Author: Nick Rink
When it comes to social media, local business owners can quickly become overwhelmed. Should I be posting, tweeting, pinning, chatting or something else! Of all the social media sites that are currently popular, Twitter still has huge potential for success across the board for local businesses. Twitter lists are a great tool to help achieve that success.
There are close to 1 billion registered Twitter profiles and around 320 million active users, with somewhere in the region of 12-15 million of them here in the UK. That’s a lot of profiles producing a huge volume of tweets every minute of every day. For a local business the simplest way to sort through the noise is by using Twitter lists. We’ll get to some specific local ideas in a minute, but let’s start with what Twitter lists are and how to create them.
What is a Twitter List
From Twitter’s own support section:
“A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the users on that list. Note: Lists are used for reading Tweets only.”
You don’t have to Follow a Twitter profile to put them in a list. It’s basically a way of grouping users that you find interesting together in one spot that’s then easy to sift through. Bit like opening up a newspaper (people still do that, right?) and heading to different sections for different content, depending on what your interests or needs are – local news, finance, sport, etc. Building the right lists can help you monitor and engage with your target audience.
How to create a Twitter List
There are a couple of ways to create Twitter lists and add profiles to them, but here’s what we’ve found to be the simplest method. First, click on your profile avatar to get the dropdown menu and then click on Lists.
That takes you to your profile Lists page where it shows any that you may have already created. To create a new list just click on the Create new list button at the bottom right of the page.
A popup box will appear where you can enter the name of your list along with an appropriate description. Please do remember that for any public list the name and description will also be public, so think carefully! As noted in the screenshot below, anyone can see Public lists but only you (or anyone with access to your account) can see your Private lists.
To add Twitter profiles to your list simply navigate to a relevant profile and click on the settings gear icon beneath the cover image. From that dropdown box you can add a profile to any of your Twitter lists.
When you add someone to a Public Twitter list they’ll receive a notification, so it’s another good way of letting someone know that you appreciate their content. They won’t receive a notification if you add them to a Private list, which had its advantages as you’ll see below.
5 Ideas for Local Twitter Lists
Now that you’ve read why Twitter lists are so useful and you know how to create them, let’s start looking at a few ideas of Twitter lists specifically for local businesses. Next to each list we’ve marked what type we believe it should be, i.e. a Public list or a Private one.
1. Clients and Friends (Private)
Staying in touch with existing clients, along with friends of the business, partners and suppliers is important. The ability to offer support in the form of a retweet, especially if it’s a client tweeting about success, can help to amplify their good work and that should reflect well on you also. Nurture those relationships.
Twitter also works well as a customer service platform. If a happy customer mentions you in a tweet then be sure to respond and add them to your list.
2. Target Customers (Private)
There are multiple touch points when it comes to building sales from face to face meetings and phone calls through to email and social media. Twitter can be a great way of building relationships with prospective customers and show a more personal side of your business. It also gives you a direct way to answer any questions they may have or offer suggestions to them. Say you’re a local accountant and you see a tweet from a prospective client with concerns about auto-enrollment; there’s an opportunity to connect, help and gain a new customer.
3. Competitors (Private)
Building a competitor list gives you the ability to monitor what they’re up to and also how they use Twitter in general. It’s a great way to see what they’re tweeting about, how or if they engage with other users, if they have any offers on and staying up with their current activities. You may get additional ideas for your own business, especially if you see them having success in certain areas. Keeping the list private means that they won’t know you’re tracking them.
4. Local “Your town/city” (Public)
If you’re a local business then connecting with other folks in your area is going to be key to your success on Twitter. A local dentist in Basingstoke, for example, isn’t going to be too interested in what’s happening in Bury or Boston. Building a local Twitter list will really help you engage in your local community and that can have all kinds of benefits for your business, chiefly more local customers! Couple of quick tips on how to build a local Twitter list:
- Use the following search string on Google to look for existing Twitter lists for your town or city – site:twitter.com inurl:lists <your town/city> – then check any profiles that look both interesting and relevant to add to your own local list.
- Use this recipe on IFTTT to automatically build a list that contains a hashtag relevant to your location, for example #wigan. Check the list every few days to weed out any irrelevant or unwanted profiles and you’ll quickly start building a targeted list containing people who are interested in your local area.
5. Influencers (Public)
Finding people who can amplify your message will give you a massive win on Twitter. These folks don’t all have to have huge Followings either. Influencer marketing is not about getting a retweet from Twitterati such as Katy Perry or Justin Bieber! It’s about identifying who in your local area or your specific industry is influential. Who’s word in your local area carries weight? They could be local journalists, bloggers or other local area businesses. Find and connect with those accounts and you’ll be on your way to having a good deal of success on Twitter.
Twitter lists help to cut through the noise so you can focus on building targeted and successful relationships that will help to grow your business. If you’re not already making use of them then hopefully this will have persuaded you to get started.
Having a local business Page on Facebook is a necessity for many reasons. Greater exposure in your local market, the ability to reach a highly targeted audience and driving more traffic to your website would be just three of them. To give your local business Page even greater authority, Facebook rolled out verified badges at the start of October. Initially the badges are only available for business Pages in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Why verify your local business Facebook Page?
Sometimes a local business can appear to have multiple Facebook Pages so the new verified badge will help people find the right Page. According to a Facebook product marketing manager for Pages
“At scale there will inevitably be duplicates and multiple entries for the same business. So this is one way businesses can make it easier for people to make sure that they are finding and communicating with the right Page.”
After all, there are close to 45 million business Pages on Facebook so there are undoubtedly a few duplicates around! Reports also suggest that Verified Pages will show up higher in search results on Facebook. This could be a really important point as Facebook continues to develop its search facilities.
Getting your Facebook Page verified
Here’s how to get it done …
Click Settings at the top of your Page
From General, click Page Verification
Click Verify this Page, then click Get Started
Enter a publicly listed phone number for your business, your country and language then click Call Me Now to allow Facebook to call you with a verification code
Enter the 4-digit verification code and click Continue
Your local business page on Facebook should now be verified and you’ll see the grey verified badge next to your business name
If, for some reason, the above process doesn’t work or if you’d prefer to verify using an alternative method then Facebook does offer verification with documents instead. Full details on that can be found here.
Facebook has really been focusing on the local SME market lately and this step is another way that local businesses can make themselves stand out from the crowd. If you have a local business page on Facebook then we would strongly recommend you follow the process above and get your page verified.
Social media success can seem like a distant goal for many local business owners. You may have read articles from self appointed social media gurus saying “you’ve just got to be on Facebook” and “what do you mean you don’t understand Twitter?” There’s a difference between knowing how to send a Tweet or post an update on Facebook and using social media effectively for business. So you’ll jump straight in with all the best intentions but no real idea about what you’re doing. Tweets, posts and updates go unseen and you wonder whether all this talk of engagement and social media marketing success is really just a myth.
Unrealistic expectations and a lack strategy are the killers of social media for local business. Social media isn’t necessarily about opening up the doors to your business and watching customers flood in. It’s about building trust in your brand, personalising your business, making connections and generating leads. All that takes time, which is something many smaller local business owners don’t think they have. That brings stress and frustration into the equation which means that social media stops being social. It’s no longer fun and becomes more of a chore. As Profiles and Pages become neglected they can almost give the impression that the business has ceased to exist. And that’s not productive for anyone.
There are plenty of websites with helpful articles on how to use social media successfully. There are also plenty of articles dominated by social media “do’s and don’ts”. Some things you can get away with on a personal profile could seriously damage a local business profile, especially on Twitter (excessive swearing for example). So instead of putting together a big long list of rules I generally recommend clients stick to these two:
1. Be Yourself – whether representing yourself or your brand it’s important to stay true to yourself. Be sincere and be authentic. As I mentioned above, one of the key things that social media can do for your business is build trust. So be consistent with your tone of voice, with your values, your message and your brand. If you stray too far and try to become something you’re not, that just sends mixed signals to potential customers and erodes any trust you’ve worked so hard to build. Your message will resonate with some and not with others but there’ll be absolutely no BS and that makes things easier for everyone.
2. Be Useful – which broadly means don’t fill your profile just with sales messages. People don’t tend to go on social media sites to buy stuff. They go there to be social. To connect with family and friends, to chat with people they find interesting, to ask for recommendations and sometimes to complain. Coming across a Twitter feed that does nothing but broadcast sales messages isn’t particularly useful to anyone. Think of a Facebook Like as being invited into someone’s house, or of Twitter as a coffee conversation or a chat down the pub. Tailor your messages accordingly and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
We’re social creatures and having conversations is what gets many of us going each day. Social media should be an extension of your brand and your business. Use it to make connections, not sales. If you’re being yourself and you’re being useful then the sales will come.
Social media marketing sites have been around for quite some time now, with LinkedIn being launched back in May 2003. Things have developed rapidly since then, with sites like Facebook and Twitter becoming part of the culture while others maybe didn’t fare so well. Ping and MySpace spring to mind!
As consumers and businesses have moved forward so have the social media sites and staying on top of all the changes can be difficult. Features get added, removed and sometimes just hidden. For example, did you know that you can tag up to 10 people in a photo on Twitter and those tags don’t count against your 140 characters? How about the ability to save posts on Facebook to read later or downloading a list of your connections from LinkedIn?
All these hidden social media features and more are covered in this handy infographic. (Please ignore the feature regarding Google+ as Circle sharing was switched off in May 2015.)
If you can think of any more then please drop a comment down below.
Click To Enlarge
In the past couple of days there have been several reports (here and here) about Google testing a “Chat” button live in organic search results. It’s been appearing for a few businesses in the Local Knowledge Panel to the right of the organic search results. Although the reports have stated that Google is simply testing the Chat button, we’ve now seen it show up for this London florist. (Full disclosure – they are a current client). After multiple screenshots and some digging around here’s what we’ve found out so far.
Where does the Google Chat button show up?
On desktop it’s currently showing however you get the knowledge panel to show. So either through a branded search or a regular plain organic search with the knowledge panel being triggered by hovering over the relevant listing (as shown below).
The Chat button also appears through mobile search but so far I haven’t been able to find it anywhere through Google Maps, either on desktop or mobile.
What happens when you click the Chat button?
Clicking on the Chat (available) button pops up a Hangout window. It appears that you do need to be logged into a Google account for the Chat to actually work as it’s run through Google Hangouts. As you can see from the screenshot Google is clearly directing people to either the Android or iPhone Hangouts app.
There was a delay of a few minutes at the outset before the original message from me showed up in Wildabout’s Hangout app, but from there it was all pretty much instant chat. As you’d expect.
Who gets notified when a Chat gets started?
Still working on this one. As a Page Manager I got a notfication through the Hangouts app on my phone, so I ended up responding to myself through two different accounts – my own and Wildabout’s.
Not a riveting conversation but remarkably simple to use. Now I’m pretty sure that our client isn’t using Hangouts at the moment, so that’s going to be an important point to raise with them. Someone in the store will need to be available to respond to messages should anyone decide they’d like to get in touch. Another point to mention is that, so far, I haven’t been able to discover how to set the Chat button to “unavailable”. Sure, I can snooze notifications on the Hangouts app but that seems to have no bearing on the availability.
Why would consumers use the Chat button?
There could be a number of reasons but ultimately it comes down to choice. Some people like Twitter, some like email while others prefer picking up the phone or sending a text. The Google Chat button could potentialy enable a customer to begin a simple text Hangout then transfer that into either an actual phone call or even a vidoe Hangout. In terms of customer service and building stronger relationships with potential and existing customers the Google Chat button could be really exciting. Getting real time answers to questions should only be of benefit to consumers. Is a restaurant busy? What are the specials of the day? What game are you showing … you know, important stuff!
Potential Uses for Chat
PPC isn’t really my area of expertise but I would assume that if you can run ads targeting people to call your business phone then it may, at some stage, also be possible to run ads with the call to action being live chat. “Got tax questions, chat with us now” or “Have we got your size in store, chat now”.
An additional and important point to note is regarding ranking. There’s been plenty of discussion about how dwell time on a Google+ Page may help signify to Google that a page is useful. Methods for increasing dwell time would include Google Business View (See Inside), videos and more. Would the number and length of Chats that a business gets be a potential ranking factor? I would argue for a yes but would also have no clue how much weight it would carry.
At this stage it’s clearly early days and we’re still not entirely sure how the Google Chat button came to appear for Wildabout Flowers in the first place. We’ll keep monitoring things over the next few days and as we learn will look to post about it on Google+ and Twitter.
Have you or a business you know got the Google Chat button yet?