are more like cold calls with people who probably don’t care about you.
Then how can the ag group attract those potential customers? First, they’ll start with their existing customers and supporters. They can follow them, and start building an audience in a natural way. By putting out relevant, informative tweets on topics those people care about, like upcoming application deadlines or tips for farm money management. The more you talk about those issues intelligently, the more you will attract the very people you are looking for.
With the right approach to following and followers, Twitter is definitely worth it for small town businesses.
How about you? Are you a small town businessperson using Twitter? Share your story of how it’s worth it for you. Or how it’s not!
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.