Amelia divides time between quaffing as much green tea as humanly possibly, promoting a small publishing haus cum bookshop and herding cats writers at Silence Cupcake. Follow these exploits on twitter!
We're told, or someone said once, that people don't like to be sold things. This is a barefaced lie. People want to buy things, so long as it's what they're looking for. When it comes to Twitter, people expect conversation. So how can you make your sales-based stream engaging?
Who Follows You? Who Do you Follow?
Does your current Twitter following match your ideal customer base? Are you following potential clients? Did you set up an auto-follow app (based on keyword, or location) and now find yourself following all the members of the local cycling club when you specialise in personalised china cat sculptures?
Having a high follower count means nothing if they're unlikely to ever be interested in what you have to say, or sell.
When I started out tweeting for my bookshop cum publishing house, I followed every London-based person who followed the London Review of Books. They were already interested in books, and they lived in the area. I say 'everyone' but that would have taken hours. Every afternoon, for a week, I spent an hour finding people to follow on Twitter, who were following accounts with similar interests to ours. Book review magazines. AmnestyUK. Larger bookshops. This takes some personal legwork, but these people will turn out to be your champions.
Why should they Follow you back though?
The first thing your followees will do is click through to your stream. If all they see is “buy, buy, buy”, it's unlikely they'll click that all-important follow button.
Nowadays, we're used to content-based marketing. You've probably seen it with bloggers who write about their daily doings, inspirations, interviews, and then BAM, they've got a book coming out and it's a bestseller, before it's even published. How can you emulate this with your Twitter stream?
Tweet opinions, facts, tips, feelings.
Are you facing a busy day? Let your Twitter stream know. Excited about getting thirteen boxes of buttons packed and shipped? Tell them how you got it done. Trying a new carving technique? Enlighten us. When people feel as if they're gaining something, information or entertainment, they're more likely to want to hear from you. Don't have time to tweet constantly? Take a few minutes in the morning and use an app like HootSuite or Twuffer to schedule tweets throughout the day.
This can turn one-sided though, so engage! Converse with people who don't follow you yet. Let them know why you want to Follow them (“Your opinions about how cats are better than dogs blow me away!”). Thank everyone who follows – that's just polite.
We got a great response when I asked new followers if they planned to come to any of our upcoming events. People asked when they were, they RSVPd via Twitter. Do you have anything your potential followers can immediately engage with?
Ask them if you'll see them at the next Trade Fair, how they got reviewed in China Cats Monthly, what they're doing about the postage price hike. Debate with that china dogs boutique two streets over about which is better, cats or dogs. Encourage your followers to pitch in. Turn it into a hashtag party! Offer a free piece of cat china to whoever comes up with the best reason that cats are better than dogs. People want to feel a part of something, not just a coin-purse to be marketed at.
All of this sounds like a lot of hard work, and starting up will take some time and effort.
Eventually, fresh faces will start Following you, Tweeters will start to recommend your stream, you'll be touted as one-to-follow. And your Followers will be so, terribly, grateful when you tweet that picture of the latest cat figurine (only $59.99!), on display in the window, and ask them to name it.
Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.