8 Common Twitter Questions from Small Business Owners

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Social Media by Matt McGee on May 4, 2012 10 Comments

Confession: I’ve spent more time doing social media marketing in the past three years than doing local SEO/marketing. (Maybe that’s why my GetListed.org Local University friends put me on the social media “beat.”)

In my experience, Twitter is more of a mystery to small business owners than Facebook is; that’s probably because they’re already familiar with using Facebook as an individual, so making the jump to having a business page isn’t too difficult.

But they’re not so familiar with Twitter. For a lot of small business owners, I think Twitter is like one of those odd & curious gifts you get at Christmas: It looks kinda interesting and seems to have potential, but what do you do with it?

That’s usually just the first of many questions I get asked about Twitter when I’m speaking at Local University, or anywhere else for that matter.

Here are eight common questions I get about small businesses wanting to use Twitter, along with my thoughts/answers on each.

Small Businesses & Twitter

1.) Do I really need to use Twitter?

Not necessarily. If your customers and/or potential customers aren’t active on Twitter, you shouldn’t be spending too much time on it, either.

That said, you may also want to consider that even if the majority of your target audience isn’t on Twitter, it’s still a great place to find and connect with influencers in almost any industry. So, while you may not succeed in selling your widgets to Twitter users, you might be able to build relationships with influential journalists, bloggers and others who can help your business in other ways — credibility, media exposure, links, etc.

2.) How do I know if my customers are using Twitter?

I’d start by asking them, either in person or via your website. You can also check your analytics software to see how much traffic you’re getting from Twitter. I recently shared several tips in this article that might help: How to Find Your Customers on Social Networks.

And I’ll repeat what I said above: Even if you’re customers aren’t too active on Twitter, chances are pretty good that influential bloggers and journalists that write about your industry are there. They’re one of your audiences, too.

3.) How many followers is a good number to have?

Don’t worry about how many followers you have. I know that’s easier said than done, but there’s no direct benefit to your bottom line from having tons of followers. (Twitter doesn’t send out monthly checks based on your follower count.)

Rather than counting followers, count how many new customers your Twitter activity brings in (or all of your social media activity, for that matter). And remember that quality is better than quantity when it comes to all of your social media connections. Better to have a small group of loyal and active followers than a large group that ignores you on Twitter.

4.) How much should I tweet every day?

There’s no hard and fast rule on this. Tweet as much as you can while still being interesting. Don’t worry about counting your tweets on any given day. It’s okay to tweet a whole lot one day, and then much less the next day.

The most important thing I’d say is this: Don’t tweet just for the sake of it. If you’re tweeting because you feel you have to, it’ll probably be very noticeable to others. And keep in mind that the top reason people unfollow businesses is that they post too often.

5.) Is it okay to retweet praise from customers, or does that look like we’re bragging?

I’d be careful here. It’s probably okay as long as you do it in extreme moderation. Do it humbly. Be grateful. But keep in mind that your followers will find it incredibly boring if you retweet praise too often. It’s just not interesting content. I recently wrote an article that’s not specifically about retweeting praise from customers, but I think most of the ideas are the same: Almost Unanimous: Don’t Retweet It When Someone Mentions You in a #FF Tweet.

A better idea, though, is to just send a direct reply to those kind tweets. Thank the person directly, one-to-one, and s/he’ll probably be even more appreciative of your customer service savvy.

6.) Should I link to other sites in my tweets?

Sure. Why not? Your customers/followers know what the Internet is. They know you don’t own the only website on it. Don’t pretend you do. If you find interesting content on some other site that you think your audience will enjoy, share it with them. They’ll likely appreciate that you’re not only sharing links to your own website or blog. Keep in mind that sharing a variety of content on Twitter helps to make you more followable.

7.) Should I link to (or mention) the competition in my tweets?

I think there are circumstances where linking to a competitor is the right thing to do, and something that will make you look good. For example, if another Twitter user asks a question about a product or service that you don’t offer, why not be helpful and point the person to a competitor who has what s/he wants? That’s good customer service, and the person will think more highly of you because you made helping him/her your top priority, even if it means also helping your competition.

8.) Should I reply to all users who tweet something to/at me?

“All” might be pushing it; you should ignore spammy messages. But if the question above said “customers” instead of “users,” the answer would be “yes.” Acknowledge everyone who tweets you until you become so successful that it’s impossible to do so. (That will probably take a long time, if it happens at all.) Answer their questions. Offer assistance. Be available and reachable. Don’t underestimate the value of a social network reply to your customers and prospects.


If you have a Twitter question that I didn’t answer, please leave a comment below or, if you’d feel more comfortable, use the contact form to send me an email. If there are enough questions, I’d be happy to do another post like this in the future.

Comments (10)

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  1. Mark Strauss says:

    With regard to item 5…

    A good technique is to retweet your customers’ praise along with your grateful response (i.e. make your “thank you” public). Don’t just RT your customers’ tweets. RTing along with your comments demonstrates a level of two-way interaction so important to the Twitter community as a whole.


    • Matt McGee says:

      I don’t know, Mark — I agree that you should be grateful like that if you’re gonna do it, and not just send out a RT of the praise. But I still think retweeting too much praise makes you look bad. It adds no value to the vast majority of your followers.

  2. Barry says:

    Excellent points. I have a dear friend who owns a commercial furniture dealership. I have been trying to persuade him to start using Twitter. He just doesn’t get it yet. Hopefully this post will help him. Thanks.

  3. I’m with Matt. When someone follows me, I check their last 30-50 tweets and if I see lots of “Thanks for the RT/follow”, it is one signal for me not to follow back. If they tweet about too many topics, I don’t follow back. I don’t want my time line to be full of personal exchanges.

  4. Alexander says:

    Hey Matt, I observed that these are actually what every business owner is doing. I mean communication is really important and to me it is not the quantity that counts, it’s the quality, even you have few followers compared to others, the point is that they are able to reach you and your business through Twitter. Great points here.

  5. Debbie says:

    Point 4. For me there is a massive difference between my personal account and my business account. I am much more comfortable with the former. Recently read that tweeting more than 5 times a day on a business account greatly increases the risk of being unfollowed. Although I have no idea whether false or true, I have been erring on the side of caution as a result.

  6. Caitlin R. says:

    Comment #4 is the most difficult to gauge for balance. While some people may unfollow businesses that post too frequently, some individuals prefer the constant content stream. What I do recommend is that while original posts are limited, replies and retweets targeted at specific users should be plentiful. Remember, social media is all about engagement.

  7. Elmas says:

    The order in which the question is asked is wrong. First ask yourself what your business problem is, then find the best solution for it.

    For example, about the only genuine use for twitter that I’ve heard of was about 3 years ago. It was for a Thai Food Taco truck. It wanted to let its customers know their current location since it varied not only from day to day but from hour to hour.

    Noticed they didn’t ask, “How can we use twitter?”, they asked “What’s the best way to let our customers know where we are?”

  8. Roger Hicks says:

    You hit the nail on the head with #1. People who don’t understand the benefits of Twitter will struggle with finding ways to use it to connect with prospects and customers. However, encouraging Twitter as a way to keep on top of industry events and developments is the best way to get people hooked on Twitter.

  9. Matthew says:

    Number three should be something that everyone should remember. When I first started on Twitter, while I knew it was about quality not quantity, I still found myself focusing on getting the number of followers up. Once I started looking at the communities and individuals who were interesting and useful, I started to see the actual benefit in Twitter.

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