How to Twitter Guide for Local Merchants

We see Twitter positioning itself as a local advertising platform: it’s simple to use, requires little time commitment to Tweet, and free. Here’s a guide for local merchants on how to use Twitter to reach their local audience:

1) How different local merchants should use Twitter

2) How to build a local Twitter consumer community around you

3) How to survey for business opportunities

4) How to make your Twitter campaign more efficient

1) Services

Walk in / appointment based services: Barbers, beauticians, spas, nail salons, auto maintenance / lube,

Tweet schedule openings for the day. Offer daily special and coupons.

Examples: @truemassage, @polishednails

Articles: Putting Twitter’s world to use

Medical / health services: Optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, doctors

Create a professional profile befitting your standing in the community. Discuss the tools and trends of your practice. Demystify.

Examples: @scottgreenhalgh (Cosmetic dentistry), @evansclinic

Professional services: Accountants, attorneys, financial planners

The problem with arcane professions like the law and accounting is the “boring” factor. Twitter should be used to connect with the community for branding purposes. Become a “business calendar”; accountants can broadcast changes in tax codes and alert important filing dates.

Examples: @cordellparvin, @kanoisandeep (Tax guru)

Articles: Attorney marketing on Twitter. Valuable or waste of time?

Transaction based services: Real estate, mortgages, travel agencies, recruiters

Transaction based service providers suffer from a spammy reputation because it’s easy to incessantly tweet out home listings, job posts or travel deals. The focus should be on providing information and data relevant and interesting to, say a prospective home buyer, by talking about communities or market conditions. Interacting like a “real” person is paramount to establishing a welcome identity as a hub, not a spammer, in the community.

Examples: @mortgagereports, @scottkato

Arts and entertainment services: Night clubs, events organizers, symphonies

Tweet schedule of events and shows, offer quizzes, advertise discounted tickets, create contests – give away two free tickets to a local follower

Examples: @yoshisjazz @sanfransymphony

(note: arts groups should design great backgrounds!)

Articles: Cultural groups tap social networking

Hospitality: Restaurants, hotels, taco trucks, street food vendors

Tweet the day’s lunch menu @ 11am, and dinner menu @ 1 pm, 4pm. Link to recipes. Offer coupon code.

Examples: @divinopiazza, @kogibbq, @nakedpizza

Articles: Naked Pizza erects Twitter billboard, List of street food vendors using Twitter

Retail

Advertise your deals of the day, weekend sales, etc. Your Twitter feed’s timeline chronicles what your store offers so consumers will use this as a consumer and comparison shopping resource. Consumers may use Twitter to ask questions in lieu of a phone call because it’s more efficient. Be sure to intersperse deals tweets with interesting links. @ABC_Carpet twitpics its rugs!

Examples: @brooksrunning, @ABC_Carpet, @wfm_oakland (most Whole Foods Market branches have their own Twitter feed)

Twitter marketing no-no: Abandoning a Twitter feed at @bestbuybayarea

Articles: List of US retailers on TwitterRetailer Twitter aggregation

2) How to Build a Local Follower Base:

  • Follow the followers of other local Twitter feeds in your city.
  • Contests: Offer two free tickets to concert or lunch in a weekly drawing to a local follower. The locals will follow you.
  • Quizzes: Post picture of city landmark, or quiz about interesting local facts.
  • Give to the community: Support other local Twitterers by retweeting their local interest stories and events.
  • Provide links to interesting articles related to your business, market conditions or city. For example, link to reviews of cameras if you’re a camera shop.
  • Position your Twitter account as your online point of contact by adding your feed info to business cards and storefront signs. Twitter names are much easier to remember than phone #s. Article: Twitter to replace 800 #s as point of corporate contact.
  • Tweet using hashtags at a Breaking News site for your city, and request placement of your feed into the City site.
  • Personalize: Of course, make sure you’re not tweeting about business all the time or it may come across as spammy. It’s best to create two accounts – a business account like @yoshisjazz that sticks to the subject, and a personal account to have conversations that reveal your personality.

3) Surveying for Business Opportunities

  • Monitor Twitter search terms for your business. Many Twitterers ask for help to their follower base. If you’re a tax accountant in Chicago, monitor the search terms “Chicago tax accountant” by creating an RSS feed at Search.Twitter.com and tracking it in your RSS reader.

  • Use the hashtag conventions #ihave and #yourcity occasionally (add them to a tweet once per week or so) to alert others who monitor this hashtag convention for services or goods you provide.
  • Register your Twitter feed at Jobaba, the social marketplace for local services. More of these localized service sites will appear.

4) Twitter Efficiency Tools

  • Use a Twitter scheduling application like Hootsuite or Tweetlater to schedule your tweets for the week. Especially useful for restaurants that know their menu offering for the week.
  • For larger companies or stores, use a collaborative Twitter application like CoTweet so your Twitter account can be monitored and updated by multiple employees. Example: @ocreggie has five monitors.

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email pkitano@gmail.com.

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