How to use Twitter as a sales channel

There is no denying that Twitter is an exceptional social media platform, but how many organisations really make the most of the 140 character window of opportunity it offers and how much impact can it really have as a business tool?

Well, let’s look at the numbers. With an estimated 200 million registered users generating over 340 million tweets every day and all of us spending around 20%* of our online time on social networking sites, the answer is that given the right approach Twitter can become an immensely powerful sales channel.

And that really is the essence of the Twitter debate – how to take the ‘right approach’ when selling your business, its products and services on a social network.

Firstly let’s look at the DON’TS:

1. DON’T treat Twitter as you would any other sales channel. It’s a social media platform with the emphasis on ‘social’, so think why people are there before deciding how you are going to speak to them. Understanding the mindset of your Twitter audience will enable you to develop a more effective engagement strategy with them as a precursor to selling.

2. DON’T expect that if you build it they will come. It can be tempting to see those who have effortlessly achieved a following of tens of thousands on Twitter and think that you will too, but those who achieve this nirvana of audience adoration have done so either through immense effort, celebrity status or intelligent social media planning. You too need to put in the time and effort into building your own Twitter audience of potential customers/clients, or instruct someone who can do this for you.

3. DON’T fall into the trap of believing that Twitter is just about brand awareness. Yes, Twitter is an exceptional tool for bringing you closer to your audience and for telling the world about your business, its product launches and resolving customer issues, but that’s not all it is. Twitter is also a sales channel and as traditional media advertising is increasingly being mentally ‘blocked out’ by the viewing public, the social media sales channel is becoming ever more important across all sectors.

This is what you should be doing:

1. DO aim to engage with followers and those you wish to follow you. Success on Twitter is all about offering up interesting information, exciting facts, talking about topics that the people you wish to attract are also fascinated by. Basically you need to act as a ‘thought leader’ at the centre of the conversation. Getting to know what those who follow you are interested in, excited by or need, allows you to establish a relationship with them where sales can be considered supportive rather than intrusive.

2. DO listen. Nobody likes being talked at – just a few minutes finding out about someone from their tweets, or listening to what those in your potential customer arena are interested in can give you material for a far warmer introduction. Step it up a notch and you can develop a listening/monitoring strategy, supported by a suitable tool, of which there are many to choose from, that will allow you to keep up with the numerous conversations and leading voices in your sector.

3. DO take every opportunity to convert all of your traditional contacts to Twitter followers.

4. DO link back to your business site where applicable and relevant. Using tools such as bitly you can shorten URLs so they can easily fit within the 140 characters that you have to play with. While you should not do so with every post – or you run the risk of looking too ‘salesy’ – you should regularly include links to blogs, social media deals, and so on that will improve awareness, SEO linking and sales.

5. DO adapt according to your insights. The point of gathering all this information about those you wish to sell to is so that you can adapt your strategy to better suit their needs and your sales aspirations. Learn from their conversations, buying habits and the times they are most active on Twitter, then create more relevant and interesting content for them, focused offers and the soft sell that offers support to solve an issue they have expressed.

It is important to always keep in mind that social media selling is all about respecting the medium, building trust and engagement, and then, once you have developed a comfortable relationship with those in your audience, finding the targeted supportive way to offer up your products and services.

If you are interested in finding out a little more about how to get the most from this social media platform, check out more Twitter tips at SoMazi resources.

*According to the annual Nielsen’s Social Media Report 2012