Lots of businesses and brands use Twitter for marketing and customer service but it can be a confusing place for small businesses and personal brands.

Emilie Silverwood-Cope is a social media consultant and trainer. She has worked in sales and marketing for over twenty years and has managed social media accounts for charities, FMCG and many other companies.

In this Q&A Emilie answers questions on the best way for businesses and brands to benefit from using Twitter.

Find Emilie on LinkedIn and Twitter @SilverwoodCope

Some basics

  • You can use Twitter to show you’re thought leader, to do social listening, use it as search engine and for networking.
  • Use it to tag on relevant trending topics – e.g if you sell dog food, get excited about Crufts but DO NOT spam the hashtag. Don’t even mention your product. Use the hashtag to watch in real time and show you’re a massive dog lover and be excited about Crufts. Talk to other people who are getting excited. Build some relationships.
  • If you’re doing customer service get back to people quickly – really within the hour. Don’t try to take complainers into DMs. Everybody knows that trick now. Stay public and show how you handle people nicely.
  • Use Twitter to learn about people – about your customers and potiential customers. Create lists and keep them up to date.
  • Be sociable rather than salesy. Use it TELL. Tell, not sell.
  • Don’t spam, don’t use automated bots for follow and unfollow.
  • Don’t share the same content across multiple accounts.
  • Don’t buy followers!
  • OHH! And don’t use apps to link your twitter account to LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook!
  • Be there in real time as much as possible.

Is Twitter still a good place for businesses?

Helen Lindop Twitter has got a reputation for being a bit nasty and full of outraged people – is it still a good place for doing business?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope I would say, especially for big brands, not being on Twitter would be bad for their business. Not only has it become the number one platform for customer services and complaints but brands should be using it for social listening to pick up when people are talking about competitors as well as their own brand.

You can go viral quickly on Twitter so I understand why a smaller business might think Twitter is too intimidating but the biggest problem smaller businesses would face is not getting engagement rather than getting too much.

Helen Lindop There are so many tweets and they fly by so fast that it’s easy for people to miss your tweets. What’s the best way to get seen by as many people as possible?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Twitter is a very fast moving platform and the most real time of all the social media platforms. Your question is actually worthy of an entire presentation because it includes branding, content, messaging etc. There are a lot of factors involved in whether your tweet is seen or not. To put it bluntly though if your tweet is engaging then it should get engagement.

Helen Lindop I know this is like asking ‘how long is a piece of string’ but how many times a day should we be tweeting? And at what times?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope It’s a real time social media and fast moving as you know – so to have a presence you need to be on there every day tweeting 5 -7 times. You should try joining conversations too. It shouldn’t be all broadcasting.

Helen Lindop Is it good to unfollow those people a) you’re not engaging with or interested in and b) those people who are no longer tweeting? Or doesn’t it matter that much if you’re using lists? I was following 4.5k people, there’s no way I can be paying close attention to that many people and did that look bad to others? It turned out 400 of those hadn’t tweeted in the last 3 months so I unfollowed almost all. Is using 3rd party apps for this OK or is it risky?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Don’t use third party apps – its against Twitter users policy and you could get your account suspended. You can try using soft blocks. This works by blocking someone who follows you – and then unblocking them – they will no longer be following you.

Getting the right advice

Karl Gjertsen There’s so many people giving you advice about Twitter that it’s hard to know who to listen to. I’d love to hear recommendations on what you should and should not do, but I’d also like to hear an explanation of why.

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Karl – great question and I could spend two hours answering. I disagree with a lot of the advice from Twitter experts about how to use Twitter.

It shows when someone is on the platform because they think they should be. They pop in maybe once a week – share a blog and disappear. That’s not going to work. The best bit of advice is to be followable, and have fun with it if you can. It can be such a creative platform – for example if you’re a small start up business you might like to tweet in real time while watching Dragon’s Den – using the hashtag – and being supportive.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts I am time poor but content rich. I prefer Instagram and Pinterest to spend personal time on. I post to Twitter just to have a presence as I find it overwhelming. How do I make the most of the platform?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Content rich is great! I would say if you’re going to Twitter then put in the time – you can use scheduling tools but then you’re just on transmit – Twitter is all about having conversations, chatting and hopefully having fun and learning from each other. It all comes down to who your customers are, what your brand is and what you want to use twitter for?

You’re perfect for twitter – I can just see a thread about why you do what you do and what you love about your job.

Outsourcing tweets

Ruth Farenga I write all my own tweets but am looking to outsource some of the more regular prompts/ podcast/ reminding people of past content etc. Then I will continue to be in Twitter for the more ‘in the moment’ posts + engagement. How do I keep it personal while not micromanaging/ spending too much time involved with the VA who will be drafting them?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Scheduling tweets can be a helpful way to get content shared. There are scheduling tools you can use to check off tweets your VA has written (content cal for example). I think getting your VA to show you the first few so you can be confident they’ve understand your tone and how you like to present yourself and make sure what they write is “brand safe” is fair – hopefully after that they could just get on with it.

I send my clients a list of words to help me define the correct tone – e.g. what image do you want to convey – professional, friendly, approachable – and from that you can decide how to tweet and what language to use. That might be a good place to start.

Networking on Twitter

Karen Arnott I use Twitter to network, and love it for that. However, I’m probably not using it to its full potential for business…? I think I’ve got a good bio, I mostly engage rather than promote. Is there anything else I could do more proactively?

I’d like to see myself being followed and engaged with by people who potentially might want to work with me. I think I tend to engage with anything and everything that interests me, without trying to be more strategic about who to engage with (like I would on LinkedIn, say)

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Social listening  is a great way to focus. Spend a little time creating a list that includes clients, past clients, prospects, suppliers, etc and actively engage with them and check in every day. This will get you off the main feed and stop you getting sucked in.

Business or personal account?

Kathy Salaman I know some people have more than one twitter account – one business and one personal. I have both but rarely use the personal one, yet am inclined to respond to tweets that have nothing to do with business – sometimes political or otherwise controversial.

Should I use my personal account more, or is it good for followers to see the person behind the business?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope This is a great question Kathy and it’s incredibly easy for lines to get blurred on twitter.  There is lots of advice on “Don’t tweet controversial things from your business twitter account”. However, don’t be boring either. The problem with being neutral is you appeal to no one. Nike made a stand and decided it didn’t want to appeal to big section of Trump voters. It’s really your call. I work for a parenting client and we had an anti Vaxxer leave a comment that we deleted and said why – we don’t want to spread fake news – and decided that was our line.

Karen Arnott I’m the opposite of this – I predominantly use my personal account (it has far more followers). If I have something specific to the business I post there and then retweet it from my personal account.

Listening on Twitter

Twitter has a great search facility so its a great way to do market research and pick up potential new clients. Find out how many people and who are talking about a specific product, search for competitors and see how they talk to people or if people are complaining or praising them.

Ann Hawkins I was having a moan about Mailchimp and saying I preferred Campaign Monitor and a guy from Active Campaign popped into the conversation, switched to LinkedIn and had a great conversation with me about referrals. Neither Mailchimp nor Campaign Monitor picked it up!

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Here’s another great example of twitter social listening : Spec Savers might have a search for anyone mentioning glasses or this tweet got enough traction they saw it but their response is excellent – no sales pitch!

Rob Birnie Had to cancel some flights this week but couldn’t get through to easyJet via website chat or phone.  Within an hour of asking if they could help on Twitter, everything was sorted. So in the end, rather than me posting a moany tweet about how I can’t get through to them, I tweeted saying how helpful they were on social. Just shows how you can really turn around customers’ experiences if you’re diligent with your social media channels.

#Hashtags

Emilie Silverwood-Cope There are brands out there doing great work and brands who are hashtagging every other word….. please do not hashtag words in the body of tweet. As the kids would say it looks “thirsty” – it makes the tweet less readable… put your hashtag at the end of the tweet and never more than two and NEVER just random word like “success”

If your hashtag has more than one word use capital letter for the start of each word. This makes them easier to read and also has an accessibility impact for people with impaired vision who use screen readers. #nowthatchersdead was widely misread as #NowThatChersDead

You can be part of a trending topic without using a hashtag now – for example you could tweet about your new Apple Phone and your tweet be included in the trending topic just because you’ve typed those words.

If you create a hashtag specific to an event to allow people to network check that no-one else is using it!

Be identifiable!

If you’re on Twitter for business don’t have a Twitter name that is so obscure no-one can remember it or identify you. A good tip is to include your Twitter name in your LinkedIn profile so people can find it there linkedto your real name.

If you’d like to follow Drive Members on Twitter just follow this list and their Tweets will appear in your feed:

@DrivetheNetwork/Drive Members and Friends on Twitter 

This Q&A barely scratched the surface of the topic so we’re looking at creating an on-line workshop where we can go into more detail.  

In the meantime, if you have any questions, contact Emilie on LinkedIn and Twitter @SilverwoodCope or in the Drive the Network Facebook Group 

And in the meantime meantime, here’s how not to use hashtags: