What does Twitter mean to you? If it's the place where you follow Stephen Fry and Beyonce, then you and your business are missing out on a huge opportunity.
"There's a lot of myths about Twitter, and the biggest is it is only for celebrities. Actually it's the greatest lead generating tool every invented," Mark Shaw will tell the English UK Marketing Conference on Friday 7 February.
According to Mark, the main problem with Twitter is that many people aren't using it correctly. He should know: it's been his career for almost six years, when the financial crash forced a career change on him from mortgage broking. Before that, Mark had been a very successful salesman, who had learned it was difficult to get into hospitals to sell medical equipment, but very easy to get in by offering a free demonstration or some other useful service. This approach, he found, also led to lots of sales.
Mark spent some time playing around with Twitter and learning exactly how to use this new technology for clients, but his career really took off when DJ Chris Evans invited him on to his show to talk about using this kind of social media.
"It's not like traditional ways of lead generation, which is where most people get it wrong. It is important people realise it isn't like a billboard or a radio ad: these things are one-way streets.
"The biggest advantage is that it's a two-way street, so not only can you send out stuff, you can listen and hear about stuff, and it's that listening and hearing about stuff that's a goldmine."
Mark points out that if you want to go on holiday to Bali, you simply type that into Google and you'll find all the information you want. "Now imagine you are a hotel in Bali and you want to find people who want to come there. Google doesn't work that way. But Twitter will be able to find you people. It has a huge search engine which is the most valuable thing. So you look for people who are asking for hotel recommendations on Bali and they are where you want to be. This is the value and its the biggest thing to find conversations between people where they are talking about stuff you are interested in."
Job done? No, as Mark will explain much more fully to marketing conference delegates. "The next problem is that you can't go from stranger to sale in one tweet, it doesn't work like that. You wouldn't like people messaging you like that."
The trick is -- and this is one of Mark's main messages about Twitter -- is that you have to start by helping people. One of his clients sold espresso coffee machines and wanted to expand by selling them to people who were fed up with Starbucks.
He advised the client to write a guide called Seven Questions You Should Ask Before Buying an Espresso Machine, use Twitter's search engine to find people who were fed up with Starbucks, and then offer them the link to the helpful guide on his website.
"That's now driving traffic to his website, and people read the guide, but his website sells the machines as well as so he started selling several a week that way," says Mark. Another client of his, a fitness trainer, had used a similar tactic by offering helpful information, and also ended up getting new clients.
"People think about selling, but you shouldn't be selling on Twitter. Just selling, never searching, you'll never get anywhere." What you need to become, says Mark, is an expert: someone people trust on a particular subject. Then you'll find the recommendations flow, and you will start to sell to people who have learned to trust you.
Another myth about Twitter is that you need to spend all your time on there. "It's about quality, you don't need to spend 100 hours a day on it. But you do need to do it on a regular basis, say half an hour a day."
Don't expect quick results, he says. "I get clients ringing me up about publicising something happening in a week's time: it's too late. Social media doesn't work like that: it's a long term thing."
"You have to find the right people to talk to, creating advocates for you. If I said to you Twitter is going to cost £500 a month you would go on a course, but because it's free they don't. Most people just think you press a couple of buttons and you've done it.
"But when people talk about Twitter, it's always about Stephen Fry, never how a business person uses it. The focus of my talk is very simple: telling you what you need to spend more time and focus on to make this work for you."
To learn much more about how Twitter can help your business, click here for more information on the English UK Marketing conference and register via our online booking system.
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