Twitter is the ham radio of social media. With it, you can sit in your basement (figuratively) and connect with like-minded individuals near and far away. Never mind that you enjoy nibbling on Manchego cheese while listening to Harry Belafonte songs, you can be sure that somewhere, someone shares those passions – and it’s on Twitter that you’ll most likely connect.
But what if yours is a local business looking to connect with more local people? It is true that you can find more people in your neighborhood on Facebook. But once you find those people, Facebook just isn’t conducive to your sending over a message to that neighbor who hasn’t been formally introduced to you yet. It’s like striking up friendships on the New York City subway – it just isn’t done.
So, back over to Twitter. You log on and search around for people in your area, and sure enough, you find a bunch. Then, you follow them and add them to a list, whereupon some of those people will take note and follow you back. And, for those that don’t follow you back, well, you’re following them. Over time, you’re bound to have the opportunity to engage.
Using Twitter Like A Good Neighbor
Once you build up a good list of local tweeters, you can start to interact with them. The approach that I have seen that is most effective is simply being a good neighbor, sharing your thoughts and information about your community. That means never being self-promotional: as soon as you start doing that, any trust you may have earned is going to go flying out the window.
It is perfectly OK for your profile page to be a bit self-promotional, and to advertise your business, but even there, I wouldn’t overplay it. Instead of a profile that says, “Acme Soap Company, your source for the finest scented soaps,” consider something that is friend-worthy like, “Acme Soap Company, helping folks stay clean and smell better.”
Better yet, include something that helps to indicate your being local like, “Acme Soap Company, helping folks stay clean and smell oh, so good, from the heart of Kingston, NY!” By including your local town or neighborhood name, others can more easily find you in local searches, and perhaps even feel a closer affinity with you for being a neighbor.
If you’re clever, you might even find a way to include some image that shows your hometown in your profile background photo.
Searching For Twitter Neighbors
Use advanced twitter search to search on city name and state or zip code. The search functionality used to include a drop-down that allowed you to narrow down the search by x amount of miles nearby – but that drop-down has disappeared. If you do want that functionality, you can manually input a search using the search operators near and within, like this:
In all of the distance search parameters, you can use “mi” for miles, or “km” for kilometers.
If you want to get even more technical, you can use latitude and longitude along with the “geocode” search operator, like this:
Not everyone who tweets from a general area will show up in the search results. Twitter typically pulls that information from either someone’s profile, or if they are tweeting, from a device that shares geo-location.
Following The Local Breadcrumbs
Another way to identify more locals on Twitter is to follow the accounts of local media like a newspaper or radio station. While it’s certainly conceivable that someone in Duluth is following Woodstock Times, you’re more likely going to find locals. But it’s also possible that the person in Duluth is an expat of Woodstock, and is still connected to the hometown.
You can also create regular searches for key phrases that might indicate an interest in local goings-on. This might not yield too much in a small town, but if you’re looking to create a list of people in a certain large-city neighborhood, this tactic can help to build a robust list. For instance, in New York City, a local marketer could find people that mention the popular recreation facility at Chelsea Piers.
Be on the lookout for hash tags being used by local tweeters. In Houston, the locals sometimes use #HTown, and then #HTownTraffic. If you’re sensitive and aware of these local hash tags, it could bring your own tweets to the attention of a larger local audience.
Twitter Local Ads
Twitter’s promoted tweets and promoted accounts can be an inexpensive way to remain prominent in the tweet stream of locals. At this time, you can select larger cities and areas, but not smaller towns.
I’d check back with Twitter’s advertising platform often. Twitter executives have indicated that small and local businesses are important to the company, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t update this functionality in the near future.
A Wall Street Journal study found that only a fraction of small businesses consider Twitter a viable social media platform to grow their business. I’ve certainly heard it from business owners, too, with sentiments like, “people don’t go on Twitter to make a purchase.”
That thinking exposes an age-old sensibility that marketing activities have to yield direct results, and misses the potential value of a relationship-building platform like Twitter. If you do it right, those new local friends might even become your friend on Facebook.
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