We often hear about the restaurant owner tweeting his/her specials to hungry customers or HP hawking its latest deals, but what the heck does that have to do with the B2B space?
Both a lot and a little.
While we most likely won't have a special offer to promote in 140 characters or less, Twitter has much more to offer for B2B companies.
PS: I am well aware of the latest buzz about how Google+ might be a Twitter killer but (at least for now) I don't recommend abandoning Twitter. Actually, you can even incorporate your Twitter feeds into Google+.
6 methods B2B companies can use to make the most of Twitter:
• A Digital Hearing Aid. Twitter gives one the invaluable ability to listen to what people are saying about your industry/brand/company as well as the competition. Utilizing tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck, it's a piece of cake to create targeted lists of people to follow or keywords to monitor. In this way, you can build your own virtual focus group to get a better understanding of the needs of your potential or existing customers, and keep an eye on what's going on with your competitors. Choosing not to do this means ignoring a critical market intelligence tool.
• Thought Leadership. The key word here is "focus." Select several topics related to your business and habitually tweet about them. For instance, I talk about B2B PR and try my best to tweet on it 50% of the time. A combination of tweets on that subject, mixed with some broader content, sprinkled with a bit of strategic retweeting strikes a nice balance. While you want to be focused, you also don't want to tire out your followers by beating a one note drum.
• Brownie & IQ points. Retweeting lets you showcase what others are say about you. It's completely a win-win situation. While you're helping someone else and winning his/her support, you're simultaneously furthering your own thought leadership. Think of it as your Neitzsche moment. Think about it...if you quote an thought leader, a bit of their insight and reputation reflects on you. Retweet a wiseman, (or woman!) and you too by association will be seen as wise.
• Prospect/Partner Dance. Twitter offers you the opportunity to dance with (or at least reach out to) almost anyone -- from President Obama to a new prospect you'd like to connect with. With roughly 200 million people tweeting, there's a decent chance that a potential client you have been looking at could be tweeting away behind the back of you head. At the very least, you can get a sense of a prospect and/or partner's interests. You can begin by just observing. After that, you can make a comment or retweet something. This will help begin a dialogue with them. The key word is "dialogue." Avoid being a bullhorn and blasting away like too many other companies on Twitter. Instead, interact and engage. Keep in mind that just because you haven't gotten any new business right away doesn't mean you fail. Obviously, it will take more than a couple tweets to spark someone's interest in what you do. However, you can start interacting with people who ordinarily wouldn't be accessible, such as the CEO of a large firm. It can be as simple as retweeting them. Or commenting on something he/she has said. Eventually, you'll want to take it offline and make an old-fashioned phone call...but Twitter can help make that happen a lot sooner.
• Media outreach. I love the terminology Sarah Skerik, of PR Newswire used when referring to Twitter. Sarah's term: the new Rolodex. Twitter gives you another method to engage media analysts, and as Sarah says, "get inside their heads in a way you never could before." Once again, you should listen before doing anything. You'll get an inside look into the content they view as important. This will give you a better understanding of what they like when you eventually decide to engage them.
• Search engine and web visibility. Want to drive more traffic to your website or article? (I think everyone does these days!) The search engines reward links from folks on Twitter who have "authority." This means having people post links to your content -- people who regularly post about your topic and have a plethora followers.
So, what are you waiting for?! Get out there and start tweeting. And feel free to say hi to me @wendymarx. I look forward to hearing from you on Twitter and perhaps elsewhere.