Getting started with Twitter: Guide for B2B startups

B2B - getting started with Twitter

Many of the startup clients I work with don’t have a Twitter presence. Likewise, there are many established firms that are also lagging. Most often, they’re too busy to think about social media and need a little help getting started or sustaining activity. They ask about how they can use Twitter – and why (some are skeptical of the value). My first question is always this: “What do you want to get out of it?” Lead generation is most often the main one. Brand awareness is another. “Social selling” sometimes crops up. Sometimes they’re not aware of the opportunities that the world of social media presents.

The fact is that today, having a Twitter presence is just like having a website: if you don’t have it, it’s a conspicuous absence. Having an established Twitter presence is now as necessity for demonstrating credibility. Can you imagine not having a website? What would happen if you approached a prospect, discussed their challenges and potential solutions and then…they did a Google search for your company and found nothing? No website? It doesn’t look good. Likewise with social media presence. If you don’t have it, it just seems like there’s something wrong.

Creating a Twitter account

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to set up an account. Twitter’s own instructions for account setup communicate the technical steps far better than I can, but there are some other considerations you should be aware of. When deciding on a Twitter handle, give it a bit of thought. As with domain names, bad things can happen when you remove spaces.  Be aware that you can change it later, but once you have an established network of followers, changing your handle will cause confusion. Imagine what would happen if one day you changed your email address without telling anybody. Changing you corporate Twitter handle is a rebranding exercise.

Looks count. Set your Twitter picture and profile background as soon as you can – before you start following and Tweeting (remember that when you “follow” another account, they will receive a notification of who followed them). Twitter accounts that show the default “Twitter egg” won’t be taken seriously, so they’re unlikely to follow you back. For a corporate account, your Twitter picture should be your logo, but you may need to adapt it to a square format to make it look good. If need be, hire a designer to produce a professional profile background.

Ok, What now?

At this point, it’s time to follow a few people. When you start, Twitter will make some suggestions, usually celebrities, politicians and a few others with huge followings. They are not in your industry. They are not part of your audience. Stay focused. The best place to start is to write a list of high profile people and organisations in your industry – analysts, journalists, bloggers, and information websites you and your customers visit frequently. Once you start following, Twitter will automatically suggest other accounts based on who you have already followed – many of which will also relate to your industry. Don’t follow too many to begin with – you’ll drown in the fast-moving stream of updates. Depending on how active the people in your industry are, following 10 to 30 accounts may be a good start.

To begin with, it’s worth resisting the urge to start Tweeting and spend a few days in “listen-only” mode – observing what’s going on to help you tune-in to what others are doing and saying. At the start, nobody is listening to you (yet) anyway. What is the tone of the conversation? What are people Tweeting about? Who is most vocal? Who are the high value content sharers? What is getting retweeted? What gets ignored?

Quality not quantity

When you’ve got the lie of the land and feel ready to start Tweeting, be focused on what your audience wants. Sharing high value content that relates to your industry is great, but sharing a picture of your lunch is not so valuable – particularly when Tweeting from your corporate account. We live in the age of information overload; so do you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution? People seek out subject matter experts who can help them cut through the noise. If you want people to follow you, you need to be the scrupulous curator. So don’t pollute your own Twitter stream with rubbish. The key is to provide value, so the question to ask before every post is this: “Is this of real value to my audience, or am I just pushing how great we are?” If you can consistently share content and insights that really help people do their jobs better, you’ll gain followers and trigger interactions – and the value you’ve provided will be remembered when it comes to evaluating vendors.

Scale up reach by developing your organisation’s “personal brands”

Social media is…well…social, so it’s about interaction between people. Having a corporate Twitter account is good for keeping people up to date with the latest news from your company, but most of the real day-to-day interaction happens between non-corporate Twitter accounts – your staff. B2B tech companies have a wealth of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) but most of the time, they’re hidden away in the back office. The irony is that it’s these people who have the knowledge and insights that your prospects most want to tap into. Some organizations are lucky enough to have social-savvy experts who already understand the value of social media to your company (social selling, content sharing, word-of-mouth recommendations, etc) and to themselves (raising their personal profiles in the industry, which really helps their careers).  Other organisations are not so lucky and are challenged to get their experts online. Whatever your starting point, the end objective is to scale-up social interaction by establishing a corporate presence and as many associated personal brands as possible – individuals who engage with the industry, share content and act as employee ambassadors. There is a difference between what your corporate account shares and what your people share. Tweets from your people will be more personal in terms of content and tone. Context is often more important to professional (versus corporate) Twitter accounts. If one of your consultants is visiting a trade event, then sharing the location of a nearby coffee shop that does awesome Cappuccinos is relevant to their audience and does add value.

Have a social media policy

Technicall, this ought to come first, but it’s difficult to form a social media policy before you have an understanding of the landscape. Social media policies are a deep topic unto themselves, but you probably don’t need anything complex to begin with. Avoid analysis paralysis and create something that you can build on over time. There are bound to be mistakes you will learn from (like almost everything else, it’s as an iterative thing that evolves). However, social media crises happen all the time – and can cause real damage to a brand, so it pays to get the basic principles right from the start:

  • Keep tight control over who has access to your corporate Twitter account. This shouldn’t be an intern.
  • Let staff know that they are representing the company and should behave accordingly. Use a professional picture. No bad language. No abuse…of any kind.
  • Encourage staff to cultivate separate work and personal Twitter handles. It’s works best when people use different avatars for different purposes, although some people can get mixed up when switching between them (the “wrong pipe” error).

Every organisation’s social media policy will be different – according to your business model, brand personality and objectives. It’s advisable to liaise with your HR team (if you have one yet) to formulate a workable social media policy (that doesn’t infringe on employee rights as individuals) and get it shared across your organisation. It’s worthless if it lives on a shelf. Generally, people will pay more attention to the contents of a social media policy if you ask them for a signature to confirm they have read and digested the policy.

If there’s anything you feel is missing from this post, chuck a comment in below. Every organisation is different, so this certainly isn’t a comprehensive guide. If you need help getting social media off the ground in your organisation, get in touch for a chat.


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