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Updated 30 Mar 2020

How to use Twitter to market your business in South Africa

Twitter offers businesses in South Africa an opportunity to reach millions of potential customers. Here’s how you can use twitter to market your business.

Nicole Crampton, 13 November 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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Everyday millions of people engage with twitter to share information, discover new things and discuss experiences and their ideas. With a user-base amounting to hundreds of millions and over 500 million Tweets being sent daily, Twitters offers businesses an opportunity to reach a global audience of new and existing customers.

If you aren’t using Twitter as a marketing tool for your business in South Africa then you could be missing out on its powerful marketing potential.

Used as a marketing tool, Twitter can help you build significant connections with a relevant and engaged customer base. Currently over half of SA’s internet traffic is through mobile phones, which, according to digital media buying agency Atmosphere Orange’s Media Director, Chanel MacKay, makes Twitter one of the greatest business opportunities for growth.

Related: Improve your Twitter results

Mackay points out that 95% of SA’s major brands use Twitter to advertise their brands. Marketers have noticed the potential for market share growth and have started increasing their social media budgets.

How do South Africans use social media?

Twitter -user -experience

Twitter in South Africa had 5.5 million active users at the beginning of 2014, and has become South Africa’s favourite social media as its growth continues to surge. People are using this platform more and more to interact and engage with their favourite brands.

Businesses are using Twitter to promote competitions, flash sales and limited offers along with creating a buzz around their brand and new products or promotions. Twitter is also another portal to supply customers with added value, offering services like customer support and to have topical discussions about products and services. Between 2012 and 2013 Twitter users rose by 129% globally with an average of 54 million tweets each month.

Who is using social media?

A Twitter study conducted by Nielsen revealed that Twitter is growing in popularity and that it serves more roles than just for personal updates.

The study showed 53% of users in SA are between the ages of 25-44, 29% are between the ages of 16-24 with the remaining 18% being over 55. It also revealed that 56% of South Africans who use Twitter are women.

With these stats in mind your small business can correctly target your customer base

When do South Africans use Twitter?

Twitter -marketing -time

Twitter can be accessed on the move, anytime, anywhere. But mobile users still have more active times of day, which are the best times to send out promotional messages. The average Twitter user is most active during 6 – 9pm on weekdays and then again from midnight to 7am on weekday mornings.

Of the users surveyed, 52% said they read Tweets in their timeline on a daily basis, 40% say they actively Tweet and 37% said they look at the trending topics when they go on Twitter. You can pay Twitter to promote your small business at the top of the trending list.

What are users interested in?

Up to 64% of users say they use Twitter to keep up to date with breaking news and 39% use it for the latest sports information.

63% of South African users like to Tweet about jokes or humorous posts. Consider creating humorous adverts to grab the attention of your potential customers. Also, 69% of South African’s indicate music as one of their top interests: Have musicians create a tune for you or have one of them as your brand representative. Also of high interest are: Films at 67%, TV shows at 64% and travel at 60%, all of these can be used to frame your social media strategy.

55% of Twitter users engage with people they know and 53% connect with people they don’t know. Twitter is used as a way to discover something new and exciting, 58% of users are researching how to use this platform.

Related: Get your tweet on

SA brands

Twitter -marketing

South African brands aren’t performing as well on Twitter because most brands’ response time is well over four and a half hours, whereas international brands have an average reply time of three minutes. Since Twitter is an instant communication platform, consumers expect quick turnaround on their questions or concerns.

If you are considering using Twitter as a marketing tool for your business make sure that you delegate enough resources to offer your customers the right kind of experience.

Benefits for brands

You can increase brand awareness with a well-maintained social media platform. This can positively influence your customers’ behaviour, by reaching perspective clients with the relevant information they are looking for.

This also creates credibility and legitimacy by offering a reputable source for your businesses information. Trust will enable your business to gain a significant amount of customers and create customer loyalty.

Here are a few more benefits of social media for your business:

  • This is a user-friendly, easy way to learn about your audience and customers. Your social media platform will give you access to information such as age, gender, location, which will all support your marketing strategy.
  • You can more effectively target your audience. You can send out messages at a particular time of day, to specific audiences in certain areas.
  • Your small business can expand its audience by identifying and targeting new clients. Reaching out with social media to users, using tools like hashtags and campaigns.
  • Social media allows you to have a direct two-way communication with your customers. Your customers will now be able to communicate with your business and ask you questions directly.
  • This gives you a competitive edge over your competitors, because you’ll be able to gain important information about them, improving your businesses market intelligence.
  • Social media is good at directing traffic to your website. You can accomplish this by posting links to your website along with specifically targeted landing pages. Ensure that your content on your website is of a good quality to avoid disappointment and subsequent drop-off of visitors to your site.
  • Creating a positive business relationship with your customer. You can accomplish this by keeping them up to date and giving them the opportunity to offer their opinion on something new you’re going to offer, or give you feedback on something you already offer.

6 Ways to use Twitter to market your business

Twitter -usages

There’s surprisingly quite a lot that you can do within the 140 character limit for a Twitter post to drive interest in your business. Twitter experts, marketing professionals and services share their top tips on how you can successfully to market your business on Twitter.

1. Optimise your Twitter bio

Spend some time on your Twitter bio so that your business can easily be found through a Google search. Pay attention to creating your brand identity and creating the right kind of brand voice to suit your business.  

Your bio must inform your audience about your business and includes a link to your businesses website or a pertinent landing page. Having a consistent tone will help your audience understand who you are and what you do. Your bio should also be fresh, informative and interesting to attract the attention of potential customers.

2. Get colleagues and friends involved

Get your co-workers to follow you on Twitter and encourage them to tweet, retweet and engage with and around your brand. Your friends can help you to reach untapped networks and branch out your following. Don’t forget to mention your twitter handle on your business card to assist in combining your business and digital networks.

3. Interact with thought leaders in your market

Make a list of the top 100 influential people in your industry, add them to a private Twitter list and engage with them daily. Be casual and helpful about your correspondence not promotional. Build genuine relationships with these thought leaders and then look for opportunities to collaborate.

Mention these thought leaders in your posts and engage them in an open conversation around your brand. By creating a mutually beneficial relationship with influential users, they may start to share your content and expose you to a larger network of users. It’s always important to be polite and reciprocate. If they do mention your brand be sure to thank them and retweet the post to your connections as well.

4. Tweet on a regular basis

Regular tweeting is the sign of an active healthy profile. If you don’t tweet regularly people will forget about you or be unimpressed with your lack of engagement in your own product. You need your small business’s first impression to be a positive one, not that you haven’t tweeted for 23 days.

Daily postings and engagement will help if you’re looking to grow your following and increase engagement in your brand. However, quality over quantity is always something to remember. Your tweets should be relevant or informative, your audience needs to find value in your tweets or they won’t retweet your posts and will most likely stop following you. Try to write about things that you know your audience will want to read, retweet and favourite. 

5. Ask your audience to retweet

According to HubSpot’s "Science of Social Media" study, by just adding the works “Please retweet” in the content of your tweets you will generate four times more retweets. You can ask your followers to retweet, mention or favourite your tweets. Asking your audience to share content with a fresh tweet is an effective way to engage them, increase your network and find out useful information from them.

Do this in moderation though; don’t constantly bombard your audience with requests to retweet, but also don’t be shy to ask; consider it a call to action. You’re not asking for money, you’re just asking for a mention, many customers will be happy to retweet your tweet if the content is interesting.          

6. Keep track of your mentions

Know what is being said about your small business by tracking your brand mentions. If a response is appropriate, reply in a polite, professional manner. Customer service has become the new marketing. Many customers use Twitter to post their product queries and complaints.  By responding with frequent and quality posts the more impressed your audience will be with your business.

Set up Twitter searches for terms specific to your business, this will help you stay on top of your own brand and also keep an eye on your competition and what’s happening in the rest of your industry. Keep track of your small businesses mentions and join the conversation when it’s appropriate. For example if you set up a search term for “dentists Johannesburg”, then when you come across someone battling to make an appointment with a dentist in your area, you can respond and say how much you’d love to have them as your patient.

Related: Five ways to use Twitter for marketing

How to generate actual sale leads on Twitter

Twitter -sales -leads

Being able to turn followers into customers is essentially the point of having your brand on social media. You want a return on the time you’ve invested into managing your small business’s Twitter account. Here are a few easy ways to get this right:

1. Using a tweeted image to explain your product

If your product is new or you’re launching a new product, the image you attach to the tweet along with the written content needs to convey the main functions or uses of your product. The image should explain your product in a glance and entice Twitter users to click through to your website. Images are a far easier way to convey a lot of information at a glance; users also tend to retweet images more than just written content.

2. Use device targeting to find the right audience

Mobile and desktop target audience have different preferences that you’ll need to take into account when creating an advertising campaign. You refine your target audience even further by distinguishing between: Android and iOS, different operating systems, mobile operators and by the specific type of device.

Determine what the largest percentage of your audience is using to view your account. If your audience is primarily using, for example, iOS devices then your marketing strategy should be targeting iOS users specifically. You can reinforce your targeting by creatively having, for example, an iPhone in the picture with your product in the shot or with your website on the screen.

3. Draw potential customers in by asking questions  

By testing different variations of your Tweet content you can understand what resonates more with your audience. If that theme is asking a question, ask questions to your audience that your product can solve. This way, you’re explaining your product and reminding your customers of the problem that is being solved, and that it can be solved, in a concise and approachable way.

Paid marketing on Twitter

Mobile -marketing -techniques

This year Twitter launched “self-serve ads” specifically designed for small businesses within South Africa. This means if you’re a small business with a small budget of even R1 000 you can start advertising on Twitter as a portion of your more comprehensive online advertising strategies.

Remember that having advertising on Twitter isn’t enough, the majority of advertisements will be directing users to your website and if you don’t have a website then you’re not going to benefit from the advertising. Here are eleven steps to help you set up your “self-serve ads”:

Step 1: Login

Your first step is to log into your Twitter account and go to Once you’re there you’ll be asked for your country and time zone to determine your currency. Then you’ll click permanently save these settings.

Step 2: Campaign options

This page will also allow you to decide which campaign you would like to employ. You can choose between the following:

  • A promoted account, which are designed to help you gain more followers
  • Promoted tweets, which are designed to encourage users to retweet, favourite, reply and follow

You can also select the option of running both options simultaneously; you’ll just have to set it up one at a time.

Step 3: Give your campaign a name or title and a set time frame.

The default setting for this campaign is to run endlessly. This means that your campaign won’t stop until you manually end it or your budget limit is reached, which is why it’s better to select a start and end date.

Step 4: Add @usernames to target their audience.

For this strategy to be successful, you’ll need to select users who have followings similar to yours. Since those going for this strategy are entrepreneurs and small business owners, the usernames chosen are bigger accounts with followers who could be potential customers.

Step 5: Add interesting categories to target a broader audience.

This option requires that you select relevant categories that your audience is interested in. Casting a wider net can help you find potential customers and help potential customers find you. The more categories your business falls into, the more users with different interests will be attracted to you. Keep in mind that you mustn’t dilute your business, keep the categories and extensions centred on one main theme. Customers won’t appreciate a company who’s a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Related: How to take advantage of Twitter

Step 6: Select all the locations you want to reach.

This section is unfortunately limited to selecting South Africa alone. Twitter doesn’t have a further refinement option for cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban

Step 7:Determine gender, language and lists.

Gender will help you target the appropriate target market so that you aren’t selling something typically feminine to men. At this stage there is only English as an option for “Languages” under SA. With the “List” option you can target specific people on Twitter; you could even target a list of businesses that you’d like to partner with. You can group all these users, of interest to you, in a List on Twitter. You can create this List from your profile on Twitter.

Step 8: Inform users why they should follow your account.

You have two options with this step, you can either select a previous tweet or you can create a new tweet. Your tweet should encourage users to follow you as well as a call to action. Consider attaching an image and link to your website for added emphasis.

Step 9: Budget

Set yourself a budget, otherwise you might be surprised when your bill arrives after you’ve achieved your followers’ target. You should set a maximum amount to spend per day to avoid using up your whole budget in one day. You need to prolong your exposure on Twitter for as long as possible. Decide on the maximum amount you want to pay per follow.

Step 10: Campaign summary

The campaign summary will display which steps you’ve completed. You’ll have three options to progress, namely: Schedule Campaign, Start Campaign and Save as Draft and Exit. The first two options will begin the promoted accounts campaign depending on which date you set. The third option allows you to come back and edit at a later stage. If you want to change something you can select Modify Details and you’ll be taken back so you can change, add or modify the details of your campaign.

Step 11: Credit information

This is where you enter your financial details. After they’ve been approved your campaign will begin.

For more information visit

Examples of businesses using Twitter campaigns


Rock/Creek is an outdoor gear and apparel retailer. This company’s campaign strategy focused on three key areas: Create a sense of urgency, experiment with content and keep users engaged.

1. Create urgency

To create a sense of urgency the business prompted users to take immediate action. They specifically used countdowns that highlighted the time left of the promotion to gain maximum responses. 

2. Change up your content

With this option Rock/Creek tested and learnt what worked and what didn’t. Specifically by using photos, hashtags and links to see what drove the highest engagement.

3. User engagement

Rock/Creek would start a conversation using Promoted Tweets. These would place messages directly in the middle of the timelines of their followers.


Buzzstream is a software development business. Its campaign strategy was to focus on three areas: Offer added value, target relevant @usernames and use visuals.

1. Offering added value

Buzzstream didn’t push sales with their Promotional Tweets. Instead Buzzstream collected potential customers email addresses by offering valuable content for them to download.

2. Target relevant @usernames

To connect with users interested in reading their ebook, Buzzstream focused on individuals with similar interests to the followers of nine specific @usernames. Each of these targeted @usernames was very precisely related to the content incorporated in the ebook.

3. Visualise

To generate interest Buzzstream combined Promoted Tweets with an image preview of its products. The product image appeared fully in users’ timelines because they used a horizontal image with a 2:1 aspect ratio.

Related: Why twitter might be your best recruiting tool

Helpful hints

Tweet -advice

Here are some more helpful hints on how to use Twitter to raise awareness for your business, grow a following and covert those followers into sales.

1. Stand out from the crowd

You can invite journalists and thought leaders to use your product. When they share their experience on Twitter they will also be advertising your business and introducing them to a much larger audience. You can also add trivia, coupons and pictures about your area or industry.

2. Work meets play

Use hashtags, witty comments and links to frequently asked questions you’ve tackled. To balance the work and play, you can add niche jokes, photos and cartoons.

3. Keep mobility in mind

Keep your followers up to date with your schedule, location and pictures of your products. Convenience and easy access is vital. Keep your followers informed in a way they can access easily and conveniently.

4. Hear your customers

You can use Twitter as a customer service platform. Helping your customers with problems or questions they have. Combine this with sharing discounts and deals, useful tips and pictures from customers.

5. Connect with people looking for your service

Engage with people who are experiencing problems with related products or services that you can help with. Tell them how they can solve their problems or which remedies they should try. Surprise unsuspecting customers with helpful freely offered advice.

3 Tools to help you manage your Twitter account

Twitter -marketing -south -africa

1. Hootsuite

This will help you manage your social networks, schedule your messages for the time, engage your audiences and accurately measure your return on investment, all from the same portal.

2. Social Mention

Social Mention is a platform that allows you to search and analyse your social media. It aggregates your user generated content into a single information stream.

3. Unfollowers

This will help you to track and manage your twitter following. You will be emailed or tweeted notifications when users unfollow you.

Related: How to Use Twitter for Business

Twitter is used every day. 61% of South Africans visit Twitter every day. 2 out of 5 engage with those they’re following several times a day. 85% of South Africans are using their mobile device to access Twitter and 79% of users state that their mobile device is the primary way they access Twitter.

Your business can significantly benefit from being on Twitter and engaging with Twitter users daily. Twitter is an easy and strategic way to connect with millions of people around the world, and give your business and products exposure to a new audience.

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About the author

Nicole Crampton

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