Twitter for SMBs: An Interview with Terra Ickes

Apr 23, 2014

Article ImageMajor brands and enterprises are already on the Twitter bandwagon, but SMBs can still be hesitant to fully embrace social media. Sprout Social developed a guide to help ease the transition for SMBs, and Terra Ickes, customer education manager at Sprout, answered some questions for EContent about the challenges of Twitter for SMBs.

Q: Are there challenges that are specific to SMBs when it comes to using Twitter for business?

A: SMBs are often trying to build their Twitter audience organically from the ground up, which can be a challenge when starting with a blank slate. However, SMBs have an advantage because they tend to have a lesser amount of inbound messages, allowing them to focus their attention on their engagement with existing and potential customers as well as their content strategy. Also, SMBs have the freedom to create their social brand identities from scratch, which can be a daunting task, but is necessary for brands to thrive on social in the long run. 

Q: "Also remember that your engagement and social strategy will vary based on the type of conversations managed through your different Twitter handles." Can you elaborate on this?

A: Based on the nature of your Twitter handle, whether it be intended for a specific product, corporation, or customer service team, the social strategy will vary. For example, a Twitter handle dedicated to your overall brand presence may serve as more of an outbound or marketing channel vs support handle that acts as a customer service channel to manage incoming customer requests or issues.

Q: Can you suggest some appropriate success metrics?

A: New followers over a set period of time, number of retweets and favorites are standard, quantifiable ways to measure engagement and whether your brand is growing over time, but they are not the end-all be-all. Many brands that are considered "successful" on Twitter don't have the most followers, retweets or mentions, but instead stay true to their brand voice, have meaningful interactions with customers, and offer exceptional customer service.

Q: We talk a lot about what a great tool Twitter is for businesses. But are there some industries that just aren't a good fit for social channels?

A: Every business has to decide for itself whether or not it is willing and able to put in the time and effort to maintain and manage a social profile. Twitter is trickier for some industries than others, so creativity is key when establishing your social media identity. With that being said, any industry has the potential and opportunity to be successful on social if they execute correctly.

Q: "Most businesses have also had the challenging experience of trying to manage a negative incoming Tweet or conversation." Can you give me an example of a company who has dealt with one these tweets well?

A: There are a number of brands who have response plans in place when responding to negative tweets, and many companies do an exceptional job. Having a plan, staying true to your brand voice, and really listening to the customer is key to successfully fielding negative feedback.

(Image courtesy of Denys Prykhodov /