Social networking : what can Twitter do for your self-catering business?

We’re being bombarded with hash tags and @ signs aplenty.  The news programmes are asking us to “Tweet” our views and a whole host of “Twitterese” has entered the dictionary.  Besides finding out which footballers have been misbehaving, though, can Twitter be a useful tool for you?

What is it?

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform – with the idea being that you “Tweet” updates to the world in 140 characters or less.  You can also share a photo, video or link to something else on the web.  People who are interested in what you say can become “followers” and your updates will show in their timeline (a feed of the updates Tweeted by everyone they follow).  Likewise, you can follow users that interest you to have their latest updates added to your timeline.  If you say something people like, they can re-Tweet (or RT) with just one click to share with their followers.

Good bits?

The Twitter timeline is public, so if used properly it will really help to give your company greater exposure in search results.  The fact it’s open also means people will stumble across your profile much more readily than, for example, Facebook.  Users can follow you, you don’t have to reciprocate.  It’s a really quick way to share content.

Bad bits?

It’s text only. You can post pictures and video but these appear as links. You’ve got to edit carefully to get your message into 140 characters. (but that is the fun part!)  There is a lot of “noise” on Twitter, so it can be difficult to stand out.

How might it work for you?

You get a late cancellation for your cottage on a Wednesday morning, which is a shame because you have been pretty much full all year.

You post a special offer on Twitter:

“Cottage now empty this weekend after cancellation.  Deposit paid, so who fancies a bargain couple of nights away?! RT please: <link>”

Your Twitter account is followed by lots of former customers, fellow members of a marketing association and also some other providers locally who are all full up this weekend.

Former customers who enjoyed staying with you might a) seize the opportunity if they are free or if not b) Re-Tweet with a recommendation, along the lines of: “Unfortunately, we’re busy this weekend or we’d be back in a heartbeat.. anyone else? “.   That way, everyone who follows them will see it too.  They might have hundreds, thousands or (if you are lucky enough to have Stephen Fry or Lady Gaga as a former customer) millions of followers.

Colleagues in the marketing association and local sector who are already full might be friendly and share for you – after all, it’s not costing them anything.

With a bit of luck, if you’ve been nice to all these people, they will want to help you out and your Tweet could be seen by a huge number of people.   It hasn’t cost you a penny!

Points to take away:

Don’t just use this as a way to send constant sales messages, followers want personality.  Share a thought, post pictures of the local area or events happening locally.  Re-Tweet others that say interesting things regularly.  Many government-funded small business support services will offer free workshops so investigate these and also read more here.