Twitter success for small businesses

The Cake Store website One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson sends a Tweet of thanks to The Cake Store for delivering his girlfriend’s birthday cake, and now they are on the front of its website and the cake maker is “inundated with new customers”. But why are some smaller businesses put off from using social media?

A spokesperson for the London-based store revealed they originally had a Twitter following of around 400, which shot to 8,400 in five hours. Tim Slatter, Director, said: “I was always sceptical as to whether the boys really ran their own Twitter accounts or if they were secretly managed for them. This is not the case; they have phenomenal marketing powers. On top of this, we normally have 2 to 3,000 website hits a day – on Wednesday we had 140,000 and an extra 1,000 Facebook followers.”

This along with a few projects I’ve been looking at over the past few weeks have made me think about how businesses can benefit from using Twitter, yet many still aren’t sure how to go about it or worry about damaging their reputation.

I’m not going to make out I’m some sort of Twitter expert, but I am very interested in social media and have used it for several years in a professional capacity to promote content and signpost followers to useful information.

Turning a negative Tweet into something positive

Twitter logo

It’s only been a few months that I’ve been using it under my own name as a freelancer and I’ll admit to initially sharing some common fears about how to engage with followers.

Smaller businesses I’ve spoken to have confessed that they still aren’t really sure how it can help them and are scared of Tweeting the ‘wrong thing’.

From what I’ve seen, the best thing to do is to respond quickly to something negative, get involved with conversations, and get to know your followers. This will help build up trust and maintain a good relationship with your customers.

You may be justified in feeling a bit crushed because of any experiences with unhappy customers letting off steam on review sites, but at least with Twitter you are in control of what is written and can respond almost immediately.

People are also more forgiving than you think. If someone has criticised your service or product, the best thing you can do is respond and give them the opportunity to get in touch and say that you will be happy to rectify the problem.

Building a community

I really like this description of social media from Shama Kabani, the founder and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, published on

“It’s like in kindergarten (in a good way): You’re having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the kid next to you says he likes peanut butter and jelly, then he says he likes blue crayons, and you like blue crayons… that’s how we make friends and become who we are. We showcase our identities, and based on the reflection or reaction of other people, we tweak our identities.”

Good quality content

A recent conversation with a business owner who came to me with questions about how he could improve his Facebook and Twitter profiles, led me to an easy conclusion. After spending time looking around his website, aside from it not exactly being ‘easy on the eye’, the content itself was what really let it down.

There was no obvious style guide, advertisements were obscuring articles, there were few headings and a lack of web-friendly bullet points, the list could go on. Sadly if you don’t have a good website then you’re going to struggle to build up your network of followers as they will click on your pages and throw a #justbeenabitsick face.

My response was that we would definitely need to get his content up to scratch first before we even thought about linking to his pages through social media.

Examples of how Twitter can boost your business

Following like-minded people/organisations

A good way for businesses to “get moving and grooving”, as Sarah Orrechia from UnbEElievable Health told me, is to follow people in your sector or areas of interest. She also said that her company found more success when they started retweeting, commenting on Tweets and conversing with people.

“At the beginning we didn’t know what all the @, DM (direct message), RT (retweet), #FF (Follow Friday) and #Hashtags meant, or how to respond to people. We weren’t following enough people and were wondering why it took so long to get followers, or why we kept losing them.

“Eventually we realised that we weren’t talking to people enough; that’s why it’s called ‘social media’! You can talk to anyone and that’s why it’s so cool. For business it’s great as there is no waiting for people to answer an email (or God forbid a letter – if anyone still sends letters).”

Sarah says that because of Twitter their product has featured in a range of high-profile magazines, they were selected for the BIP Innovating for Growth Programme and have been able to hire someone they met through Twitter.

Word of mouth

Truffle PR, which looks after Poncho 8 (a Mexican burrito restaurant), managed to attract its client new customers through interacting with workers nearby who Tweeted about where to go for lunch.


Rejuventaed Ltd, which manufactures the anti ageing product, Collagen Shots, says that Twitter has been “amazing for them”. They put sales increases down to the large number of beauty bloggers who have got behind their brand.

My own observations

  • It is really hard not to brag on Twitter, especially for celebrities who like to post pictures of themselves looking great… “Ooh look at my flat tummy” with the latest craze #Bodysurfing.  “I’m somewhere nice and hot, lucky me!” But if you’re not really in the same league, then it’s not always wise to do it too much and could turn many people off. For example: “Got so much work on today, don’t know where to start!’” Or: “Off to a meeting. Lunch with client. Home to edit. Interview at 5pm. Phew!”
  • Tweeting feels like the equivalent of shouting something out with excitement to the nearest person who will listen. When you work from home and it’s a little quiet, it feels like a good release of energy. This can be a problem if you suddenly come over all shy and regret any sudden outbursts. Note to self.
  • A retweet is basically a suck up, isn’t it? Yet often I’ve seen a retweet that has led me to follow the original Tweeter and has opened up a whole new avenue of information – and I guess this is the point. It leads you to find out more about a subject you are interested in, or a potential work opportunity.
  • Someone who has put out quite a few ‘serious’ Tweets will suddenly write something really colloquial – just to show they are human. I admit to doing this at times – I think it is good and helps us show personality!

Using Twitter more effectively

There is a wealth of information online about social media strategies, but if you’re unsure of where to begin then please feel free to get in touch and I can signpost you to some great people who can help you.

In the meantime, James Debono, co founder or Big Thinking Online, wrote some good tips on ‘How to use Twitter effectively to get a quality following’ that you may find useful.

Posted in Blog, Internet and technology.

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