As a small business owner you know the importance of social media as a low-cost, effective, and potentially explosive means to grow your business.

However, you also know that in order to derive any actual benefit, it takes time, effort, and know-how to build a following large enough to deliver tangible results.

In this post, we’ll be covering the importance and value of Twitter and how the social network is proving it can boost your bottom line.

Let’s start by highlighting some of the basics. The seven-year-old platform has managed to rack up 200 million monthly active users who altogether send out more than 400 million tweets a day.

Recently, Twitter paired up with research firm Market Probe International to survey 500 people who follow small businesses on Twitter. Below are some of their key findings in addition to some action items for each point that show how you can start taking advantage of them.

1. Followers Are 72% More Likely to Buy From You

When a user decides to follow your business on Twitter they are raising their hand and giving you permission to engage with them.

And with all the clutter and noise that exists online these days, the smallest emotional investment from current or prospective customers can make all the difference when it comes to driving sales.

In fact, 72% people are more likely to make a future purchase from a small business after they follow or interact with that business on Twitter.

In other words, followers drive sales.

So you’re probably wondering, can you build a following and begin converting those followers to customers?

Here are some tips:

Know your customer niches and use Twitter directory tools like WeFollow and Just Tweet It to find individuals with similar interests and backgrounds to start building a tribe.

Go one step further than interests and use advanced Twitter search to look up users via specific keywords, hashtags, and locations. Then proactively reach out to those users offering advice and help when they need it.

Tweet when your followers are active, find out optimal times using tools like Tweriod and SocialBro

Use Twitter ads to promote your account to potential followers and show up at the top of search results 

Schedule your tweets based on the optimal times you discover using tools like Buffer 

2. Followers Are 30% More Likely to Recommend You

With the democratization of opinions, reviews, and recommendations, small businesses more than ever depend on people spreading the word to their friends and families, or better yet to their digital following.

The good news is your followers are 30% more likely to recommend you while 86% of followers are more likely to visit a business if a friend recommends them. 

A positive review in the form of online interaction on Twitter can tip the scale when a prospective customer is choosing between two or more products and services.

Your job then is to make it easier to recommend you, or better yet incentivizing it somehow. Here are some ways how:

Social media scientist Dan Zarrella found that adding the phrases “please retweet,” and “please RT” led to more retweets

Optimize your email receipts and email newsletters or coupons with social share buttons and calls-to-actions encouraging your audience to send out a Tweet

Use visual content, specifically images, which get twice the amount of engagement than tweets without image links

3. 73% of Followers Want Updates on Future Products

It makes solid business sense for small business owners to encourage repeat purchases from previous customers rather than constantly going out to find new customers.

When someone makes a purchase and cares enough to follow you, they’re going to want to know what you have in the pipeline so they can get in on the action before everyone else. In fact, 73% of followers say they follow small businesses to get updates on future products. 

Here are some ways you can capitalize on your follower’s curiosity by building buzz for your latest products:

Build suspense with sneak peeks and teaser tweets hinting at what you have launching that your followers will want to share

Run a contest on Twitter, here are four excellent examples and various formats as well as Twitter guidelines just to be on the safe side

Amplify your reach by using other popular social platforms simultaneously, including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

4. 61% of Followers Want to Offer Ideas and Feedback.

Access to information and the ability to voice your opinion on a global scale has given consumers the ability to not just accept or reject the products and services that are sold to them but play an active role in shaping and determining their future.

Your consumers don’t just want to buy your wares, they want to help you build a better business with 61% of followers saying they follow small businesses in order to be able to offer feedback and share ideas.

For example, Virgin America who was on Twitter even before it had its first flight in the sky uses its company account @ViriginAmerica to proactively resolve customer complaints and take their feedback into account.

The company aims to respond to each mention in under 15 minutes, but usually replies under five. It continuously monitors their account for suggestions and feedback and has used it to choose everything from inflight entertainment all the way to having passengers vote on their favorite cocktails for their menu.

Hopefully these stats will convince you to start looking at Twitter as more than just another social media tool and more like a social platform that can add to your bottom line.

If you have other research, success stories, and ideas you’d like to share on the topic, please add them in the comments below.

Here's the full infographic:

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