If you are doing any kind of online marketing these days and social media is in the conversation, you have probably heard of Twitter. However, knowing about it is very different than knowing how to use it. The basic premise is to say what you are up to in 140 characters. Yeah, that is very short and it requires some lessons in brevity and getting to the point.
Twitter has been around for a few years and has evolved into a whole new layer of communications. People use to talk about their lives, put out their content (like this blog post) and do cursory business communications. I see Twitter as a layer between e-mail and instant messaging. Email is a dialog that has almost unlimited space and is good for longer communications. Instant messaging is shorter and is usually best for short conversations when you don’t need to use e-mail or interrupt with a phone call. Twitter is somewhere in between and its biggest fundamental differences is that you can have a public conversation. You can bring people into the dialog, others that are “following” you and see your message or “tweet” can join in as well. There is the ability to have private conversations or send direct messages, but two people must follow each other for that to happen. This reduces and almost eliminates spam (auto-dm people take note) which is why people really like the service.
Small Businesses Are Using Twitter, So How Do I Get Started?
1.) Create a Username
When starting to use Twitter, the first thing you’ll have to do is create a username. You should probably use your company name for your business. You can create an account for yourself but that should be your personal account. You could use your Twitter personal account to tweet about your business, but you should have something dedicated and separate.
2.) Add a Profile Picture
You will also need to add a profile photo to your account. Samir Balwani has a great approach to this, “Once you’ve set your username, the next thing you should do is decide on a profile image. If you’re the business owner and are tweeting yourself, it may be best to use your own picture. However, if an employee is tweet as the business, it may be best to use the business logo.”
3.) Customize Your Account Profile
The most basic thing you can do is customize your account profile. The first thing you should do is create a custom background. There are places like Twitterbacks that can help you or you can simply display your logo. You can see the Network Solutions twitter account as an example of a customized background that helps make your profile stand out. Samir Balwani has some good advice – “On Twitter, it’s important to customize your account as much as possible. Creating a relevant, branded username, image, and background increases how much other users trust you. The more effort you put into creating a strong account, the less likely you are to look like a scammer or fake.”
Now You Are Up and Running, So How Do You Utilize Twitter?
Use a Twitter Application or maybe a few applications
Sure, you can use Twitter.com and watch your stream, but it is not very good at really getting the most out of Twitter. You should look at software like Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite to bring in your twitter streams and build lists and search windows. There are a ton of applications out there and I would recommend going to a site like OneForty.com to find applications that suit your needs.
Using Twitter Search
Search is one of the more interesting aspects of Twitter. If you go to the Twitter home page you will have the search engine as the primary visual cue. You will also see topics trending below it. This shows in real time what things are relevant and what people are talking about. It is fascinating to watch especially during events like the Olympics or to see what trends are shaping the conversation.
Get People to Follow You
Build Loyalty First and People Will Follow You
Now that you have everything set up, you need to ask and honestly answer the question “Why do people want to follow you?” Now, don’t expect to have thousands of followers immediately. You must focus on building true customer loyalty. The initial goal is to get a core group of fans interested in telling their friends about your business. There are a few approaches you can use in your small business to build your following:
Tips and Advice – If you are a small business that needs to establish your expertise in a certain area, providing tips and advice are perfect. You can also automate your blog feed to Twitter. A word of caution – don’t be a bot – I was guilty of this for a long time and lost a lot of followers on my personal account. Advice is great, but be a human a use the channel to talk to the other humans.
Be Human and Have Some Personality – I just mentioned the problem with the “info link bot” accounts. The only way Twitter works is for humans to talk to other humans and have a personality. Even you are a big corporation, you have some one managing the Twitter account. People want to connect with that person even if there is a corporate logo as the profile picture. There are numerous examples of companies that fail because they don’t put a human face or personality on their social media communications.
What Are You Waiting For? Get Started.
I hope this covers the basics and now that you have the basics down, get started. If you want some people to follow, you can find me on Twitter at @stevenfisher. Network Solutions @netsolcares is another great one to follow. See you online.