Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.
Q: What are the three most common Twitter mistakes made by business owners and entrepreneurs?
Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended in Derwood, Md.:
1. Talking about themselves and their companies constantly. Although some personal tweets can be relevant to your followers, it’s also necessary to provide real value to them in some way. If you blog about the industry, share those links with your audience. If you regularly read blogs about important topics in your field, share the link with a quick reaction or question.
2. Failing to build relationships. Although sharing is certainly important on Twitter, it’s equally as important to listen to what others are saying, engage in conversations, and reply to mentions and direct messages. This shows that you’re a thought leader in the space — and that you value other people’s content and opinions. It’s also a great way to see what people are saying about you in order to respond appropriately and in a timely fashion.
3. Maintaining an unfocused personal brand. What are you all about? This should be apparent in your Twitter bio and reflected in the types of content you share. If you try to be an expert in a variety of fields, it will confuse your audience and likely not result in much success on a platform like Twitter.
Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding in Boston:
1. Tweeting without a strategy. Without a strategy, business owners will waste time on Twitter and not have any results to show for their efforts. It’s important to figure out how Twitter fits in as part of your overall marketing, PR or customer service strategy. The more time you put into figuring out how you want to use Twitter and measure success, the better off you’ll be.
2. Using it as a microphone. The best way to get Twitter followers and grow your community is to interact with them and discover what type of content they want. If you just push out promotional messages, no one will want to follow you. You need to have valuable content and be engaged with your community if you want them to respect you.
3. Forgetting to leverage their employees. Business owners must empower their employees to support the company’s mission, new products and announcements. Start-ups have to do more with less, so it’s imperative that they use their best assets — their talent — to their advantage.
Nicole Smartt, co-owner and vice president of Star Staffing in Petaluma, Calif.:
1. Broadcasting instead of conversing. You want to make conversation with other users by asking questions, providing useful information that will draw people in and communicating with them.
2. Sending automated direct messages. There are countless blog posts warning that users find these automated messages spam-like, impersonal and will likely unfollow you in response. Including an automated ‘Thanks for following’ message to new followers might be annoying for some. Optify.net recently ran a test and the use of such automated direct messages resulted in 245 percent increase in unfollow rate!
3. Taking too long to respond to others. If you are committing to use Twitter, you need to stay current and up-to-date — if not by the minute, then definitely by the day. Make time to read your direct messages and mentions, and respond quickly and appropriately. Be authentic, friendly and positive, and never push your opinions onto other users.