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Is Twitter poised to partner with small businesses?

By Amy Jo Martin

January 9, 2013 | 5 min read

Amy Jo Martin - founder of social media consultancy Digital Royalty; author of Renegades Write the Rules; and former director of digital media and research for the NBA's Phoenix Suns - discusses how Twitter is helping the small business owner.

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, among others, are changing the way they interact with users. They are shifting gears from merely being a social media site to being a social media site with robust e-commerce and advertising functions. While other platforms made notable changes in 2012, the changes currently being tested at Twitter will innovate the way small businesses reach their customers.

In 2012, Twitter hit the 500 million-user mark and shows no signs of slowing down in 2013. Until recently, Twitter’s flat $15,000 fee made advertising out of reach for most small businesses. Through a partnership with American Express, Twitter is letting select small businesses try out a couple of their advertising products. The two products available are Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets, both of which are designed to extend the reach and exposure of small businesses, while gaining more followers.

The Promoted Account product scans a business’s list of current followers based on their interests and suggests the business’s account to people who are a match by placing it in the “Who To Follow” section. The Promoted Tweet product monitors engagement and automatically promotes a business’s best performing tweets. Businesses set their own budget and only pay when someone follows their account via the Promoted Account product or when someone engages with a Promoted Tweet. The budget can be set to pay per new follower or per engagement. Additionally, businesses can even geo-target their advertising efforts to reach a particular demographic in a certain area. Accounts are promoted both on the web and mobile devices.

While still in development (and therefore subject to change), these changes have notable implications for small businesses everywhere. Main Street will finally be able to add Twitter to their marketing toolbox. Most savvy businesses already know that social communication is a great way to reach their customers. In fact, it’s irresponsible for businesses not to have a social media presence. With these upcoming changes, maximizing the business benefits of social communication will be easier than ever. Time and resource-crunched entrepreneurs won’t have to write or create anything new because the Promoted Tweet product analyzes existing tweets based on performance analytics and places those tweets in front of the targeted audience at specific times.

One of the best aspects of these new products is the ability to geo-target advertising efforts. Business owners can select the geographic area they’d like to focus on, enabling the business to create strong, local ties that will directly affect their business. Lastly, operating within a predetermined budget and only paying when users follow or engage as a direct result of Promoted Accounts or Promoted Tweets, gives business owners peace of mind. They can rest assured that their money is being put directly back into their business via new or more loyal customers. So far, there are various case studies on Twitter’s website featuring small businesses that have successfully participated in this invite-only (for now) experiment.

Beyond these potential new tools for entrepreneurs and small businesses, Twitter recently added ‘negative keyword targeting’. This new functionality helps marketers avoid placing tweets in contextually irrelevant situations by excluding certain keywords that are clearly not associated with the target audience. This is a very important detail to the functionality. Businesses must be able to filter out negative words.

Finally, more control is firmly in the hands of small business owners and entrepreneurs, which is where it should be. Social media is the ultimate equalizer, allowing anyone to participate. Therefore, advertising on social media ought to follow along the same lines. Now it’s the responsibility of the business owners to make sure they are properly educated on how to develop a social ad strategy, place the ads, monitor and monitor them so their money is spent wisely.

Contact the author at @AmyJoMartin.


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