Did you know that more than 51,000 people follow @CaterpillarInc on Twitter? Who are these people? Don't they have anything better to do? Why would anyone care about the latest tweets from a boring company that makes boring farm equipment? You should.
If you're a Caterpillar customer, employee, vendor, supplier or partner, you're not only interested in what's going on with the company. You're also interested in the industry. This is your community. These are your chosen people. Not in the farm equipment business? There are companies from all sorts of non-sexy industries that are making good use of the service to educate their community and help sell their products, let alone provide customer service. Don't think that Twitter is necessary for your business? Well, you're wrong. Today, having an active Twitter account is as important as having a Web site.
"It's not just Jay-Z or an NFL player," said Twitter's senior director for SMBs, Russ Laraway. "And Caterpillar isn't the only example. You'll find companies like Raytheon, Siemens and Honeywell who are also very active. And there are thousands more in the B2B space."
It's not for you? Doesn't apply to your business? Not true. If you want proof, take a quick visit to @CaterpillarInc and see what they're tweeting:
- "Read how natural gas is helping the world's population gain access to electricity. bit.ly/1taEd4z"
- "Between 1944-1956, our machines helped construct 70,000+ miles of highways throughout the U.S. http://bit.ly/S70iVM."
- "Did you know the two biggest threats to machines are fire and theft? Learn more at the On the Level blog: http://bit.ly/1k87Anu"
- "VIDEO: Get an inside look at the sustainability benefits of remanufacturing. http://bit.ly/1lJXmaK"
These are not jokes. There are no musings. No editorial comments on the state of the world. No political commentary. Just information. Links to videos showcasing the company's new products or a "behind the scenes" look at the filming of a commercial. Connections to blog articles about the industry, trends and news. Mentions of case studies, customer stories and other interesting articles about the trade. Connections to related Twitter accounts like @catsafety (2,500+ followers). Updates on the company's activities at conferences and trade shows.
This is an example of a profitable but ... well, let's admit it ... boring company (sorry, Caterpillar) making things like boring farm equipment that's using Twitter successfully. OK, so you're not producing hip-hop, you don't play in the MLB and you're not starring in the next Hunger Games film. Maybe your firm or your clients' companies are profitable and ... well ... kind of boring too. Maybe they make corrugated containers. They distribute automotive piping. They manufacture wastewater treatment pumps. They're plumbers. Contractors. Auto mechanics. Boring! But they -- and you -- have got information to share with their community on Twitter.
You -- and they -- can give away free tips and helpful advice. You can send out links to stories about your profession and their industries. You can share safety and training guidelines, customer success stories, case studies, news, commentaries, updates from the conference you're sponsoring, technical information, even a funny video once in a while. You are not boring. At least, not to the other boring people in your industry. Why not be a thought leader and create a repository of information that will help attract new clients and engage your existing ones? You can do what Caterpillar does.
Does this take much time? Not really. Caterpillar posts about two to 10 tweets a day. Sometimes there's a conversation, most of the times there isn't. How to get started? Laraway suggested three basic steps after setting up your Twitter account.
- Get rid of the egg avatar and replace it with a good background picture. Then take the time to fill out a meaningful, interesting profile.
- Import your client list and follow them.
- Decide on your strategy. How many tweets per day? What information will be tweeted? Integrate it with updates on your Web site, blog and industry sites.
This is not that hard. Devote some resources. And then give it time. Look back after a year and you'll be surprised at what you've done. You've created a community. Maybe there are a hundred followers. Maybe a thousand. But these are all people that (at least at one time) want to hear what you've got to say. Just like the people who follow Caterpillar. Which is case in point that no business is too boring for Twitter. Not even yours.
Besides Accounting Today, Gene Marks writes for The New York Times, Forbes and Inc.com. A version of this column previously appeared on Forbes.com
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