I am one of the few people who can boast that I have made some serious money (for a company my size) from “Twittering.” Notice I didn't write that I made money "on" Twitter. That is just about impossible — except in cases where tweets and hashtags can be configured to launch a sale of an item, such as a pizza. Though in the B2B landscape, that type of sales transaction is usually not feasible, due to complexity, legality and buying authority issues. Can you imagine tweeting to order a fleet of vehicles, a commercial real estate lease or hospital supplies? Not going to happen.
What I have found is that in the B2B arena, Twitter is a public relations and inbound marketing tool that, eventually, could lead to a sale. Here are some additional observations about using this incredible social media platform.
Note that I will not be covering Twitter ads or promoted/sponsored tweets in this post. I will be writing about the regular — free — Twitter platform, with the help of some additional (sometimes free) Twitter scheduling and monitoring tools.
As of this writing, Twitter is still an unfiltered chronological posting platform. In other words, if you post a tweet at 2:53 p.m., it will post in your followers' timelines at 2:53 p.m. This is unlike platforms such as Facebook, which will decide what posts your followers see and when they'll see them. It is one of Twitter's redeeming qualities as a platform, and one that B2B users can exploit.
Here’s the catch: You need to get into the "crawl." What is the crawl? You've no doubt, at some point, watched news and sports channels that have a continuous headline update crawling along the lower third or so of the screen. For me, that is Twitter. Also, as with news and sports channels, Twitter users check in at all times — day and night. Therefore, it becomes necessary to continue to tweet throughout the day. Not tweeting so much that it gets annoying, of course, but maintaining a frequent daily presence in the hopes that it will appear at the times when your target client types are logged in to Twitter.
How do you find those times? There are a variety of tools that help marketers "listen" to their communities. I use one that gives me a range of hours when the bulk of my followers are on Twitter. For example, I've learned that midday to midafternoon and then late afternoon are peak periods. Who'd have thought that? I wouldn't, since I'm on Twitter in the morning. Also, note that these peak periods can change over time. A year or so ago, midmorning was noted as a good time. Periodically check to see if those peak posting periods change.
To get in the crawl, you need to:
- Know when your users are most likely to be logged in.
- Schedule posts of quality content containing relevant keywords and hashtags during those peak times. Using a tweet scheduling app or program (Hootsuite is an example) can be helpful.
The Mentions and The DMs
I've been asked how I know Twitter has resulted in sales. That's easy: Potential customers indicated their interest in corresponding with me in a standard tweet — via a mention or a Twitter direct message (DM).
However, those tweets and messages are rare. More common are mentions and retweets (shares) of posts I've made. While these are not "sales lead” tweets per se, they are strong indicators of people who are observing your crawl. They may be potential customers or influencers in communities you want to serve. They've already declared interest!
Check their bios, start following and making friendly connections with those who seem most viable for your business. However, for heaven's sake, NEVER EVER immediately fire a tweet that invites them to a sales conversation. Remember Twitter is inbound marketing, which is built on you gaining a reputation as a thought leader.
The Long Haul
Just how long does it take to start seeing sales activity from Twitter? That is a question plaguing all social media marketing. I've seen it happen in as little as months. Yet I also just got a genuine sales lead from a Twitter connection that I made five years ago. I do know, though, that my sales results from Twitter would have been zero without staying active on the platform.