Selective Following: One Small Way Twitter Can Help Your Business

By now, most businesses have come to realize that Twitter is here to stay.  The tool has quickly become a household name, its user base continues to multiply, and its frequent association with athletes and celebrities has helped to make it a fixture of our culture (whether we like it or not).

All the while, many smaller businesses seem to be at a loss as to how to use the tool for gain.  Many executives are still (understandably) hung up on the narcissism argument:  why does someone care why I went to lunch or where I went on vacation?   Another obstacle, at least for smaller businesses, stems from their apparent lack of reach.  Sure, large brands like Gatorade, Pepsi, and Starbucks can quickly build large followings by tying their Twitter addresses to their multi-million dollar advertising budgets and in-store communications, but what about smaller companies with more limited resources?

There is one Twitter marketing tactic that is fairly simple, ideal for smaller businesses and doesn’t involve you tweeting about your vacation.  But before we get to it, let’s recap the cycle of making friends on Twitter–one that you can only begin to really understand once you’ve used Twitter for a few days.  Here’s what happens:

  1. As a Twitter user, I choose to follow friends, public figures, and interesting feeds that appeal to me.  Essentially, I’m choosing to “subscribe” to their posts.
  2. Along the way, some of these people choose to follow me in return.  They might do this out of courtesy (many users simply follow all that choose to follow them) or because they are interested in what I might post to Twitter.
  3. In addition, I also begin to notice that other people begin to “randomly” follow me.  Every day or two, I check my followers to see who has showed up.  They may have found me through my Website or noticed me on someone else’s follower list.
  4. Out of curiosity or interest, I usually click on their Twitter username which takes me to their Twitter profile.
  5. The Twitter profile is a simple page where each user (whether a person or a business) posts a few words about the feed, a picture/icon which represents the feed, and a link to an associated Website.  Take a look at some sample business Twitter pages to get a flavor of how these pages look and feel.
  6. I spend a few seconds (or minutes) with this page, learn more about the user, and decide whether or not to “follow back.”
Coca-Cola Twitter

A simple twitter profile page is an effective way to introduce your brand to those you choose to follow.

This cycle is happening repetitively with most every active Twitter user.  They are interested (and usually flattered) by their new followers.  As a marketer, there is a substantial opportunity to tap into this cycle.  The act of “following” users that may be interested in your product or your message can be a simple, effective and polite way to introduce yourself.

Let’s explore an example.

Assume you are launching a new product that caters to the green/organic/sustainable consumer.  Let’s call the product GreenWidget.  Here are a few steps that you might pursue in an effort to tap into the aforementioned follow/re-follow cycle:

  1. Create a new Twitter account for your product and establish a Twitter username (@greenwidget)
  2. Develop a simple, compelling Twitter profile page for your product that tells your story, introduces your product and directs users to your Website
  3. Start publishing interesting, relevant content that might appeal to your market.  Ideas might include daily tips for sustainable living, organic cooking tips, links to articles regarding trends in conservation, and re-tweets of content from industry leaders.
  4. Identify Twitter accounts that seem to have multitudes of followers in your industry.  You might identify brands, publications, and celebrities that might have several thousand (or even several million) followers.  One example might include @wholefoods, a very active user committed to organic food and sustainability.
  5. Introduce yourself to their followers by following them.
  6. If all goes well, they will be interested in your product/message and give you a chance by clicking on your profile.
  7. The user then has the option to follow you in return, visit your Website, and/or even buy!
Whole Foods Twitter Followers

Locating those that might be interested in your message is fairly simple if you do some digging. Shown here is the list of followers for Whole Foods Market.

Like anything worthwhile, this tactic takes some diligence, hard work, and focus.  At the same time, it is an excellent opportunity to introduce your product or service to the right audience.  What happens from there is up to you.

As an important caveat, it is advisable to use discretion with this tactic.  Take it slow and don’t be overzealous, imposing or too overt with your communication.  If you’re not judicious and polite, this tactic might very easily work against your objective of spreading your message.  Also, please know that this is just a small sliver of effective Twitter use and won’t move mountains on its own.