What's up with all the Twitter talk at Applebee's? by Thomas Hawk via Flickr
Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
During a late lunch (for me) or an early
dinner (for my wife's grandparents) at Applebee's in Reading, Pa., I
was distracted from figuring out how to eat my riblets when I heard the
conversation inevitably turn to Twitter.
It wasn't the most senior
members at the table who were interested in tweeting — thank goodness,
as that would have made me fall off my chair faster than an Applebee's
Top Shelf Long Island Iced Tea. Instead, my uncle, an optometrist, had
been hearing about Twitter and wondered if he should tweet
When I answered Uncle Glenn, I brought up a
number of factors that he should consider when evaluating the service.
I also compared his situation to that of Jeff, my father-in-law, a
plastic surgeon in Dallas. Glenn and Jeff have several things in
common: small businesses in healthcare targeting older-skewing
customers who aren't particularly tech-savvy. There are key differences
though, and those are described below.
Here are ten factors Glenn, Jeff, or anyone else should consider when deciding whether to tweet:
- Domain squatting:
Is there any value for you to register your business name or even real
name (if you own your business or are the face of it) as a Twitter user
name? I covered this recently, and there are a number of reasons why you should, even if you don't plan to actively use it.
Brand mentions: Is
anyone talking about your actual business already? For a small
business, this isn't as likely, but you absolutely must check. For this
search and others discussed here, use Twitter Search at search.twitter.com.
While Twitter offers search functionality on its own site, it's only
available to registered users, and Twitter Search is more robust.
Are people on Twitter discussing topics relevant to your business? For
Glenn, this might mean posts about getting glasses. For Jeff, it might
be concerns about aging, or about certain products like Botox. These
signal opportunities where you can respond and be a resource. I once
tweeted about a friend needing a WordPress programmer; the person who
responded wasn't following me but was getting alerts for relevant
terms, and he wound up with the gig.
Location mentions: If
your business is based in or focused on a certain city or region,
search Twitter to see what people are saying about it. Then use the advanced search
feature to find posts from people based within a certain area. There
may be ways to be a resource about your area. You should also run
location-specific searches for your brands and relevant topics. The
potential reach also matters; Glenn's target is residents within a
small radius of Reading (population: 83,000), while Jeff's customers
live in and beyond the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, home to one-quarter
of all Texans.
Target audience: If there are
lots of relevant mentions, click the user names to see if they look
like they could be in your target audience. If the volume of tweets is
high enough, you'll find a sample of people who are sharing information
about themselves, whether from their Twitter profiles, the links to
their sites, or what they're talking about.
cutthroat is your business? Do you need to do anything and everything
to stay ahead? Twitter could be a competitive advantage, or a necessary
defensive strategy. Jeff's business is one of those fields where his
competitors will shamelessly copy whatever he does, from marketing to
innovative surgical procedures and technologies. Glenn's field is
toward the other end of the spectrum, where he spends a lot of his time
sharing what he knows with his peers. Someone like Jeff is thus more
inclined to use Twitter because they have to, while someone in Glenn's
situation would use it if they want to.
Sales cycle complexity:
How involved is the purchase decision? For Jeff's business, there's a
lot of complexity in terms of understanding the procedures and
technologies involved. Plus, if anything goes wrong, it will often be
very visible to everyone the customer knows. This means Jeff must
invest a great deal of energy in making prospective customers feel
comfortable with him and his business. With Glenn, trust is no less
important, but his customers don't need to conduct as much research
online; he'll wind up earning most customers' trust in person.
Purchase frequency: This
can vary considerably for both Glenn and Jeff. For Jeff, many customers
need to return regularly for maintenance. Glenn, meanwhile, has an
opportunity to provide services for the whole family, from eye exams to
glasses. How valuable is it to stay top of mind?
Acquisition vs. retention: If
most of your business comes from existing customers, then just ask them
if they use Twitter and if they'd want to keep in touch with you that
way. If you're continually prospecting, then you need to review these
Bandwidth and resources: Even
if your target audience is on Twitter and there are a million reasons
to connect with customers there, do you work with anyone who
understands Twitter well enough to participate, or can you afford to
pay someone else to train you or run your Twitter program?
That's the long answer. The short answer is, "Are your target customers
on Twitter, and do you have the resources to reach them?"
gave these factors a lot of thought and is already tweeting away, even
if he's still figuring out the best way to use it (like most everyone
else). Glenn will probably hold off unless his Twitter research
uncovers surprising results. Both can periodically return to this guide
to assess whether Twitter has the potential to help them grow their
businesses. Even if it's a little challenging to understand, it's all
much easier than figuring out how to eat a riblet.