Why Direct Capital is on Twitter, And Why Your Business Should Be Too

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Whether you are “online” or not, chances are that Twitter has crossed your path at some point in the recent past.  What was once a niche tool for social media fanatics has become a main stream interactive communication tool.  Not only are popular culture icons like Oprah and Ashton Kucher using the service, but businesses of all sizes are finding unique and different ways to leverage this tool.

The intent of this post is not to cover the twitter basics. There are books that have been written on how businesses can use Twitter plus plenty of online resources out there to help get you set up and learn about some of the best practices.  If you aren’t familiar with the service, Mashable.com has put together a fantastic primer and Twitter has also put out it’s own guide for business. Both are very worthwhile reads.

Direct Capital has been using Twitter for a several months now and I’ve been personally using it for almost a year.  I’ve found Twitter to be a very useful tool, but like most tools in the social media space, it requires a long term time commitment to realize the true benefits.  Below are the ways Direct Capital is using Twitter to communicate and interact with our marketplace.

Listen

There are conversations happening on-line about your industry and likely about your company, whether you are there or not.  Wouldn’t you like to know what is being said?  There are several tools available to “listen” to what is being said in the Twitter community.  Twitter itself has a search tool that can be accessed right from their home page.  There are also tools such as Seesmic, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck that let you interface with Twitter, including sophisticated search functions.  If you do nothing else with Twitter, I would recommend you regularly monitor your company name on the platform. There are free tools available that make this easy to do, but let me know if you need assistance, I’m happy to help show you how.  If you are not doing already this, you should be monitoring your company name (Google Alerts lets you do this for free).

Contribute

One cardinal rule to integrating social media into a marketing and business plan is that content is king.  However, not all content is created equal.  One of the best analogies I’ve heard so far about how to effectively interact on Twitter relates it to a giant cocktail party.  Being a New Englander I’ll choose the location of this cocktail party to be in Foxboro Stadium (Go Pats!).

Imagine walking around and listening to hundreds, if not thousands of conversations, happening all over Foxboro stadium.  What would the reaction be if your contributions to these conversations consisted entirely of you interrupting others only to constantly talk about your product or service?  Now imagine the reaction if you came across a conversation about your industry and you offer advice to the group on what your experience has been with a particular issue the industry is currently dealing with.  You’ll no doubt get two different reactions using each of these approaches.

Approach your Twitter contributions with authenticity and an underlying desire to serve.   Sure it’s OK to talk about your product every once and a while, but if it dominates your contributions you’ll likely have a poor following and yield very little from your Twitter experience.

Engage

Top small businesses and sales people understand that it’s not enough to tell a prospect everything your product or service can do without first having a discussion about their needs, challenges and frustrations.

I view Twitter as a pre-cursor to this discussion. It’s an opportunity to have a conversation with your target audience outside the parameters of a formal sales process.  Direct Capital’s goal is to be an advocate for small businesses through the products and services we offer.  We use Twitter to engage in conversation with these small business owners, which in turn gives us a unique insight into what we can do to better serve in that advocate role.

Twitter is a relatively young technology tool and are likely plenty of new and exciting ways businesses are going to use the tool. Are you on Twitter yet? How are you using it?

Photo credit: Keiyac