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Twitter for Small Business: An Interview With Alex Blom

By Daniel Kosir |

If you run a business and have an online presence, chances are you have heard about the potential value that Twitter can have as a business tool.

The usefulness of Twitter and other social media for promotion, marketing, interacting with customers and building relationships has been preached time and again by countless business professionals in a wide variety of industries.

But building up an active presence on Twitter can be much more difficult than meets the eye. With an estimated 200 million tweets being sent per day, simply blasting off tweets won't prove very useful. Nor will activating an account and letting it lay dormant for weeks on end. Taking advantage of what Twitter has to offer requires a little more strategy and a touch of finesse.

CanadaOne had a chance to talk with Alex Blom, a serial entrepreneur, startup junkie and marketing expert who has amassed almost 40,000 followers on Twitter. He shared with us his insights on how to start, build and maintain an active and effective Twitter persona.

Let's start from square one. I am a small business owner and I am just starting a Twitter account. What do I want to make sure to do right from the beginning?

Firstly, make sure you understand why you started a Twitter account. It is important to have specific goals in mind when creating any channel, and ensure these goals are reflected as you set up your profile (create a bio, add your photograph, etc).

Secondly, understand how you will achieve these goals. For example, if you are trying to find new customers, make sure you know what you will say, and to whom, to attract people to:

1) Find you on Twitter

2) Subscribe to your messages and eventually

3) Visit your store.

I have a Twitter account that is a bit more developed, with some followers. But I can't seem to attract more followers/interest. How can I be more dynamic or exciting?

Understand that Twitter is pull, not push. Traditionally, you can 'force' people to read your messages by buying radio time or sending e-mails. On Twitter, people need to follow or 'opt in' to read your messages, so make sure what you are saying is relevant and interesting to people, versus simply trying to achieve your goals. Nobody likes a feed (all of the messages you post) full of advertising.

Also, it is called 'Social Media' for a reason; some of the best case studies are conversational. Make sure you create topics people are interested in, create ways to respond, and perhaps reach out and respond to other peoples messages, too.

I want to promote my business, but I've heard people don't respond well to feeds that are strictly geared towards marketing. What other things should I be talking about and how do I balance marketing with other content?

First of all, remember that Social Media can be used for more than just marketing.

Key to any marketing program is understanding your customer, their likes, dislikes and interests. Once you have this profile, ensure that your Twitter messages are following these interests (for example, if you own a restaurant, tweet about food, preparation, etc). Again, Twitter is an opt-in channel, so make sure what you say is something that your customer would want to read out of interest.

Any other general tips for using Twitter effectively?

Be as conversational as you can. In the restaurant example above, ask people what types of food they like and how they cook. Watch for the tweets of people you follow, and when they tweet about food, don't hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts in a friendly way.

Also, understand that tools are rarely effective in isolation. Mention Twitter in conversations, and link to it from your website. Perhaps even mention it in your other marketing materials!

Alex Blom is the CTO & Partner at Helix Commerce, and is a co-founder of SalesChoice. He also sits on the advisory board to the Location Based Marketing Association. Prior to Helix, Alex founded and exited multiple technology ventures and troubleshooted large retail organizations. Sitting prior on council boards and heading marketing organizations in management, training and sales, he achieved distinction at one point as the highest grossing Business Development executive. Alex, also involved in high-tech investments, connects entrepreneurs with technology-based investors.

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