With the right Twitter strategy, you could be providing better customer service and hooking up with new clients in a matter of weeks. Su Butcher from Just Practising gives us her tips on how to get the most out of the platform
It’s not easy to get your head around hashtags and tweets. When something seems so impenetrable, it’s easy to feel it’s irrelevant to your construction business. But Su Butcher, from social media consultancy Just Practising, is here to challenge those misconceptions. If you’re ignoring Twitter, you might be missing out on an easy way to support your clients better – and find new ones.
Su advises construction companies on how to use the Internet to achieve all sorts of business ends. And she’s seen companies of all shapes and sizes get rapid and lasting benefits from using Twitter.
“The construction industry is built on relationships between individuals,” said Su. “And Twitter is also about relationships between individuals. Everyone in construction works with people they know and gets introduced to people they know. And they recommend people they know. It’s a very networked industry.
“Many construction companies and individuals use LinkedIn to connect and talk to people they know, but it’s quite a closed network.
“Twitter, on the other hand, is much more open. It’s also important, because it’s such a large network. The last time they published statistics, there were 15 million active Twitter users in the UK.
“It’s a very useful tool for professionals to meet new people, to learn and carry out networking conversations more effectively.”
Who’s Your Audience?
Before you decide whether Twitter’s right for your building business, you need to work out who your audience is, where they are and which platforms they’re using.
“One thing I do with clients who want to know what type of social media to use is recommend they do an audit,” said Su. “This can tell you where your audience is and what they’re doing there, so you can decide what platforms to use.
“It’s also important to look at these platforms as part of an overall strategy for using the Internet – as everything is connected together.
“For example, people get hung up on Twitter only having 140 characters, but it doesn’t. You only need to include a link and you could connect to anything on the Internet. It has no boundaries.”
So what are the secrets of using Twitter effectively for construction companies?
- For individuals
The first way of using Twitter is as an individual, rather than having a company or branded Twitter account. An example of an individual who uses it really well is Ming Cheng (@ArchitectMing). He’s an architect who works for a large practice in London and is involved in product specification. He uses Twitter to talk directly to product manufacturers. If he has a quick question about a product, he asks it on Twitter. It’s very convenient for him to do that, because he can just leave it with them and wait for a reply. He doesn’t have to sit there on the phone waiting for a response. Essentially, he’s offering product companies an opportunity to have a conversation. Some companies respond to this well – and some don’t. But when you’re on Twitter, you really need to be prepared to have the conversation. If someone asks you something and you don’t reply, they can get a bit miffed. And if you ignore people, they might go and talk to your competitor instead!
- For companies to publish
Whilst individuals are the key building blocks of Twitter, there is a role for a company account. An example is publishing useful content; writing useful stuff should be part of your social media strategy. You should be making things that your target audience will be interested in talking about and sharing. An example of a client who does this well is SIG Design and Technology (@SIGDesignTech). A core part of their strategy is blogging about roofing to an audience that doesn’t know too much about the technical side of the subject. So they use Twitter to share blog posts and invite conversations about them. It also acts, from a brand point of view, as a place where people can ask questions. They’ve had a lot of success using Twitter to support their blog.
- As a company hub
You can also use a company account as a hub for individuals on Twitter. A good example of a company that’s doing this is Celotex Insulation (@Celotex). Celotex use their branded account as a central hub for all things happening around the country on Twitter. It includes several of their staff, their technical people, their sales people and all marketing activities. If you look at the tweets and replies, you see they provide technical advice directly via their Twitter account. Equally, if you have a group of people trying to achieve something, such as promote an event, Twitter is marvellous for sharing information about it. You can tweet from the account leading up to the event, during it and after it, and if people have questions, they can come and ask you directly. The branded Twitter account acts as a beginning point for people to talk to you and your organisation.
Having worked with a broad spectrum of businesses, from one-man band architects, to SMEs and now much larger firms, Su has a great template for building an engaged following. It’s a blueprint that can generate new leads and deliver on business goals in a matter of weeks. Here’s her seven-point plan for getting the most out of Twitter.
- Begin with your goals
If you’re going to have a social media plan, you need to decide where you want to go. Ask yourself what success looks like, and then try to measure it in something tangible. You can set intermediate goals, for example to have more followers. When people follow you, it suggests they like what you’re doing. But also think about what you really want people to do as a result of engaging with you on Twitter. This depends on what your business objectives are. Ask yourself what success looks like generally and this will help you decide whether Twitter is best place to be doing it – and where else you should be doing it.
- Carry out an audit
Find out whether the audience you have and people you want to reach are using Twitter or not. Also work out whom in your organisation should be using it. Is it the marketing person or should it really be someone else? Small companies often think we’ll just give the secretary some PR and she can tweet it, but it doesn’t achieve very much because they may not be the right person to have the right conversations.
- Time to connect
When you know who’s going to be using it, you need to start building your network. Everyone has a network of contacts, so start off by finding and connecting with those people.
The next step is to start listening to what your network is saying on Twitter. One of the really useful ways to do this is to use search. People often make the mistake of thinking they need to be on Twitter all the time in case someone says something you need to hear, but by using the right search tools you can get round all of that.
- Have conversations
Once you’ve found out what people are talking about, start having conversations and joining in. You’ll feel more confident if you begin by having conversations with people you already know in the real world. But because Twitter is public, what happens is those people may then introduce you to new people. And in no time, the conversations will lead to new relationships.
- Be useful
This is probably the most important part of the process. You can be useful in so many ways. For example, you can introduce people with common interests, or who are able to help each other. Or you can be useful through making and publishing useful content. By being useful, you will attract people with similar interests.
- Measure and review
Every month, ask yourself whether you’re achieving the goals you’ve set yourself. Twitter has its own analytics system, which is free to use and you can also measure Twitter traffic to your website. The things that are working, you do more of. Those that aren’t working, you stop doing.
You can find more useful resources for Twitter on Su’s website. She also runs in-house training groups for groups of 3 or more people.