Passing (and Winning!) the Twitter and Google Test

Small Business Advice April 30, 2009 By Lisa Barone
I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic webinar yesterday afternoon on the subject of passing the Twitter and Google (TAG) test. You don’t know what that means, do you?

Yeah, I didn’t either. Turns out it was all about how to get your brand in front of your customers by showing up in the places they’re looking for you like Google, Twitter and the other social media avenues. And believe me, moderator Brent Leary made speakers Anita Campbell, Liz Strauss and Mike Volpe work for their keep in this one.

Yesterday’s conversation focused around two main points: The importance of forming satellite communities around the Web and using Twitter. If you weren’t able to attend yesterday’s webinar, here’s some of what you missed.
Building Satellite Communities

I had never heard the term “satellite community” before yesterday, but I now fully plan on stealing it from Anita. It creates great imagery for small businesses looking just outside their bubbles to find new, outlying communities floating among them. And that’s exactly where they should be looking. Winning the Google battle in today’s economy means reaching out to your customers where they’re naturally hanging out on the Web and doing things on their terms. Liz referred to it as setting aside our “concrete world view” and putting ourselves in network relationships. That’s what social listening is about.

As a marketer and small business owner, these conversations and other perspectives are very important because they tell you where to put your content. For a message to have meaning, you need a place to put it. And these social outposts help you find the locations where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. You also have to realize that the message you’re sending isn’t always the message that’s being received. And the message received isn’t always the message sent. You have to test it first. Social media and these satellite communities let you dig until you get to the heart of the data and the people you’re trying to reach.

So where should you be creating these satellite communities? Wherever your customers are already hanging out. Meet them on their turf. That may mean:

* Flickr
* Twitter
* Facebook
* YouTube
* MyBlogLog
* LinkedIn
* Ning
* Document sharing sites
* Vendor sites like Dell’s
* Product sites

Whatever you do, you have to give it time and commit to being there for the long haul.
More Twitter Talk

Not surprisingly, a good chunk of yesterday’s talk focused on Twitter and how small businesses can use it as an outreach and conversation tool. When asked which social network they couldn’t live without if marooned on an island, both Liz and Anita chose Twitter. Mike would have chose Twitter but he felt pressured to be different and went with LinkedIn. But it seems for all the buzz, Twitter really does deliver. Both Liz and Anita explained that Twitter provides small business owners with a great way to drive traffic to their sites and to connect with people. It’s more flexible, covers more niches, its faster and comes with a wider reach than many of the other social networks.

Twitter can seem daunting at first to many SMB owners because there’s just so much noise and chaos. To help make sense of the clutter, Liz suggested using Tweetdeck, a great tool that allows you to sort your followers into groups to make them easier to manage.

The speakers talked a bit about how social media tools like Twitter can really become change agents for small businesses, as long you work to understand them and “steer” them rather than trying to control them. Social media is about communication and it’s about sharing. You want to make it fun for people to share your message and make them proud to pass it on. And that really comes down to forming true relationships. Mike recommended using tools like Twitter Grader to find local Twitter users in your area and then start talking to them. You don’t even have to tell them what you do for a living. Just be their friend and the business connections will come second. You should also use Twitter to strengthen relationships with current customers.

If you want to pass the Twitter and Google test, focus on forming those important satellite communities on whatever social media outlet your community is already hanging out on. Also, get on Twitter. You can find me at @lisabarone waiting for you.