Twitter: Trick or Tweet?


From solid sales leads to social media trolls, Twitter opens up a new channel of engagement for your business – some of it more welcome than others. Elit Rowland shows how you can respond.

95% of Publicans say they use social media
16m UK Twitter users predicted by 2017

The cynics among us will still argue that Twitter is ‘just for fun’ and used only to ‘engage socially’ with friends, family – and celebrities. But it’s also increasingly being used for business.

Social media is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of your customers, whether they are retailers or caterers. Twitter, which launched in March 2006, has 316m users globally while Facebook, which launched just a couple of years earlier, has an astonishing 1.4bn active accounts. Here in the UK, there were 8.6m Twitter users in 2012 and there are expected to be 16m by 2017 – that’s more than a quarter of the population.

In a recent poll taken by Inapub, a magazine for pub licensees and their teams, 95% of its 20k readership said they use social media regularly, with more than half (55%) using Twitter. That’s a lot for wholesalers to play for.

Retailers and caterers ‘follow’ suppliers on Twitter to keep up to date with deals, promotions, news and more. The savvy wholesalers are responding – putting systems in place to generate and mine sales leads.

Have a plan
Decide on your objectives and your ‘voice’

But you can’t just stumble into the Twittersphere without being prepared – not when everyone (including your competitors) is watching! Having a solid strategy is key.

The first place to start is to decide what your business objectives are – what do you want to achieve and how do you plan to get there? How will you deal with challenges and how you will measure success? Once you have established these, you need to find the ‘voice’ that’s right for your business. Will it be funny and friendly or educational and informative? Develop a ‘house style guide’, which can be used by anyone handling your business Twitter feed.

twitter-bubblesOne of the key elements to doing social media well is being able to respond to customer feedback quickly and professionally. Ensure you are well-prepared by putting together a step-by-step procedure to handle customer complaints. Decide who your point of contact for customer service will be and ensure they work closely with your social media ­manager.

Open dialogue
Be proactive and reactive 

A good way to develop a successful business Twitter feed is to take inspiration from other popular feeds and learn from them. Research by Retail Week about which retailers are using social media the best identified that Twitter was principally used as a ‘customer response mechanism’.

The brands that were analysed sent out an average of 1.35 Tweets per day per brand, with almost 60% of these Tweets being replies, suggesting that the channel is mainly used to answer customer enquiries and complaints.

It’s no surprise when it seems people today are even more likely to send a complaint using Twitter than by phone or email. However, the better brands are using this feedback to improve their businesses; the best ones are engaging with customers proactively – not just from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Amazingly, only 18% of Tweets in the Retail Week research were sent at the weekend. That’s a big opportunity for wholesalers to shine brighter than some of the biggest UK retail brands.

A few useful general points


  • Be nice: Be positive and friendly – no one likes arrogance or over-confidence. Make sure your social media manager has a level head. Customer feedback can test your patience!
  • Share deals and events: Twitter is one of the best ways to share your promotions in real-time – share images of trade days to drive interest and get customers to come to your depot.
  • Be curious: Don’t just live in your own ‘social media bubble’ – have a look at what your customers are talking about and where relevant, get involved.
  • Be current: Stay aware of what’s trending using the hashtag (#) and concepts like #Fish&ChipFriday, #SteakWednesday and #ThrowbackThursday to generate more engagement.


  • Gratuitously follow: Never follow to be followed back. A popular Twitter feed will grow organically. Lidl is a good one to watch: it has 205k followers but only follows 887 accounts.
  • Be too commercial: People will switch off if you’re always selling. Mix commercial posts with educational material, such as guides to allergen regulations and articles in the trade press.
  • Get personal: Remember that your views are no longer your own – they represent the best interests of the company. Be positive, friendly, informative and professional.
  • Drink: Social media and alcohol do not mix.

 Click here to find out about the ‘Six twitter personalities you need to know


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