Does Twitter still work for small businesses? How can you get your Tweets seen? Should you invest time into it? These are some of the most common questions we’ve seen about Twitter for small business in 2016. The common theme is businesses are struggling to make Twitter work as effectively as it used to.

As Twitter grew and more brands jumped on board, competition became more fierce. The upside is it gives you a larger audience to reach. The downside is Twitter feeds fill up faster than the gym in January, so it’s harder to get your Tweets seen. But don’t worry, Twitter is far from dead.

Unfortunately a lot of the old advice you’ve read before like “Tweet great content” or “choose the right Twitter Handle” isn’t enough anymore. If you want to be successful with Twitter for small business in 2017 and beyond, you can’t treat it like it’s still 2012.

Follow these tips to get more from Twitter:

Scale the Unscalable

The reason people don’t engage with your content isn’t always because they don’t like what you’re Tweeting. It could just be they didn’t see it. Luckily this is an easy fix.

One of the original draws of Twitter was the ability to reach the masses with a single Tweet. Now that a majority of your followers no longer see your Tweets, you don’t have that same luxury. Even top brands and celebrities with millions of followers aren’t seeing the level of engagement they did five years ago. Here’s how to combat it.

Instead of looking at Twitter as a bullhorn, think of it more like a phone. While you have the ability to communicate with all your contacts at once, you can also have individual conversations as well.

Use Twitter to reach out to people directly, rather than only as a platform to broadcast your message to everyone.

The reason most brands don’t take this approach is because they think it’s difficult to scale. On the surface, it seems that way. But the reality is for many brands it’s a lot more effective than sending a regular Tweet that gets completely overlooked.

Twitter CTA GIF

At its core, Twitter has always been a network for conversation. But over time, marketers lost that connection and began using it as a mass messaging channel. Take it back to the essence and focus on creating personalized experiences and engage in conversations with your followers.

Use tools like Sprout to manage and facilitate these conversations. Sprout even allows you to track your conversation history to create context around your relationships with any followers you’ve communicated with in the past.

sprout social conversation history

Work With Twitter’s Algorithm

When Twitter switched the way it displays the feed from reverse chronological order to showing users the Tweets they’re more likely to care about, some marketers were upset. However, the shift was actually a gift in disguise.

Twitter’s algorithm essentially rewards brands that share content their audience actually want to see and get engagement. If followers are consistently engaging with your Tweets, you’re more likely to show up in their feed when they first open the app.

twitter in case you missed it

And guess what? When you focus on creating the one-to-one conversations we mentioned in the first tip, you’ll have a much easier time getting Twitter engagement.

As your followers start to engage with your Tweets more often, Twitter will pick up on the pattern and be more likely to prioritize your Tweets for those users.

Use Twitter Video

Vine might be gone, but Twitter’s native video system is alive and well. Social media video marketing has been a highlight of 2016 and you can expect it to continue to explode in 2017. In addition to Snapchat, Instagram Video and YouTube, don’t underestimate the power of Twitter Video.

Twitter users love video. A whopping 82% of Twitter users watch video on the app.

twitter video stats

What’s even more interesting is unlike YouTube where people use it more as a search engine, Twitter users rely on Twitter for video discovery. So even if you don’t have a ton of followers or notoriety, your videos still have a chance of being seen on Twitter.

twitter drives video discovery

Best of all, native videos on Twitter receive more engagement than third-party video players.

twitter video engagement

So what type of videos work best?

Twitter Videos have a maximum length of 140 seconds, which is more than enough time to capture the attention of your viewers. One of the best uses of Twitter Video we’ve seen involves one-to-one conversations again. Noticing a trend? Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk uses Twitter Video to record short responses to follower that Mention him or ask questions.

Or you can go the route of Trulia and use Twitter Video to promote other pieces of content.

Video can be one of the most effective ways to be successful with Twitter for small businesses. If you’ve never given it a try, hopefully this will give you the push you need to take action.

Stop This Habit

A common bad habit small businesses on Twitter have is to Tweet a link to their latest blog post once and never again. As we mentioned, Tweets don’t have the same organic reach as they used to. So it pays to Tweet your content multiple times throughout the week or month to get more eyes on it.

You can use Sprout to schedule your Tweets ahead of time.

schedule tweets

Make sure you test different headlines and copy for your Tweets. It stops your feed from looking stale and repetitive, plus gives you the ability to see what works best with your audience.

Tweet More Frequently

How many Tweets per day is too much? There really isn’t a clear cut answer to this. It’s more about what you’re Tweeting than how often.

Sending a Tweet every 10 minutes telling people to check out your website is probably too much. Your followers are going to get annoyed and bored very quick.

However, look at someone like Guy Kawasaki. He Tweets almost every 5-10 minutes, yet his followers aren’t rushing to unfollow him. The difference is Guy’s followers like the content he shares. Almost every Tweet gets at least a handful of Likes and Retweets.

Back in the day when Twitter wasn’t as active as it is today, it was a lot easier to overwhelm your followers. But now that most people are following at least a few hundred if not thousands of accounts, it’s barely even noticeable if you Tweet every 30 minutes.

That doesn’t mean you should just start spamming your followers to get seen. Always put quality ahead of quantity. If you have the ability to Tweet something awesome every hour, go for it. Your audience will tell you if it’s working or not. Just monitor your Twitter analytics to see if your strategy is helping or hurting your profile.

twitter analytics report

We can’t stress the importance of checking your analytics enough. When you’re making changes to your Tweet frequency or schedule, you need to know what impact it’s having. The last thing you want to do is put more time and effort into something that’s not working.

Try Something New

This brings us to our next point—don’t be afraid to try new tactics. Make 2017 the year of experimentation for your Twitter marketing strategy.

There are so many ways to use Twitter for small business, yet companies default to the same tactics they’ve been using for years. It’s time to try something new. Here are some quick ideas to get those creative juices flowing:

    1. Work with influencers: Partner up with influencers in your industry for creative campaigns like a social media takeover or an “ask me anything” Tweet session.
    2. Twitter “feud”: We’re not saying to get into a heated argument with another brand. But a little friendly back and forth like we’ve seen with Burger King and McDonalds or KitKat and Oreo can be great for branding and exposure.

  1. Try Twitter Ads: Have a few extra dollars in your budget? Give Twitter Ads a try. Even though it’s been around for a while now, many small businesses have yet to experiment with it because they think it’s only for larger brands. While it’s not quite as cheap as Facebook Ads, there are plenty of small businesses seeing success with it.

Go Find Your Customers

One of the biggest challenges of Twitter for small businesses is trying to figure out how to use it to get customers. Just Tweeting links to your articles and hoping the right person sees it will only get you so far. If you really want to use Twitter to get leads, you have to be more proactive. Start by putting yourself in the shoes of your customers.

Think about the challenges or frustrations your customers would have, then do a search on Twitter using the phrases and keywords they’d use to describe them.

For example, a subscription food service like Blue Apron or Plated could search for things like “I hate cooking” or “grocery shopping” with negative sentiment.

This is the exact type of issue both Plated and Blue Apron could solve. All they’d have to do is reply with an article to their site about how to save time on grocery shopping by using their services. Or if they wanted to be a bit more aggressive and straightforward, they could offer a special promo to entice them to get started now.

Finding these Tweets is very simple. You could use Twitter’s advance search to quickly see the latest Tweets for your search phrases. Here’s the exact search we used to find the Tweet above.

twitter advanced search negative sentiment

Another cool option that’s a lot more convenient is to use Sprout’s Smart Search and save the phrases people tend to use the most.

sprout social smart search

Try a few different phrases and find the ones that provide the most relevant results. Then you can save the search and check it regularly to see all the latest Tweets including your phrase.

sprout social smart search results

This approach is particularly ideal for small businesses that don’t have a huge following. Brands like Nike or Samsung are so established they can afford to be more reactive with their strategy. However, when you’re a small business that’s still growing or in a competitive industry, it’s extremely helpful to get out and make those individual connections.

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Success With Twitter for Small Business in 2017

Twitter definitely isn’t as simple as it once was, but it’s still a platform small businesses need to focus on. It drives the third most referral traffic of any social network. That means if your goal is to get eyes on your site, Twitter is the place to be.

Use all the tips above to put your small business in a position for success in 2017.

Sprout features mentioned in this article: