twitter strategy consultation

Respond! How Small Businesses Can Outperform Big Companies On Twitter

Twitter made word of mouth really powerful. Before, people could talk about your company, they could tell their friends about rude customer service or poor quality products, but it didn’t matter too much. It was one person, only their friends were going to hear what they had to say. Then Twitter happened. Customers could have a terrible experience with a company, they could tweet about it and every other Twitter user could see. More importantly, they could @ the business, hoping to get an answer. Great opportunity for showing off your customer service, right?

A new report from Sprout Social, titled Snubbed on Social, reveals that retailers ignore 83% of tweets from customers. The 17% of people who do receive a response have to wait an average of 12 hours to get that response. How are businesses ignoring this development? And how does it affect your small business?

Understanding Twitter for business

Businesses have a weird relationship with Twitter. We appreciate that every company needs a Twitter feed, but we don’t always know why anyone would choose to follow. Too many companies see Twitter as an opportunity to spam their followers with details of their services. It doesn’t work. No one wants to follow the brand that ruins their experience of Twitter. Fill their timeline with promotional tweets and they’ll hit the unfollow button.

When building websites, our primary consideration should be user experience. Can the visitor find what they are looking for? Is the site easy to use? What does the user gain from our site? This thought process disappears when a company builds a strategy for social media. Take a look at your Twitter profile and ask those questions.

twitter strategy consultation

Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes when looking at your Twitter profile

The main gain provided by a Twitter account for your business is interaction. Companies can see what their customers are saying, they can reply to complaints, they can provide advice and support. Polls are a new feature, you can ask your followers to vote on a topic. Brand interaction and market research, all rolled into one.

Promotional tweets still have a place. Use them sparingly. Spend the bulk of your Twitter time contacting people. Snubbed on Social reveals that people are 7 times more likely to respond to promotional tweets after a meaningful interaction. It makes sense, if you like a company, you’re more likely to choose their service.

Use your company’s Twitter feed to improve your reputation. It’s not just about replying to negative comments, reply to the good ones too. Be the guys that help out when something goes wrong and be the guys that say we’re glad you enjoyed your meal, see you soon.

Average response time

Online, it’s very easy to pretend we didn’t hear a complaint. Can you imagine doing the same, face to face? No, no one ignores a complaining customer. So why is there a difference? We need to accept that a complaint is a complaint, in person or on the web. Each one deserves a reply.

“People can expect to wait an average of 12 hours to get retailers’ attention on social.” Wow. It’s pretty clear what the problem is here. We need to be urgent. 42% of consumers expect a reply within the hour. That figure will grow year by year, the public will begin to expect great customer service through social media. Thankfully, Twitter and Facebook make this so easy.

response time online social media

Improve your response times, before it’s too late!

Sprout make a very good point. “Just as you sta­ff up in stores, be sure to also allocate the right resources to your social channels. Not accounting for your online outlets is akin to being short sta­ffed at your brick-and-mortars, meaning customers aren’t getting answers and making purchases from your brand—while potentially turning to others.”

Everyone is going to make mistakes. We’re going to upset customers from time to time. Response is what makes the difference. A complaint can become a recommendation if we provide good customer support. Use your social media account to impress annoyed customers, changing their opinion of your brand.

What this means for SMEs

The Sprout Social report is based on data for major retailers, the top dogs that dominate high streets. It predicts that the average amount of messages each company will receive over the festive period is 1500. The more messages, the more difficult it is to respond to all. Larger retailers are at a disadvantage, they have it harder than SMEs.

Our impression, reading the report, is that small businesses have a great opportunity. Smaller businesses are able to provide more personal service. Keep this up online. Aim to beat the big guns, because you can. SMEs aren’t going to get 1500 messages. The lower amount means it’ll be easier to reply to each one, to show your customers that you listen, that you care about fixing their problem.

twitter management outreach

The charted and projected growth of received messages

We haven’t even touched on the best bit. Social Listening. Don’t worry, it’s not creepy. A lot of tweets are general enquiries or complaints, not directed at any businesses in particular.

Let’s say we run a restaurant in Manchester. We can search for the words “Manchester restaurant recommendations” and Twitter will provide us with all the tweets that feature those terms. Pretty good, right? It works for all industries, just modify the search terms to find a phrase that works for your company.

Tweets social listening strategy

Here are three customers for our made up restaurant

After finding a tweeter in need of your service, just hit reply, send a personalised message, possibly with a special deal. You’ll be surprised how high the conversion rate is with Social Listening. It engages with your target market, improves your online presence and draws in actual paying customers. A huge proportion of Twitter users access the network through their mobile phone, allowing you to message people on the move, showing the flexibility of this technique.

Offline and online behaviour

We’re reaching a turning point with online behaviour. Companies are starting to realise that your online brand must be consistent with your real world image. Ignoring complaints, providing poor online user experience and not engaging with the community, these actions reflect badly on your business. There is no difference between online and offline behaviour – keep all of your actions consistent.

If you run an SME, take this opportunity to outperform the major names. Build a stronger online presence, based on listening to your customers. Digital Media Team provide social media and online reputation management services to businesses of all size. If you are struggling with online strategy, you can call us on 0800 808 9980 or email To keep up to date on the latest information about SEO, Social Media and Content Strategy, you can subscribe to our newsletter with our email form, at the top, on the right.

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