If your business is serious about implementing a social media marketing plan, you probably have a Twitter account by now. And hopefully, you post on it from time to time. While you no doubt realize that posting items — links to stories, photos, videos, and other content — relevant to your business, will get you some followers, that alone is hardly the solution to finding throngs of appropriate prospects. Furthermore, you need the kind of followers who will one day become your customer, because otherwise, what’s the point?
What is a hashtag?
The secret to finding influencers and customers on Twitter is the use of relevant hashtags. Wikipedia defines a hashtag as a word or phrase prefixed with the symbol #. That word or phrase which begins with the # symbol then becomes a searchable metadata tag on social media sites such as Twitter. So if you click on it, or enter it into the search box on Twitter, a full list of recent posts also containing that hashtag will appear on your screen, all of which can be traced back to their original poster, i.e.: your target customer.
Who is your target customer?
To determine which hashtags to search and post, first identify your target customer. If you own a local landscaping business, your target client might be a suburban working parent. If you own a hair salon, one target client is a 20-something, fashion-conscious female. If you own an insurance company, you might be looking for a mature professional with an interest in investing. Think about the types of things those people might be searching for or posting on Twitter.
For instance, the landscaper’s target client might be using hastags such as: #homelife, #yardwork, #suburbs, #gardening, #mowing. The hair salon’s target client might be using hashtags such as: #prettyhair, #fashion, #hairstyle. The insurance company’s prospect? Try #investing, #retirement, #newbaby. Not only should you be searching for Twitter users who are using these hashtags, but you should be posting items to your own Twitter feed which contain these hashtags.
Where is your target customer located?
Other hashtags to search and use are those associated with the geographical area where you do business. In our locality, you might use hashtags such as: #Collegeville, #Limerick, #Phoenixville, #422Corridor, #KOP, #MainLine, #WesternPhillyBurbs, #Oaks. You get the idea.
Mix those geographic hashtags with other subject matter hashtags relevant to your target customer and you can start to whittle down those Twitter users who are searching for your type of business or service.
Who are influencers and why are they important?
Influencers are the folks using Twitter consistently, who have become considered experts in a certain topic, based upon their experience, job title, and the types of items they post and respond to within their Twitter stream. They are important because they usually have hundreds or thousands of followers who read their tweets, trust them, and take their recommendations. If an influencer in your industry suggests that their followers look at your Twitter stream or better yet, purchase your product or service, you could immediately gain clout and/or customers.
There are many ways to find influencers, such as the use of hashtags as mentioned above. But also consider using third party services to reach the most influential tweeters in your market category. Some of the most reputable websites for helping you find influencers include: Listorious, Sulia, FollowerWonk, SocialBro, Klout, Topsy, and Twellow. Each one of these has unique features that make them work, so you just have to find the one or two sites you’re most comfortable with, and get accustomed to using them regularly.
Now that you found them, how do you connect with prospects and influencers on Twitter?
Let’s face it. You can get really good at this and collect tons of followers. And if you know what you’re doing, hopefully most of those followers will be relevant to your business — namely prospects, customers, and influencers. But you need to keep them engaged to keep them following, and reach out to them regularly to encourage them to buy from you.
The secret to engaging your followers is to reach out to them directly through @ messaging and retweets. If someone mentions you on Twitter, please respond to them. If their message is relevant, important, or interesting, then absolutely retweet it. Twitter users expect there to be a high level of interaction, which is what keeps them coming back to the site. The more you interact with your followers (and those you are asking to follow you), the better chance you have of eventually making more sales as a result of your social media efforts.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when to comes to Twitter. As the site has evolved, it’s become so much more useful and searchable across many platforms. If you find that Twitter is working for you, then you should definitely dig deeper into the Twitter-verse. Eventually, consider hiring a social media expert who can spend time each day working on your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social media resources. Because if you get just a few clients this way, I can guarantee you there are many more where those came from!