I hear the same story every day from companies “We have a Twitter account, but don’t use it that often. I just don’t have the time.” At some point, someone suggested you create a Twitter account, if for no other reason it’s what everyone else is doing. Then you aded a link to Twitter on your website. For a week you sent messages. And that was it. It’s been months since you last checked the account. Even longer since the last update. Time and how to use Twitter are often the reasons I hear.
For example, think about the last trade show you attended. You have a booth to make new contacts, get feedback about your latest products and meet with existing buyers. It’s hectic, and you always seem to be rushing. But, while you are at the trade show, you will check your email and voicemail frequently to keep in touch with the outside world. As business people we have to check for messages, to ignore either or both is unthinkable. It’s time to put Twitter on that priority list.
I recently attended the American International Toy Fair in New York City to help a client develop new ideas for her gift box business. The day before the show I sent out a simple Tweet, asking what booths were a “must see” at the show. I received several responses from companies asking me to stop by. They even provided me with their booth number. I responded back and made the effort to stop by their booths to introduce myself. But, out of 1100 exhibitors, only three responded to this direct request. For sure, this is a missed opportunity.
Let’s put it in perspective. If a buyer left a message on your voicemail asking if he should stop by your booth, would you return the message? Of course. You want as many people to visit you. Twitter is similar, in fact it is easier than returning voicemail. If you text with people you once called on the phone, you already understand why. The conversation is quick and to the point. No lengthy chit-chat, save that for the show floor.
Here is just one way to be effective with Twitter:
1 ) The #hashtag.The hashtag is simply a word, acronym or short phrase preceded by #. The hashtag makes it easy for attendees, exhibitors, organizers and anyone who is interested, to search for news about the event.
2) Where do you find the hashtag?Most show organizers will create a hashtag for their event. This helps promote the discussion on Twitter. Check the show website several days or even weeks before the show to find it. The hashtag might also be in the emails or printed materials you receive prior to the show. The 2012 Toy Fair’s hashtag is #tf12
3) Search for the hashtag. Just enter the hashtag, including the #, into the Twitter search. The search will present all the tweets that include that hashtag.
4) Read the recent tweets. Look for questions or comments related to your business. If you have a relevant comment or answer, by all means reply. Make sure your reply contains the show hashtag, because others are watching that same hashtag. They may add to the conversation, further expanding your network.
5) Save the search. This will make it easy to check for new posts later. Twitter allows you to save searches, but a tool like Hootsuite is far better at keeping track of your saved searches. Hootsuite is free and is available through any browser and as an app on your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android smartphone (Bonus: Hootsuite also helps you manage your Facebook page, LinkedIn, Foursquare account and more from the same screen).
6) Be notified. Ensure your mobile device is set up to notify you when a message sent to you has been posted. If your replies are timely, you’ll gain the respect of those who are listening.
7) Add to your following list. Make sure to add any of the people you tweet with to your following list. In the future you will be able to read their tweets when they don’t use the hashtag. This can form a solid relationship, maybe one that leads to new business.
You may have noticed a grammatical error above. I used the present tense referring to the Toy Fair’s hashtag. But, it’s not a typing error. Hashtags live on. As I write this, a week after the show, people are continuing the conversation using that hashtag. So don’t delete that search. Keep an eye on it.
It’s time to put more effort into Twitter. There is a conversation going on and you need to participate. It’s as important as the flashing red light on your telephone.
PS: Follow me on Twitter @edkuryluk