The best thing about Twitter is that it has helped level the advertising playing field. Yes, enormous budgets still matter, but a small business is just as capable of building an audience on Twitter as anyone else.
The problem is that few small business owners understand what it is they can do on Twitter to succeed. They follow trends that have nothing to do with them. They #hashtag the wrong #words, and retweet random nonsense.
The 5 small businesses I’m going to show you do not have any of those problems. They may not have the millions of followers of some large corporations, but who is to say they need them? They’re small stores, some with single locations, that only truly need to be ‘Twitter famous’ in their city or industry.
5 great small businesses on Twitter
Location: Portland, USA
If you’ve never heard of Voodoo Doughnuts, with locations only in Portland, OR, you have clearly never spent any amount of time in the Pacific NorthWest. They’ve been famous from Vancouver down to San Francisco for years. With new shops in Austin, Texas, and an absolutely bizarre one in Taiwan, they are growing beyond the old shop in Portland.
They have not, however, forgotten their roots and the experience of their original location:
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) July 20, 2016
This is what makes Voodoo, a shop which is almost on the cusp of no longer being a small business, still feel like a small business. They treat their original location like the epicentre of their world. Never forget where you came from when your small business starts to grow.
Besides tweeting about their roots, and the experience of their original store, what else do they do well? They adapt their products very well to trends on Twitter. Here they are with stacks of doughnuts ready for July 4th weekend:
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) July 1, 2016
They couldn’t possibly miss out on #NationalDonutDay, and they were ready with this MASSIVE custom doughnut with the holiday written on it:
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) June 3, 2016
They do great stuff for the their local NBA team:
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) April 25, 2015
Last, they do celebrity tributes well. You have to be careful when tweeting about a celebrity death as a brand, no one wants to feel like you’re exploiting their passing. But Voodoo do it properly with tributes that clearly show love by again creating custom products for the moment, and doing it with style and art:
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) January 11, 2016
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) May 15, 2015
— Voodoo Doughnut (@VoodooDoughnut) February 27, 2015
You can see that they earned quite a few retweets for their efforts. You can also see that these were artists which they truly cared about as they put real effort into creating these doughnut-sized pieces of art. This trend may give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘eating your feelings.’
Location: NYC, NY
The Roger Smith Hotel in New York City has the advantage of being a hotel in one of the most visited cities in the world. It also has the distinct disadvantage of, well, being a single hotel in a city full of the largest hotel chains in the world.
The Roger Smith did something that more and more small businesses should do: They went directly to social media influencers, invited them to stay at their hotel, and had them tweet about their experiences.
— The Travel Tester (@thetraveltester) June 5, 2016
When these people ran out, after some great success, they decided yet again to use influencers. They regularly tweet out their own Tripadvisor reviews:
— Roger Smith Hotel (@RSHotel) July 19, 2016
— Roger Smith Hotel (@RSHotel) July 12, 2016
— Roger Smith Hotel (@RSHotel) August 9, 2016
Do they get tremendous retweet numbers from these tweets? No. And they don’t need them, that’s not why they do this. They do it for the influence it exerts on someone looking through their Twitter timeline trying to figure out if they want to book with them or not. With social proof being so powerful online, any business can use this tactic in some way.
Location: London, UK
Pact Coffee is another example of a small business using influencer marketing as effectively as anyone ever used celebrity endorsements to build their Twitter followers. The difference is that they have done it by connecting with other big brands, rather than people, in their area.
Each @mention you see below will be of a local brand in their area, who is also related to their industry in some way:
— Pact Coffee (@pactcoffee) June 22, 2016
— Pact Coffee (@pactcoffee) April 20, 2016
— Pact Coffee (@pactcoffee) April 6, 2016
That last one, from Jamie Oliver magazine, would have been big for them. Jamie Oliver seems to own, approximately, every other restaurant in London. Those who follow his Twitter account, where this article would have been tweeted from, established their brand in the mind of people who like to go out and eat. Many people like a coffee after their meal, so it’s a perfect partnership.
All of this started from them simply taking the time to look at local Twitter accounts, and give them a @mention. The more your business reaches out, the more accounts there will be that know about you and help grow you, and the more you can help grow them. Have more conversations on Twitter!
In all my years of studying Twitter marketing, one of the world’s most mobile platforms, nothing has been quite like KogiBBQ. This account only tweets out one kind of thing: Where their mobile food truck will be that day, and what hours it will be open.
— kogibbq (@kogibbq) August 16, 2016
— kogibbq (@kogibbq) August 16, 2016
— kogibbq (@kogibbq) August 16, 2016
How cool is that? Their followers know that they have to follow them on Twitter to see where the truck is going to be. It’s so perfect for Twitter’s ‘what’s happening right now’ mentality that every mobile food truck has got to incorporate this into their business.
What’s that? You’re not a mobile food truck owner? Well you can still use this same tactic for pop-up shops, events you’re attending, appearances at other businesses, or anything else that involves your business moving around.
Location: Paris, Fance
Shakespeare and Company may be the most famous book store in the world, but they’re still just one bookstore, in one city, in an industry which is struggling. They have stayed relevant on Twitter not by clinging to their (incredible) history, but by embracing what’s going on in their store right now.
They frequently have guests stop by:
— Shakespeare&Company (@Shakespeare_Co) July 6, 2016
They even have live music in front of the store:
— Shakespeare&Company (@Shakespeare_Co) July 28, 2016
They’ll pretty much live tweet about any old thing going on:
We had a visitor last night. Or should that be an "invader"? pic.twitter.com/mJkU2JeK2E
— Shakespeare&Company (@Shakespeare_Co) June 10, 2016
They don’t ever wait to tweet it out later. They tweet everything as it happens, or just before it’s about to happen, letting people know that they need to get there even if they don’t want to buy a book. But seriously, how can you go to Shakespeare and Company and not at least have a little browse?
And that’s where their ‘what’s happening now’ Twitter marketing captures you. It creates an urgency, and it brings feet in the door.
5 different ways a small business can succeed on Twitter
The five businesses above aren’t international conglomerates. They’re just like any other store you’ll find around the corner where you know the owner, likely because they’re working behind the counter! The 5 tactics they used, which you can use too, were:
- Participating in trending topics by customizing their products to fit the event artfully.
- Working with individual influencers, and tweeting the experiences of guests.
- Connecting with other local businesses which are related to them.
- Live tweeting their changing locations.
- Live tweeting what’s going on at their store in real time.
You may not choose to use all 5 tactics, but there are certainly at least 2 in there which will improve your small business on Twitter. Try a few out, see how your audience reacts, and keep tweaking until you’re no longer a small business!
Matthew is a social media writer over on the Devumi.com blog. Here is there every Friday with a new piece on some form of online marketing, with Twitter being one of his favorite topics. Follow the @Devumi Gorilla today to always be up to date on Twitter!