With Twitter blasting out of the gate with IPO news, not to mention 230+ million monthly active users, many local marketers have been left wondering: when does it make sense for a local business to test Twitter ads? And, how much time and energy should be devoted to Twitter with the myriad of other social media platforms out there?

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For certain local businesses, Twitter can serve as a terrific channel for boosting their online presence, raising overall awareness, attracting new followers and leads, as well as driving more traffic to their website and customers to their doorstep.

Twitter is particularly effective for local restaurants and retailers that are more inclined to generate check-ins and posts from in-store customers. Local marketers can and should capitalize on this organic traffic by using Twitter as a vehicle to promote special offers, discounts, and product/menu updates that drive consumers to their locations and entice them to spend and spend more.

Conversely, for service-based businesses (e.g., roofing contractors, real estate, plumbers and companies heavily focused on lead generation), Twitter, in our judgment, becomes more of a secondary vehicle that supports other online marketing activities. These businesses do not typically benefit from posting and/or promoting constant updates on Twitter.

Instead, the key is to stay top of mind for customers by announcing new blog posts, business updates, newsletters, community involvement and other interesting news. This drives prospect engagement, building up the business’ online presence and helping to develop a personality, ultimately pushing customers to choose their business for a product or service when the time is right and the need is there.

Twitter & The Local Marketing Boon

Beyond posting updates, Twitter now offers businesses a variety of local advertising options, including the three listed below:

Promoted Tweets

Promoted tweets are regular tweets that target current and potential followers with a particular message. These ad-driven posts help local businesses engage with new prospects, with Twitter doing some of the legwork by helping to identify a business’ most interesting tweets. Promoted tweets are similar to a promoted post on Facebook, showing up directly in users’ timelines. These often work best when a business is announcing a local promotion or special offer.

Promoted Accounts

Second, marketers have the ability to create a promoted account, which helps attract new followers. Local businesses often benefit from promoting their account during a seasonal campaign when adding more volume can drive overall engagement. Twitter will display @localbusiness’ profile to users in the “Who to follow” section, and businesses only pay for each new follower. This can be a very cost-effective tactic for local businesses and marketers.

Promoted Trends

Twitter also offers promoted trends, which are placed next to a user’s Twitter timeline. Targeting promoted trends to specific geographies helps capture prospects’ attention at the local level. This can be powerful for franchise-based or national-to-local companies trying to reach more customers at the local level. In addition to trends, local marketers can also use ZIP code targeting for promoting tweets and accounts.

No Plans For Ads? Try Hashtags

Often, a good start for local businesses unsure or not ready for Twitter advertising is to post Twitter updates a few times a week including trending hashtags like #SmallBizSat or #BlackFriday. Getting even more granular, a national brand might create a hashtag and then encourage its local counterparts to also use that hashtag, creating new trends and pumping up the business’ overall brand and value message.

For example, Ben & Jerry’s national and local marketing teams have used the hashtag #FreeConeDay to build awareness for its well-known promotion across its stores nationwide to drive more customers to individual store locations.

As with all forms of advertising, it is critical that businesses take the time to closely monitor analytics so that they know which ads and non-paid efforts are performing best and how to modify their campaigns to reach more prospects. Is Twitter driving clicks to your website? Do your promoted tweets have high engagement levels? How are our hashtags campaigns performing?

To date, most of the success of Twitter advertising has been with large retail and restaurant-based brands. However, it is a good time for local businesses to start experimenting, focusing efforts around new local products or services. While there is still work to be done, Twitter gives local businesses a platform to communicate with a new set of potential customers in real-time while building overall online brand awareness.

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