Twitter for Small Business: An Interview with Shannon Evans

When you spend as much time networking as I do, you meet some pretty interesting people—people with things like motivation, ideas, experience, and a strong desire to help others become better at what they do.  Shannon Evans (@shannonevans on Twitter) is one of those people: a development editor, literary coach, book reviewer, and author of the brand new small business best-seller, The Definitive Twitter Guide: Making Tweets Work for Your Business (available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.com).

I recently had a chance to talk with Shannon about exactly how small companies can use Twitter, the world’s most popular micro-blogging website, to their advantage.  My notes from the interview are presented below.  Hopefully, the 14,000+ small company owners, managers and entrepreneurs who follow this blog can use Shannon’s insight and experience to make Twitter work for their companies, in the same way so many of Shannon’s readers already have.

Eric from TSCB: Released less than two months ago, your book is literally brand new.  What makes it different than other Twitter guides already in circulation?

Shannon: First, my book is full of step by step directions not only related to Twitter, but to small business marketing in general.  Also, the book is full of tips and tricks for using Twitter, and contains case studies from real business owners with small and mid-sized (or zero-sized) budgets using Twitter successfully for their business.

Eric from TSCB: With dozens of other social networking sites to choose from, why is Twitter the focus of this book?

Shannon: Most of the books on Twitter are not geared toward the small solo-preneur, consultant, or small business owner. These people are the ones who need to know quick, effective, and inexpensive methods to get their businesses in front of their audiences—FAST! Twitter is perfect for any business or organization to begin building relationships with their community and thus build their business presence within that community. Twitter requires minimal marketing training and no money to begin using and implementing with a business. The biggest cost is time; and with only 140 characters to worry about and an abundance of scheduling and monitoring tools, it is definitely manageable!

Eric from TSCB: Small companies are always understaffed and under-funded. How can smaller organizations and startups use Twitter to their advantage?

Shannon: Wow… that is a big question. There are so many things they can do! They can use it as a point of service, as a customer service or listening post, to engage with the community, as a coupon center, as an information feed, and so on. Small companies can also use Twitter to keep an eye on the competition—for example, if anyone is talking to the competition and the competition is not listening, a small company can swoop in and hopefully provide answers or support. There are so many things you can do with Twitter beyond marketing. The potential is limited only by the user’s imagination and communication skills!

Eric from TSCB: If you had to give just one piece of Twitter-related advice to a small company marketing person, what would it be?

Shannon: Open your ears and listen. 99% of communication is taking in information. There are so many cues you pick up from listening carefully and with intent.

Eric from TSCB: One of the most popular articles I ever wrote was about the Twitter tools I use to manage my account.  Are there any third-party apps you can’t live without?

Shannon: Oh . . . I love Twibes for creating lists and tracking them on and off Twitter.  I also love Qwitter, as well as the ultimate in analysis of follower tools: Tweepi. But when it comes to scheduling, I prefer the simplicity of Hootsuite.  TweetDeck has its merits as well, but can be too ‘busy’ for some.

Eric from TSCB: Over the last year, we’ve seen Twitter add numerous features—some have failed, and some have proven to be quite useful. Are there any you believe are particularly ‘business-friendly?’

Shannon: Hash Tags, Mentions, and Keyword Search would be the three I list first. Hashtags are useful because you can create conversations and track them among multiple followers. Mentions (@shannonevans) are great because you can keep an eye out for anyone talking about you or two you if they use the at symbol. And if they are not using the @symbol to reference you or your company, you can still find people who are talking about you or your brand just by using the standard Twitter Search feature. Keyword Search is great because you can search for people to follow, and cultivate follow backs by examining their keywords in their bio or in their local. Within Twitter, there is so much information that small companies can mine both cheaply and efficiently using some very simple features.

Eric from TSCB: It seems like these days, everyone has a book in their head—but no one has the time or the resources to finish it. How did you keep yourself motivated?

Shannon: Ahhhh . . . easy! I live in Seattle, it rains a lot, and they have the best coffee in the world!  But truthfully, writing is addictive for me. I wrote my first book and before I was finished, the next three were already rumbling around in my brain. Yes, I have the writing bug bad!

Eric from TSCB: I sincerely hope that in 10 years, Twitter is still around in some form or another. Am I being too optimistic?

Shannon: Regardless of the longevity of Twitter itself, the concept of mirco-blogging is here to stay. We all want to talk to each other—random strangers seek contact, experts relay facts and share important information, and customers reach out to touch the people behind the goods, services and products they purchase. There is no going back now!

Eric from TSCB: Without giving away too many secrets, how are you using Twitter to market your book?

Shannon: I am talking to people every day on Twitter. I share info, I listen to the frustrations of new users, I talk to bloggers, and so on. I ask for book reviews, I ask for more case studies from businesses using Twitter, and I engage with other readers and Twitter enthusiasts.  It’s been a lot of fun!

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