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How to find local business customers in Twitter

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Contrary to what you may have heard, when it comes to small and local business marketing, Twitter is not for the birds. And it certainly is not a waste of time – as long as don’t become a social butterfly and you actually get down to the business of getting new customers. Let’s explore some ways to do that. This first blog on the topic will be on how to find your local prospects in Twitter first.

Find your target market in Twitter

If you haven’t defined your target market, then you’ve been amiss because it should have been one of your first objectives when you started your businesses. So let’s assume you have that, and let’s say for illustration sake that you are a local vegetarian restaurant. Your target market then might be everyone within 5 miles of your establishment who might be health conscious or have heart disease, or who might be a member of PETA. How do you find them in Twitter?

#1 Use Twitter’s Advanced Search

One way to narrow down your search to your target market is to use Twitter’s own Advanced Search to find those talking about topics that matter to you in your area. You can enter a keyword like “vegetarian” and then the location with a mileage radius defined as in the screenshot below.

And the results were:

Most everyone there is your target market! Do you see any opportunities there to strike up a conversation? I can.

You can also perform searches with the ? option selected to return just questions. Why? Because if someone is asking a question on your topic, it’s an open door for you to jump in and answer.

Or use Followerwonk to find more local followers

Another of my favorite Twitter tools  is Followerwonk. It’s a real gem for helping you create relationships with people of influence, and you definitely will want to use that to empower your local follower outreach, but first you can also find local Tweeps in there just as you did in Twitter.

When you land on their home page, click on “Search Twitter bios” link. Then add your keyword and click the more options link where you’ll find a “local”field to put your city in as so:

And the results are:

And there you have people to follow and connect with.

This is limited as I mentioned before, however, because it’s just locating those with the vegetarian in their bio, not all those other vegetarians who are also talking about it. But those who make that claim in their bio have got to be pretty serious about it and probably are pretty vocal about it too. I’d say these are pretty powerful connections.

Followerwonk is even better for service professionals

Where Followerwonk really shines though is it’s ability to find followers in a certain occupation. This is perfect for service professionals and for those who form strategic partnerships with other professionals such as business advisors might with accountants and attorneys.

Here’s how I might find attorneys, accountants, doctors and more in San Jose, Ca. You can search on more than one at a time, just separate each search criteria with a | unless it’s more than one word, in which case you’d put the words in parentheses.

Note the “Limit search to” option. With that I can search in those that already follow me to find targeted prospects in my area and then use that to my advantage by then targeting them with my Tweets. I could also sort out the influencers, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That topic is for another day.

For even more local Twitter followers, try Twellow

And here’s yet another way to locate local Twitterers – Twellow.

Unfortunately, you can’t filter out just vegetarians in San Jose in Twellow; you only get local results. But that shouldn’t stop you from following those in the results anyway. Chances are they will know someone who knows someone who wants to do business with you. So follow away and build your local Twitter community.

Twellow also makes it crystal clear who the local power influencers are. Take a look at the number of followers Jeffrey Levin has. Wouldn’t you like to get on his radar? Granted, most of his followers are not local, but many probably are and when he speaks about the great dinner he had at your restaurant last night, do you think they are listening?

But here’s why I really like Twellow!

Check out their categories and then click on any that are relevant or related to your business. You’re looking for topics your target market would be interested in. Could be health. Could be animals. Could be cooking.

Once you have the category selected, you’ll see everyone who fits there with the top influencers at the top.  Then click on the “Show results for…” link at the top right. Hopefully yours is set for your city. (Twellow picks your city up from your Twitter profile and you can’t change it.)

Now you have a list of everyone that Twellow has determined to be in that category by way of their Twitter profile, or those who assigned themselves to those categories in Twellow, and who are in the vicinity. More people to follow in really targeted categories!

But I recommend not even going so deep as to filter by city. Do that too, but connect with influencers at the top level without the city identifier. “But how is that going to help a vegetarian restaurant in San Jose,” you might be thinking.

Because chances are your local influencers in your area are probably following influencers in the bigger space. If you can’t reach your local market in their front yard in San Jose, you might be able to meet them in the bigger circles they frequent.

Put on your listening ears with nearby tweets

There are a number of Twitter tools that were specifically designed to capture local Tweets. Nearby Tweets is one of them. It was down at the time of this writing, but it definitely is worth checking out when it’s back up. It will determine where you are, then dish up tweets in your area. You can change location and keywords to narrow your search.

We’ll talk about how to use tools like Nearby Tweets to do more than find followers in the next post. Suffice it to say that tools like this can be very powerful for your business.

Go where the locals are

Another way to find local followers is to find local hangouts or places of interest in Twitter. Is there a local event your target market might find of interest? If so, search for it and follow it. Your customers may be there! Then do the same for the following:

  • Neighborhoods or communities
  • Local clubs
  • Local landmarks
  • Other local businesses (especially competitors and related businesses!)
  • Event venues, museums and public locations
  • Local fairs, parades and community events (Pick up your local free newspaper to find those. You’ll also be listening in to your local follows for tidbits like that.)
  • Use the hashtag identifier, if there is a defined, one for find a local community or event such as #sanjosefoodfest

Follow lots

It’s an unwritten rule in Twitter that you should follow everyone who follows you. That doesn’t mean you have to, but the fact of the matter is many of those you follow will follow you back, so follow lots. You’ll get more ears listening to you that way.

Ok, so now you’re following locals. Now what?

Having followers is not enough, in fact could be downright meaningless. So you can’t stop there. Your goal really goes beyond getting followers. You need to make connections, build relationships and get your followers to be on the lookout for you.

How do you do that? That’s the topic for the next blog in this subject. We’re going to look at examples of how local businesses are using Twitter to pull customers into their door.

But first go forth and build your audience!

And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, “The Scoop,” to get notified when we post our next blog. You don’t want to miss it because that’s when we really get down and dirty. Sign-up form is below.

And if anyone else has ideas on how to build a local Twitter following, please leave them below.


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Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.

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