Cut Your Teeth On Twitter

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hurriyet Daily News (click)

No matter what kind of business you are starting, your success will depend largely on how well you market and sell yourself and your ideas. If you are looking for an accessible way to hone your marketing and customer relations skills in preparation for your entrepreneurial leap, consider Twitter.

Twitter started out a few years ago with people answering the question, “What are you doing now?” Many of you will recognize this as the status update you see on Facebook, too.  Nowadays, though, the Twitter community has matured to the point where people are doing much more with it than simply telling the world they are “eating an apple”.

For the new entrepreneur, one of the beauties of Twitter is that it teaches you how to be a better marketer. You need to limit your Twitter updates to 140 characters, which means you have to think carefully about what you are saying.  You have to distill your message into just a few words that will capture the attention of your followers.  Believe me, it’s not easy to do.

How can you use Twitter to promote your own business? I find that on Twitter, “shop talk” is usually acceptable, so feel free to talk about your business.  But try to not talk only about what you do.  In other words, stay away from the corporate version of “cat videos”, the links, articles, or videos you find personally interesting, but that your customers don’t really care about.

Remember that your company probably plays a small part in your customers’ overall lives, and they are more interested in their lives than yours. So use Twitter to share information and resources that are relevant to them, not just the things that are relevant to you.  For example, if you run a printing company, your customers probably don’t care that this morning you chose a different supplier for your ink.  However, they probably do care about the books you are printing.  So in your tweets, announce the new books available this week, and share parts of them with your followers.  And like learning any new skill, be patient until you “get it”.  Learning how to connect with your customers on Twitter will take some trial and error.

In my experience, there are three styles of Twitter usage that seem to work better than others. The first I will call, “Sharing niche professional knowledge”.  For example, this kind of user is interested in stocks and bonds, and uses Twitter to share favorite blogs, links, and hot financial tips.  This kind of usage requires a great deal of consistency, because people will come to you for great stock tips.  But if you start posting unrelated things like movie star gossip, you’ll lose your audience.

The second style is where someone writes a separate blog, and then uses Twitter to post messages related to the blog. One of my favorites is Penelope Trunk, whose blog Brazen Careerist blends a discussion of career issues with a personal journal, and her hilarious tweets make readers want to go check out her blog and read more about what she has to say.

The third style is used best by famous people and celebrities. Their tweets don’t adhere to a consistent theme or concept, but people follow them simply because they come from a famous person, and people want to know what famous people are thinking or doing.  One example of this is Guy Kawasaki, a successful, well-known entrepreneur and venture capitalist.  He tweets on a wide variety of subjects, and people follow him because they want to hear what he has to say, regardless of the subject.
Consider Twitter an ideal laboratory where you can learn from others and test your own techniques for reaching out to your future customers. When it comes time to pay the bills with your new entrepreneurial venture, you’ll be glad you cut your marketing and communications teeth on a tool like Twitter.

And don’t forget, Twitter is a community of real people.  When someone speaks to you in real life, it’s polite to look them in the eye and respond, right? On Twitter, when someone starts following you, return the favor and start following them, too.  It’s an important part of showing respect for others.  Oh, and if you want to find me on Twitter, I am there as fatierdogan.  See you in the Tweet Space!

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