Cincinnatians Making the Most of their Tweets

Hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites to connect in the online world. Facebook is about friends. LinkedIn is for business. YouTube is all about videos, and Flickr is a place to share photos.  So why and how do folks in Greater Cincinnati use Twitter?

Launched in 2006, and billed as "microblogging" site, it's a difficult social networking tool to explain to those who don't "Tweet." Twitter is Spartan compared to its social networking cousins: user profiles are limited to one photo and the briefest of explanations of who you are, including a web site link.

Brevity is Twitter's hallmark; whatever you need to say, you need to say it fast. Status Updates are limited to 140 characters, as are those of your "followers," the people who subscribe to your updates.

As with all of these free sites, businesses and professionals have created their own profiles looking for an inexpensive way to reach out to current and potential customers. There's really no one way to use Twitter, and different businesses have developed various techniques. Still, there are a few basic rules that businesses seem to agree on. Tweet often, updates shouldn't always be about business, respond to questions and request and be yourself.

Soapbox Cincinnati is passing on some top tips from some Cincinnati businesses and organizations that give good Tweet. These Tweeps were chosen based on a decidedly unscientific method, recommendations from local Twitter users and staff.

Barb Cooper, co-owner of Daisy Mae's Market at Findlay Market, has used Twitter nearly as long as her 1-year-old business has been up and running. Cooper Tweets from @daisymaesmarket  and has just over 800 followers. She began Tweeting by following people she believed would be interested in her business or the Findlay Market community. Initially, she connected with people at the Findlay Market twitter page and expanded from there.

Like most businesses, Twitter is just a piece of Daisy Mae's online marketing and outreach. Daisy Mae's, a fresh produce market and delivery service, also has pages on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as a blog. Cooper updates all the pages personally and thinks that's important to the businesses' online authenticity.

"I do all of the tweets and the update the online presence. I think it's hard to be a third party and do twitter for a business that you work for. You have to feel the passion (for the business); you have to have skin in the game," Cooper said.

Cooper tries to Tweet at least a dozen times a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening. In Tweeting, she practices a rule of thirds: one third of her tweets are specifically about her business, one-third about the Findlay Market and greater community, and one-third are personal.

For example, in a given day she could Tweet a special at the market, a link to an article about Findlay Market and a sleepy good night from home before bedtime. It's important not to just push out business information because that gets boring for her, and her followers.

"I think it's important promote the other people that you are connected with and converse about the neighborhood," Cooper said.

Matthew Buschle, owner of gourmet casual Virgil's Café in Bellevue, has been Tweeting for about a year and a half. 

"I saw it as the opportunity to spread the word about my restaurant in a pretty non threatening candid way which appealed to me," said Buschle, adding that he had no specific beginning strategy, except to have fun. "I tweet fun stuff and occasionally give stuff away. People seem to want to follow me."

Virgil's has just over 300 followers, many who Buschle said are loyal customers. He's met many of in the restaurant, and said Twitter has helped him generate business.

Buschle tries to Tweet every day and updates include meals of the day, jokes (example: Apparently it is national Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day and no one informed me until now!! Really!!!! #bullsh*$) and a lot of conversations with followers.

"I think people see some of the reality of what this business is. I tweet in my own voice, I feel that is why people follow me. I think they see the personal side of this business and it endears me to them," Buschle said.

Twitter is a great place to get real-time quick information, which is why Metro has a Twitter account. The public transit organization also has a Facebook, Flickr and YouTube page. Jill Dunne, Metro's Public Affairs Manager managed the Twitter account, which can also be accessed by the marketing department.

"We created a Twitter account primarily to distribute route detours and other information to our riders. We already provided commuter alerts, which send route information to our riders via emails or texts, but we jumped at the chance to add another outlet to provide text-based updates on route changes as they happen. Since Twitter is a free service, there were no reasons not to add it to the mix," Dunne said.

Metro has about 2,300 Twitter followers about 1,000 more than a year ago. Many of Metro's followers are people looking for route updates and other alerts, though Metro's Twitter strategy is evolving beyond those utilitarian updates.  Recent Tweets include links to articles promoting public transit, a thanks to a specific follower for riding the bus, and information about a new board member.

As you might imagine, responding to riders' questions, comment and problems is a big part of Metro's tweeting.

"We reply to messages as much as we can. We try thanking people who say good things, and if someone has a complaint we try to help resolve the issue, if possible," Dunne said.

Twitter and other social media are a great way to get feedback from the public, compared to emails or other forms of communication, Dunne said.

"Twitter and social media in general has been a very helpful to us. It's a great way to get feedback. People might not be willing to go to our website and click on "Contact Us" to tell us what they think, but many times people won't hesitate to share good or bad experiences on Twitter," she said.

Photography by Scott Beseler.
Barb Cooper, co-owner of Daisy Mae's Market at Findlay Market
Barb Cooper with her tweeting machine
Matthew Buschle, owner of Virgils in Bellevue, KY
Virgils interior
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