Reaching Local Customers with Twitter: 5 Simple Steps to Success

By Kevin Knecht

June has been a relatively significant month for Local Search. The transition from Google Places pages to Google+ Local has been pretty intense. Shortly after Google’s announcement, a large ice sheet broke away from the glacial mass in Mountain View, sending a tsunami of change gushing towards SERPs around the globe. That said, I’d like to let the dust settle and shift the spotlight away from Google this week in order to focus on opportunities to connect with local customers through our old friend Twitter. By using existing tools in our arsenal, as well as some new ones, we can reach the people in our region more effectively.

Since I recently moved back to Detroit, I’ll be using the Motor City’s most popular meal as an example throughout this post: The famous Coney dog.

1. Twitter Advanced Search Operators

A somewhat basic Twitter Search can let you know a lot about potential customers in your area. Gathering a list of influencers is a great way to target prospective Twitter followers. Some essential search operators for our purposes are: near:city within:Xmi “keyword”. Let’s say that we own a Coney Dog restaurant in Detroit, and want to find people who are already talking about them. Our search would look like this:

Here we have a list to start from of people in the same area as our Coney Dog establishment, and they are clearly hungry (especially Antonio). Now would be a good time to reach out and make your presence known. You can get even more in-depth with Twitter’s Advanced Search by using terms like “want” “need” and “hungry”, as well as selecting options like the “:)” so you find people speaking positively about your subject. It also gives you the option to leave certain words out, or to target certain hashtags.

A little bit of experimentation goes a long way and will help you come up with a nice list of potentials. Save time evaluating your new list by adhering to Shawn’s rules for converting Twitter prospects.

2. Monitoring Twitter Hashtags

If you want to reach all the members of this group simultaneously, using their hashtags in your tweets will get you involved in the conversation. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we’re pretty big fans of ‘em at Thunder. Some quick research should be done to determine which hashtag will be right for your purposes. I like to monitor the chatter surround our topic in order to decide on the most appropriate hashtag. With Hootsuite, I can monitor several hashtags around our topic. In this case I’ve selected #coneydog. Adding this particular search to a stream on my dashboard helps me stay “in the know” in real-time.

When you find the hashtag that makes the most sense, continue to monitor the conversations to discover new potential customers.

3. Custom Email Alerts

Twilert is a free Web app that lets you receive emails of tweets containing your brand, product, service or keyword of choice. It takes all of the best parts of Twitter search operators and lays it out for you in a clear, concise manner. Now I can supplement some of the work I’ve already done by receiving email alerts whenever someone mentions a specific keyword or phrase of my choosing that is related to my industry.

Whenever users within a close proximity to my location tweet about this beloved morsel of food, I’ll be notified by email. Every time I receive a new alert, I can leverage this new prospect and enlighten them about a promotion or event taking place at my business.

4. Social Conversation Tools

We’ve mentioned Amplicate, Social Mention and Topsy in the past, but these tools are essential in helping us find others who are making a lot of noise in the Coney dog space.

While there was little “love” for Coney dogs on Amplicate, we can still identify users with “coney dog” in their bio. Additionally, I took it upon myself to nudge the convo bird out of the nest. Now I can check back periodically to see if anyone has contributed, and connect with other Coney lovers. You can thank me later.

With Social Mention we can see that there are plenty of other contributors to the conversation. With all of this chatter it will be easy to make some waves. Make sure to use Social Mention Advanced Search to find results in Detroit, and append “&as_fu=&t=all&btnG=Search&src[]=twitter” to the end of your query to only see results from Twitter.

Next up is our old friend Topsy, which cannot be overlooked. It’s another great option for mining the conversation.

Now we have identified some major players in the local Coney conversation, and can start to cast out our lines in order to draw them in.

5. Reaching Out

Now comes the fun part. The easiest and most obvious way to involve ourselves in the local Coney conversation is to contribute to the discussion! Answer questions that are posed and respond with advice or why they should eat at our Coney Place.

Here’s a great opportunity to provide information about our Coney business, and to offer some incentive for her to choose us. Don’t forget to include one of our hashtags in the response! Perhaps this: “We’ve got Coneys on the mind too, Mari! AND we’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! #coneylove.”

With this tweet, you could respond with something like: “We couldn’t agree more Dan! Forks are for noobs. #coneyetiquette”

Offering promotions through our tweets are surefire ways to get the customers to recognize our brand and to think of us first. Free Coney! This better not be bologna…

And finally, here are some examples of how an actual Coney place utilizes Twitter to reach local customers.

Realizing the greater potential of social networks like Twitter is essential for businesses looking to maintain or achieve a local presence with their customers. Discovering new ways to interact with potential clientele will help you achieve your local search goals as we move forward in a world where social is an increasingly important factor.

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  • Kevin – great post. Thanks for walking through the steps of finding “coney” mavens and related hashtags, as well as outreach (again, with the reminder to use a popular hashtag in the updates). Obviously, this process can be used for any industry or business. Makes me want to visit Detroit and finally try one of these Coney dogs :)