How to Build Real Relationships With Customers on Twitter


So you’ve developed a strategy to target potential customers on Twitter — bravo! But that’s just the beginning. Creating engaging content and developing relationships on Twitter are the next big hurdles.

Average Twitter users follow at least five businesses, and 37 percent of users buy from the brands they follow. You can capitalize on these odds by building relationships on Twitter through smart, well-planned messaging.

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Be Authentic

Authentic relationships are key to social media marketing success — especially on Twitter. Each tweet should say something you wouldn’t hesitate to write in your autobiography. Don’t focus on individual tweets; instead, think of all your content as a cohesive, ongoing narrative:



What Story are You Trying to Tell?

Be sure to showcase your expertise, share knowledge, and answer questions. People remember those who solved their problems or helped them see new perspectives.

Are You Telling Your Complete Story?

The biggest mistake I see is what I call “bullhorning”: Those whose Twitter feeds talk only about their startups and how much money they’ve raised — or provide nothing but links — seem like one-dimensional people who want only one-sided relationships.

Are You Using Your Genuine Voice?

Rehearsed content sounds like an egotistical parroting of experience and knowledge, but your customers want to know real people, not parrots. Be your true self, and you’ll be surprised at how frequently and enthusiastically people respond. When I see someone sharing real insights and engaging in thoughtful dialogue on social media, I have the urge to connect with him — and I usually do, via LinkedIn.

Every startup wants to look like the next unicorn (an exciting, unique company whose valuation is $1 billion or higher), but often their Google Analytics displays only chirping crickets. Early in my startup career, I was guilty of the same sorts of egotism and overconfidence. I thought if I acted like I had it all figured out, I would succeed. Eventually, I discovered that my startup problems were the same as everyone else’s.

People will want to learn more about you if you are comfortable expressing vulnerability — but don’t be a downer. The key is to have confidence in your idea without sounding arrogant.

The Rules of Engagement

Among the common misconceptions small business owners have about getting started on Twitter is the idea that because they’re little-known, their primary goal is to attract followers and scale.

This is not true. As big businesses scale, their goal shrinks to simply not tweeting anything that could hurt their stock prices. As a small business, you can engage more directly and candidly. Take advantage of this opportunity, and show your Twitter followers that you would love to engage with them and learn how you can improve your business. Be yourself and share your journey, and others will follow your brand and share theirs with you.

Other times, I see businesses buying software to get more followers because they think they need thousands. But your number of followers means nothing; productive engagement is everything. Instead of worrying about accruing more, focus on reaching out to your current followers through direct Twitter mentions, or ask what products they really need. You’ll be surprised at how your followers multiply when you add this kind of value.

Another common mistake is trying to use Twitter as an ad. Twitter now beats LinkedIn as the top social media platform for people in sales, but this is a backward approach. First, you need to build rapport; then, you need to listen to your customers. Make sure most of your tweets highlight your value, solve problems, and sound authentic. Then, when the time is right, go for the sale — at that point, software and other tools can help maximize the closing.

How to Best Utilize 140-Character Tweets

Twitter’s brevity is its strength, not its weakness. The 140-character limit forces users to compose short, compelling tweets. Here are some ideas for making the most of that space:

1. Remove Adjectives

Adjectives come across as salesy. Get to the point. For example, maybe you own a restaurant, and someone tweets, “Anyone know how to make a deep-dish pizza?”

You could reply, “@person: Deep dishes are tricky! Here’s a link to our recipe. Let me know if you need help!”

Many users would respond with “@yourhandle: Thanks!” — giving you an opportunity to reply, “@person: You’re welcome! Of course, you could just buy one of ours. Here’s a link to a coupon!”

You added value, and you didn’t hype with superlatives; you then went for the sale. It’s a very effective approach.

2. Pre-Shorten Your Links

This has two advantages: First, it gives you more space for content. Second, it allows you to use software to track the number of clicks you receive, which can show you how to improve the effectiveness of your tweets.

3. Create Public Conversations that Encourage Private Messaging.

Now that Twitter has removed the character limit from direct messages, you can start a conversation on the public thread and continue it privately through direct messaging.

This further personalizes your relationships, but proceed with caution — you don’t want to get spammed. Besides, it may be better to continue the conversation via phone or email to humanize the interaction.

4. Use Images

Dugg Burger of Dallas is doing a great job of using images and being authentic. For example, the restaurant tweeted an image of a recipe and then took advantage of the Twitter mention by sharing a coupon. This is a great example of adding value while generating revenue:

Twitter offers your small business an unparalleled opportunity to reach potential customers. Use these tips to communicate authentically and build relationships on Twitter, and you could uncover a gold mine of new business.

Twitter Conversation Art via Shutterstock

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Adam Root


Adam Root An intelligent, passionate, and articulate tech entrepreneur with an old-school gentleman’s flair, Adam Root is the Co-Founder and CTO of SocialCentive, a patented SaaS platform that utilizes social listening and marketing automation to help businesses find quality leads on social networks, share offers, and incentivize referrals.

3 Reactions

  1. Thanks for the article! Helpful content. I’d say we’re in the “bullhorning” category, but not because we’re bully, we just don’t have the time (or priority?) right now to devote to a social media strategy. How much time is the minimum for a startup tech company to spend on twitter messaging when they’re in bootstrap mode?

  2. I think it’s assumed, but being timely in your response is also key with Twitter. People are looking for almost immediate connection, not tomorrow or Monday.

  3. Aira Bongco

    The key to building real relationships is to connect with your followers in an authentic manner. Be a real person talking to them. That’s the only way.

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