Over the past few years, Twitter has been unfairly portrayed as an antagonistic platform, filled with virtual trolls just waiting to start an argument. However, despite its reputation, Twitter can actually provide small business owners with a safe space to grow and cultivate their professional network. You simply need to implement the right strategies. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks along with special guest, Samantha Kelly, discuss how small business owners can foster their professional connections on Twitter, while also avoiding any unnecessary conflicts.

Executive Summary

1:23—Today’s Topic: How Can My Small Business Benefit from Twitter?

2:35—Small business owners should view Twitter as a platform where they can share knowledge; add value; build relationships and help others.

4:36—Regardless of your industry, all small business owners can benefit from networking on Twitter.

6:06—The more willing you are to help others, the more likely those individuals are to take interest in your business. People who focus exclusively on forcing product sales will not do as well.

9:27—When creating a Twitter profile for your small business, try to humanize your brand with a professional photo of yourself or a humorous tag line in your bio. Readers will respond better to an actual person rather than an abstract concept.

11:31—Don’t connect your other social media platforms to your Twitter account.

12:17—Twitter lists are a great way to organize and promote your professional contacts.

16:42—Take advantage of all the tools that Twitter has to offer, like videos or Twitter chat. Also, don’t afraid to post other positive, non-business posts on your feed.

19:24—To avoid offending anyone, small business owners should not provide any controversial or political commentary on their Twitter page.



Gene: Hi everybody and welcome to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Gene Marks and I’m here with Jon Aidukonis from The Hartford. I’m with the Marks Group as well. And we have a lot planned for the next, I don’t know, Jon, 20 – 25 minutes of talking. And I was going to ask you this before we even started this podcast is whether or not you wanted to have a little bit of chit chat beforehand and I’m thinking like we have such a great guests. I mean … we’re going to talk about Twitter. Nobody wants to hear about what you and I have to say, right? They want to hear about Twitter. Right?

Jon: No. Yeah. I’m an extremely boring person. I say let’s jump into the social-palooza.

Gene: Yeah, that’s what I think as well. So we are lucky to have Samantha or Sam, right? We’re going to call you Sam. Correct, Sam?

Sam: Yes.

Gene: Okay, great. Sam Kelly, Sam’s an award-winning Twitter expert. She’s a social media strategist. She’s a speaker. She’s an author. She’s the founder of the Women’s Inspire Network. Tell us, Sam, where do you make the most money at? Are you a Twitter influencer or are you a social media marketer? Where does your income come from and how do you help out small businesses?

Sam: First of all, thank you for having me. Great technology, isn’t it? That we can actually do this. I’m based in Ireland and I suppose most of my income would be the training of people on social media, Twitter and LinkedIn in particular. Because Twitter is … it’s a strange place to some people, they don’t really understand it and they’re afraid of this as there’s a big fear around it. I think it’s because the media, you only hear the bad things, you know? And I think people have a big fear around it. So yeah, Twitter in particular teaching people how to use it effectively for their business is really where I excel, I suppose. But I also have a team of five and we manage accounts for people that still want to learn.

Jon: That’s awesome. So I think that’s a good place to start because I think to your point, people are really confused by Twitter and I think that the default assumption is it’s where the trolls dwell, right? And it’s an easy place to kind of get a back and forth repertoire that might not be the most beneficial. But what is a good way to think about Twitter as a small business owner? And especially if you don’t have a following and you’re just trying to kind of get your name out there. What are some things an owner could do to start kind of establishing a presence and an identity?

Sam: Well, the first thing, I was at an event today actually, and there was a guy there and they weren’t on Twitter and I knew they need to be on Twitter because they were targeting chefs and people in the food industry. I was like, “Oh my God, you have to go on Twitter because there’s such a big foodie community on Twitter and there’s a lot of chefs who like to show what they’re doing in restaurants and stuff.” And I just set him up in a few minutes and he was like, “Oh my God.” He was so surprised and I said, “Now, use the hashtag of the event,” he was at and I retweeted him. So the best way to start is to start by … if you’re at an event, for example, use the hashtag that’s trending at the event, figure out your audience there first of all.

You don’t have to be there on Twitter, nobody has to be on Twitter. And if you’re a small business owner, figure out if you want to reach 35 to 55 euros, the highest growing demographic actually are the over 55 on Twitter. And if you want to get the attention of journalists, like if you’re a small business owner, we love a bit of free publicity and journalists are always looking for stories. They’re always looking for inspiring stories on certain topic. And if you’re an expert in that topic, then the journalists will already probably have you on the list.

So if you’re a small business owner and you have knowledge to share, it’s about adding value. It’s about building relationships and it’s about helping others. It’s actually not really about you at all on Twitter. It’s about helping others. And when you help others, you build your own little army of marketers who will do your marketing for you.

Gene: So Sam, do you think Twitter is right for every small business? I mean, for example, I have a lot of clients that are in manufacturing or distribution. I mean they’re boring, not very sexy companies, so they’ll never going to have millions of followers. But is Twitter, should they say move away and not focus on Twitter or do you think that there’s a role for any small business on that platform?

Sam: No, there’s a role for most small businesses… a solicitor can do with you, a lawyer, an accountant. It’s really about what value you can bring to the table. So, okay, if you’re an accountant, like what does small business owners need? Okay, they all need an accountant, but they also want to learn how to make more money. So if you can actually share content that’s about how to use Instagram, how to do an email marketing campaign, about other stuff that’s helpful to small business owners but not necessarily about accounting, you will build a loyal network of people who would like to learn from you.

And when you have people who want to learn from you, and if someone needs an accountant, they’re going to tag you first before anyone else. So it’s about standing out from the rest. I know small business owners … not all of them have to be on Twitter. It depends if your customers are there. So if you want to reach decision makers, you want to reach people in the media. If you want to reach small business owners, if you want to reach small business owners, then you need to be on Twitter because all of the small business owners are on Twitter.

Jon: That’s interesting. So I mean the way you’re talking about it, it sounds like the best way to kind of use that platform is really to establish yourself as a thought leader. And I think to that point, do you feel like it’s more important to kind of engage within the platform and kind of be part of the conversation? Or to your point, if you’re sharing tips and advice, is there a way a person using Twitter for a business angle might think about bringing people into like a blog or their website or generating leads? Or is it really more kind of keeping the conversation in the context of the platform?

Sam: Okay, the three different things I always tell people, right? So it’s about you bringing value to the table right? But it’s also about helping others and sharing their content. But it’s really about building relationships. At the end of the day, we run a business we’re there to make money. So you do use Twitter to drive traffic to your website, but why are they going to go to your website? It’s only if you’re saying something interesting and standing out from everyone else. But anyone who’s going to bother going to your website, if you put up visuals, videos, pictures, and keep everything consistent, like a consistent message.

I looked at something recently it was a Tweet from a while ago, about three years ago. And I was laughing and saying, “Oh my God, I’m saying the exact same thing.” Even two years ago it was about people buy from people, surround yourself with good people and that includes on Twitter and in real life, ignore the begrudgers, and surround yourself with people who like to celebrate your successes and that are like minded and you can find people.

If you love kite surfing, for example, if you like kite surfing or skateboarding, you can find a whole community of people that like the same things as you. If you’re into sustainability and anything to do with the environment, there’s a whole community there. There is a community of artists, so whatever community you want to reach, they’re on Twitter. Now Twitter doesn’t work for every single person, especially if you want to just sell … when I started on Twitter, that’s what I wanted to do. I had a different business and I was trying to raise awareness of the fact that I was there. I was a small business owner. I felt really isolated and lonely running my business. So it was like at nighttime when the children were asleep, I started using Twitter and all I was doing was talking to people. I didn’t realize I was building relationships.

And just by default then I got the sale because people were like, “This girl is nice, she’s kind, she helps others. So let me see what does she do anyway?” And then they start looking and having a nosy at your website.

There’s a lot of lurkers on Twitter. I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, I saw that Tweet the other day.” And I’m like, “Oh my God,” they didn’t even comment. They didn’t like, but they saw and they were aware of what was going on and what I was doing. So people do lurk on Twitter. There are a lot of people that are just there just to see what the latest news is, to watch what’s happening. So if you have your finger on the pulse and you are an expert in whatever space it is, technology, flowers, whatever it is, if you are leading the way and being a thought leader, people are going to go and look for your Tweets and look forward to seeing what you’re saying.

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Gene: All right, Sam. So the bottom line with Twitter with a business. And speaking for myself as a business owner is spending time on Twitter, certainly can be fun. But in the end I’m trying to get leads and I’m trying to get sales and I’m trying to build a community so that in the end this turns into dollars for me.

So let’s assume that I do want to go out onto Twitter and I’m going to use it as a platform to try and grow my business. What are some tips? What are some mistakes that I can avoid? Tell us what kind of advice you would have for me. Go ahead.

Sam: First of all, make sure your bio sounds out. So on my bio I have I’m a TEDx speaker, I am the owner of Women’s Inspire Network, Twitter expert, author. So I’m showing my party but then I put in “nice people collector”. So you can actually be a bit human on Twitter. It’s not like a CV, your bio. So make it interesting. Use your photograph rather than your logo if you’re a small business owner because people buy from people, you can always put your logo in the header part of Twitter. But when you tweet every time it’s nicer if your face your smiley face comes up. Get a proper photo taken. Get a professional headshot up.

Gene: Apologize for interrupting you but when it comes to the photo and also to the sort of the little bio of yourself. Do you change that up frequently or do you leave it the same? Some people have different attitudes. Why do you do that?

Sam: I do. I change it now and then because I might win an award in the meantime or something and I put in award winning or whatever’s happening. My current picture on my header is me at the Image Business Woman Of The Year Awards. That was a really good picture. Well actually I look really hot there as well. So like I said, I’m going to put that one up and then I change it if I have my book coming out, I put up my book, so I do change it up. Yes, absolutely.

But I don’t change the avatar. I don’t change the profile picture. Now I did change it recently because I cut my hair and I changed the color of my hair and I do think it’s important that you look like your profile photo. So I don’t want to meet someone that has a picture of this gorgeous like handsome person and then I meet them I don’t even recognize them. It’s about looking like your profile photo so I recognize you when I meet you. But really, the main thing is make sure your bio is really cool. Put a link to your website, make it easy for us to have a nosy at your website and see what you’re doing.

Gene: Got it. Keep going. What else? What else would you do to help you get some leads on Twitter.

Sam: Okay. Don’t connect your Facebook to Twitter. Don’t connect other platforms to your Twitter because LinkedIn is not too bad. But if you put up a Facebook link, it comes up as a Facebook link and Twitter people we’re a bit snobby about that. And we don’t like to click on a Facebook link. I did a Twitter poll on it recently on 87% of people said they didn’t click on Facebook links because they don’t want to go to Facebook.

Jon: When I see that, I think it feels kind of lazy. Like you’re not investing the time to actually engage.

Sam: It’s very lazy. But the amount of businesses that do it it’s unbelievable the amount … and on Instagram as well. You see, the thing is you’re trying to build relationships on Twitter and if I see that you’re posting from Instagram, I’m not going to follow you because you’re not there. You’re on Instagram. You’re not going to engage with me. I also make Twitter lists. So Twitter lists is a really good way to fine tune your experience.

So let’s say the three of us connect on Twitter today. What I would do is I put you in a little list of Philadelphia, which I did. Jane will tell you that I put them on list called Philadelphia. I’m going to Philadelphia in April. So I want to build relationships with people in Philadelphia before I get there. I also do the same if I see an event that I’m going to, I put people on a Twitter list start using the hashtag and I build relationships and make appointments before I even get there.

I have coffee setup, meetings set up for before I even land in the country where the event is. And I’ve done this several times. So if you’re going to start on Twitter, make sure your bio is great, and then think about, okay, what do I want to be known for? What do I want people to think of when they think of my name? Are they going to think of me “Oh, that’s the expert that talks about this.” You need to figure out what your personality’s going to be. And then you figure out, okay, who do I want to connect with now? And a really easy way for all of the people listening to this to get started on Twitter is follow me. Say to me, I heard you on Gene’s podcast and I’ve really enjoyed your podcast or whatever, and then tell me who you would like to connect with.

And I will tag people that you might want to connect with because that’s what I do and that’s why I’ve been so successful is because I connect people. I connect the dots. So if you need to connect with dancers or something, or if you need to connect with plumbers or carpenters, I can actually point you in the right direction of where those people are. And then going to their followers and see who they’re talking to and you will start, if there’s someone you want to have a coffee with, I have a list called social media and coffee.

You can even go into my lists and have a look. I’ve left it open. It’s not a private list. I also can build a list of leads, so if I do get people who are commenting and saying, “I really enjoyed that blog post, I’d be very interested in one of your workshops just not now.” I put them on the list. I don’t call the list leads, I call it something else.

Gene: You bring up the topic of lists, which is good. Now sometimes I have lists which are mostly private, but that’s a really good piece of advice. I mean if I wanted to be a connector to others, say I am a manufacturer and say I do have preferred vendors or preferred partners that I work with, I could create a list of those people, make it public so that anybody that follows me can also have access to that list as well. And would have that benefit as being one of my followers.

Sam: Yes. Well you don’t want to give away all your…

Gene: Proprietary information.

Sam: Yeah, yeah. I mean I was doing a workshop once in a company and their competitor, we looked at their competitor and their competitor had a list called customers.

Gene: Oh God.

Sam: And I was like “No!” And it was an open list. So the person I was working with were like, “Oh, going to look at that list later.” And I was like, Oh my God, you know what? They hadn’t gotten it as a private list. If it’s a private list, nobody can see it. Now, the reason I keep open lists as well is I have a list of impressive females, and when I put that person on the list, if I put Mary on a list called impressive females, how’s Mary going to feel? She’s going to feel brilliant. She’s going to go, “Oh my gosh, I’m on a list of impressive females.” So it’s going to start the conversation. She’s going to say, “Who is this person that just added me to that list?”

They’re going to have a nosy at your website. And so if you have a list called Cool People, which I do, I want to keep in contact with those people. There are people that I tentatively might work with in the future, or I might want to speak at one of my events or something like that. So there’s always a reason I have them on the Cool People list, but it’s usually because they have good content and I enjoy them. So who doesn’t want to go on the Cool People list? I’d love to be put on a Cool People list, it’d make me feel really good.

Gene: I’m going to create that list today and put you on it as number one, Sam. Okay?

Sam: Yay! Brilliant, brilliant. You see it’s to make me feel good and it’s also going to keep you on my radar. You know? So what I do is in the morning I go to my notifications and then I go to my list and I engage with one person on my list every day. Saves you time and social media as well. You’re not just browsing and looking through the noise and keeps you focused on your strategy.

Sam: Another great thing is make sure that you’re using pictures and use Twitter polls, use video, use Twitter live, Twitter live is brilliant. And if someone goes live on Twitter, I get notified when one of my followers or someone I’m following goes live on Twitter. And usually it’s something really interesting that they’re doing or … it doesn’t have to be about business all the time.

One lady, I did a sunset, I went and watched the sun go down. And that person became a client. So she said, “Oh I remember you put the sunset. It was so nice.” And she became a customer. So don’t underestimate the humor in everybody.

Jon: Yeah, no it’s interesting you mentioned that the kind of adding people to lists and getting notified. I had had a tweet that got picked up by a news network in the States a couple of years ago and it didn’t elicit the best impressions from part of the country. So I got added to a lot of lists myself and it wasn’t all warm fuzzy feelings inside.

Gene: It wasn’t all good. Be careful what you ask for.

Jon: For a pretty benign tweet.

Sam: Don’t underestimate. It’s like that quote, don’t underestimate how you make people feel. Don’t forget that person could be having a horrible day. And then I sometimes go in and surprise small business owners I kind of like, I might see someone putting up a product and then I retweet them. It makes their day, next thing they’re like, “Oh my God, thank you for the retweet!” because I retweeted it to 52,000 people and this is someone with just 400 followers.

I have another story as well about this man, an older man, he’s about sixties, retired, whatever, and he lives in County Cork, he’s got 500 followers, I engaged with him a few times. And we were talking about walking or something and stuff like that. And then I was on a call with the head of Twitter in Europe. And I was doing a Skype call about something about a conference I was doing and he went, “Yeah, my dad follows you on Twitter.” And I was like, “What, who is your dad?” And he went, “It’s Jim in Court …” and I was like, “Oh my God, that man in Court, his son worked in Twitter.” I mean how the hell was I supposed to know that?

Gene: It is a small world.

Sam: He was saying, “Oh, Tweeting Goddess did this today and Tweeting Goddess said this today.” So it’s amazing. The world is so small, don’t know who you’re talking to.

Jon: It’s true. And I think to that point too, when you’re making some of these recommendations, it’s a lot about being yourself on Twitter and kind of separating you from the actual business, but kind of being that spokesperson for the business. And I think a lot of small business owners feel that it’s an extension of them. It’s a personal kind of thing that they have. We see more and more that companies are starting to be asked to have opinions on what you might call hot topics or kind of controversial issues, especially kind of where we are.

But what is your thought around that? Is it appropriate for someone who’s establishing themselves as a business figure on Twitter to engage in social commentary? Is it something where you feel like it needs to just more align with the company’s values or how would someone kind of go about navigating that where they’re not excluding an audience, but they’re also kind of staying true to who they are and what they believe or should they believe as a business owner anything publicly?

Sam: No, I don’t. I don’t comment. Everyone thinks I don’t know anything because I just don’t get involved. I don’t have an opinion on anything. And if people do ask me as something like that, I just say, I have no opinion on that matter. I actually just don’t get involved and that’s why my Twitter feed is the nicest, stuffiest feed really, because I just don’t get into those conversations. I have a few people that when I say give outing Ireland that means that I would giving my opinion on something. I try and keep it as positive as possible.

I do not comment on President’s tweets. I did not comment on, the only thing I might comment on is if there’s some kind of tragedy and it’s something that I can give comfort with words about. But I wouldn’t do anything about negativity or controversy, I just stayed away. Stay out of it. No one really notices anyway that I’m not commenting, you know?

Gene: Sam, I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean maybe if you’re a journalist or you’re a pundit or whatever, that’s one thing. But I think if you’re running a small business, listen, I don’t want to stop people. It’s a free country so you can say what you want out there, but you really do risk, particularly in these times of alienating an audience from you and I don’t know, I just I think your Twitter feed should be information and education about your, not only your business, but your industry in a thought leadership role where people were following you to get smarter but not necessarily to hear your opinions about political issues, for example. Right?

Sam: I mean there’s been a big election over here and it’s been a lot of upset people. And I just said nothing. I just haven’t given my opinion at all. I did say that I voted all right because I think it is positive thing to encourage young people to vote. So I did say I voted and have a great day or whatever. I wouldn’t actually get involved on things like that.

And another thing is, I also talk about what it’s like to be a small business owner because I am a small business owner. Even though I’m probably a bit ahead of a lot of other small businesses, I can share my knowledge and the mistakes I made to help others. That’s really where the Women’s Inspire Network came in because I just felt lonely at home, running my business online and I just missed the coffee, water cooler moments, and I wanted to see … sometimes you think you’re going mad when you’re a small business owner and you think, am I in Looper here? What am I doing?

My husband certainly thinks I’m mad. But I’m not, that’s what we go through. It’s a roller coaster. And yes, you have bad days and yes you have wonderful days and then yes, there’d be people that hate you and don’t want to work with you. Not everybody’s going to like you. I wrote an article on this recently. Now, I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m a cappuccino with sprinkles.

And if you don’t like that then you’re not going to like me. So I mean I don’t get a lot of negative people following me because I have nice people collector in my bio, I’m going to attract nice people. Haters don’t follow me really, you know?

Gene: Well Sam, we only have a couple of minutes left. So let me recap what we have learned so far in our conversation for any business owner that’s looking to get into Twitter. Your advice is to make sure first of all Twitter is the right place for you and that’s where your customers are. You’re telling us that we should be updating our bio’s frequently and keeping them cool and peppy and interesting because they show up everywhere. And certainly don’t link to your Facebook or your Instagram pages because that’s like a Twitter no-no.

Making lists is a really great idea and sharing them publicly if it’s good information that you can share with your customers or your community. Being a thought leader on Twitter is the kind of thing that attracts followers and increase engagement. You mentioned briefly about using Twitter’s tools, like going live on Twitter, Twitter live, which is their live video streaming tool, as well as posting a lot of photos and polls and things like that and just making people feel good. Right? I mean not getting too opinionated, but when people are visiting your Twitter page, you want to grow your community, it should be a good positive experience when they do that. And I think that that is, it’s fantastic advice. Sam, how can people reach you or find you online? What is your Twitter handle? If you want to share it with us or anything else?

Sam: @Tweetinggoddess. So do feel free. If you’re listening to this podcast, do feel free to follow me and say you were listening to the podcast. I would absolutely have a look and retweet. If you need to connect with someone, just ask me. I also have the Women’s Inspire Network, which is an online network. It’s global and we do weekly webinars. So the WomensInspireNetwork.com, we have a show, we have a podcast. So it’s really fun. I’m all about community and I’m all about helping others and trust me when you have others they will help you back. So yeah.

Jon: Awesome. Sam, thanks so much for spending time with us today and this was a great conversation and I think I have one last question I’ll try and sneak in, but if I’m a small business owner looking to kind of connect with others on Twitter, what are your top two hashtags for kind of new small business owners on Twitter to look for to kind of find others like them?

Sam: Okay. #WomensInspire hashtag is on every Tuesday night, London time 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM. There’s also another one called Business, #Business, and then use the hashtag of whatever your business is. But there’s lots of other ones. #TwitterSmarter is Madeline Sklar. And there’s lots of different Twitter chats. I have a friend who has a list of Twitter chats, so if you ask me first, I’ll send you the list.

Jon: Awesome. Thanks, Sam.

Gene: Thanks, Sam.

Sam: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Gene: Yep, thank you, and thanks everybody for joining us for another edition of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. For the latest on small business trends, visit The Hartford Small Business Ahead blog. We’ve got articles, how-to’s, videos, to help you run your business way more efficiently, I’m sure. Check us out smallbizahead.com. My name is Gene Marks. I’ve been speaking with Jon Aidukonis here at The Hartford. Sam, thanks for joining us and everybody, thank you for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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