Twitter has always been useful for promoting your business by sharing links and short messages. But how can you really use the platform to take customer service to the next level -- all in 140 characters or less?
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We asked a panel of successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) how they use Twitter to really connect with their customers, get feedback, generate new leads and solve problems, too. Here's what they had to say:
1. Generate Leads and ConvertWith the right strategy and resources, Twitter and other social sites can be important sales channels. It starts with proactively identifying potential customers, nurturing those relationships and offering relevant value. We recently connected with a potential customer via Twitter. After identifying her needs and offering her a promo, she became a new customer/fan within 24 hours.- Marvin Amberg, Caseable
2. AdvertiseTwitter ads allow startups to instantly amplify their message with tweets targeted to potential customers. For example, if you're at a conference and want more exposure, you can advertise on the conference hashtag. There's no quicker way to connect with customers on Twitter. You can sign up here.- Brett Farmiloe, Internet Marketing Agency
3. Schedule TweetsThe toughest thing to do on Twitter is to be consistently present. We schedule our messaging with Buffer, which enables us to make sure we're on Twitter every few hours. Then, if customers take the time to comment, it creates a quick opportunity for dialogue.- Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
4. Monitor Your KeywordsWe use Twitter as a social engagement and support touch point for our customers. A unique way to quickly connect with customers is to monitor your brand and products' keywords. You'll be notified when someone mentions you -- directly or indirectly. Responding quickly lets them know that someone is listening.- Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize
5. Pass Along FreebiesWe've developed a library of free content that we pass along to current and potential customers on Twitter. No email address is required to access the free content. We put it out there to offer value and build relationships, and karma has paid us back many times over.- Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Test Prep
6. Become an ExpertThe best way I've utilized Twitter is by becoming an expert. Provide content, tips and information that's useful to people, and make yourself the expert in your field. For my green cleaning company, we provide easy solutions to eco-friendly cleaning. People love our tips, and they recommend our services to others because they know we're experts. Twitter users also tweet me their questions, and I always answer them. Be social, and build relationships with your followers.- Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial
7. Utilize Twitter SearchIn Gary Vaynerchuk's book, "Crush," he recommends utilizing Twitter's search function to find people who are looking for what you have to offer or asking a question you can answer. I followed this advice a couple years ago, and I was able to grow our client base quickly by being of service to those in need.- Jennifer Donogh, Ovaleye, LLC
8. Have a Dedicated Customer-Service AccountHave a dedicated customer-service account, and promote it so that your customers will know to use it. This allows for the right personnel to handle the right issues. For instance, customer support experts shouldn't be your content marketers and community managers. Instead, they should be running the primary account.- Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC
9. Produce Original ContentProduce original content. Ideally, it should be in the form of a guest-contributed article for a credible publication within your respective industry. Where appropriate, reference relevant industry leaders, companies or even competitors who are also on Twitter. After it's published, tweet it early and often. There's an exceptional chance that those you've acknowledged will retweet the content, which will introduce their customers and clients to your brand in the process.- Jared Reitzin, MobileStorm Inc.
10. Humanize Your ContentIt's not all about business. People want to hear from people, about people things and in people talk. Promotions are great, but dialogue is better. The two-way dialogue that social media lends companies isn't often used to its full potential.- Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media
11. Read and Answer TweetsI use Twitter every day. I respond to every question, complaint and compliment. Twitter is very powerful because if someone takes the time to tweet, it means that they are a valuable potential or existing customer. People go to Twitter because they want to be heard and answered. We've closed deals from Twitter.- Sarah Ware, Markerly
Related: How You Can Be Successful with Customers Service on Twitter
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.