However, @beckersurf‘s initial attempts at Twittering are a little weak – so I decided to offer them some free advice. While thinking about the simple advice I could share with them, I realized that this advice would be appropriate to many small to medium-sized businesses who are starting to feel their way on Twitter – so the advice has turned into a blog post that I decided to share with everyone.
Build followers – For a retail operation in a pretty hot space like surfing and surf apparel, having only 22 followers is not going to get you much traction. You need to rapidly build up the number of people following your brand to several thousands or you are wasting your time. Check out how Zappos uses Twitter to engage their customers and provide support.
Here are some ideas to build followers:
- Use Twitter search to find people who mention surfing in their tweets and follow them
- Start following surfing celebrities or brands who are on Twitter; for starters, here are some surfing pros on Twitter while doing a quick search today – @hobgoods, @whoisjob, @joelparko @Mick_Fanning
- Follow the top 25 to 50 Twitterers in cities where you have store locations – Twitter Grader offers a great way to find the top Twitters by city, like Hermosa Beach or Malibu; chances are that they are either surfers or know some surfers
- Use one of the Twitter directories, like Twellow, to locate people who mention surfing in their profiles; for example, here is the search phrase for surfing on Twellow
- Consider using Tweet Later or another service to automatically follow back anyone who follows you and provide them with an automatic follow-up message like – “Thanks for following the @BeckerSurf Twitter feed. Our goal is share our passion for all things related to surfing while providing Twitter-only specials in our online store. We look forward to connecting with you…”
- One idea to help with the initial build-up of followers is to hire a “Twintern” to assist with your Twittering efforts – read more about twinterns in this NYTimes article
- One final tip – follow people who are following your followers
Engage followers – As you start building up your followers, you need to begin spending time engaging with them by using the @reply or direct message features. Social media is a two-way street and people thrive on engagement. The interactions should be honest and personal – and you don’t have to be plugging Becker Surf in every tweet. Another tip would be to pay attention to your brand by doing periodic searches of your name in Twitter search and make sure you engage anyone who tweets about your brand.
Provide value – So far, most of your tweets have been to plug deals in your online store. This would be a great once you build your base of followers, but you need to do more. I know that you’re well-connected in the surf industry and people want to hear the interesting things you have to say. For example, how about including tweets about:
- Surf conditions and where to find the best waves
- Gnarly surf pictures (including links)
- Great surfing stories or blog posts
- Surfing competitions (consider live-tweeting an event)
- Surfing vacation spots
- Personal surfing adventures
- Special Twitter-only deals available only from Twitter
The ratio of interesting tweets to pure sales plugs should be around 8 to 1 – and you should strive to tweet about 5 to 10 times per day.
Promote your Twitter presence – it’s great that you have a little Twitter logo on the bottom of your homepage, but it’s pretty well buried from most users. You could print your Twitter URL on your store receipts, add it to your business cards, have a promotional sign near the checkout registers and have your sales associates start casually mentioning it to shoppers. Or you could even design a special Becker Surf Twitter sticker to leverage the popularity of your sticker brand.
Track metrics – One good way to track metrics is to use a service like Hoot Suite. Hoot Suite lets you track the traffic on your twitted links if you use their ow.ly URL shortener so you can get an idea of the popularity and impact you’re making in the Twitter channel. Another great thing about Hoot Suite is that you can share a Twitter account among several employees to help share the load and you can schedule your tweets. Scheduled tweets would be good for promoting a daily special and the daily tweets could be scheduled on a periodic basis. You could also use Twitter analytic services like Twitalyzer or twInfluence to measure changes in the value of your Twitter brand over time.
Good luck Davie and I can’t wait to see you put these ideas into play.