Twitter encourages you to post short, 140-character status updates (“tweets”) that are sent to the people who have chosen to follow your messages and to the rest of the Web.
Twitter is a great way to stay connected with customers, vendors and colleagues and send brief bits of relevant information to those who are interested in your business.
HOW TO GET YOUR BUSINESS STARTED ON TWITTER
> Sign up for a personal account: Twitter has its own jargon and social etiquette that you’ll need to become comfortable with before launching a business account. Make sure to fill in the bio, add a picture and then take a few weeks with your personal account to learn the ins and outs of how to interact in 140 characters.
> Become familiar with search.twitter.com: Every tweet posted to Twitter (unless a user chooses to “protect” their updates) creates an individual web page with a unique URL. The advanced setting of search.twitter.com allows you to analyze the mountain of tweets added each day by keywords, geography and more to see what’s being said right now about what you care about.
> Choose a desktop Twitter program: While there are a number of free Twitter programs available, the current choice of most Twitter power users is TweetDeck. The main benefit of TweetDeck is the ability to sort users and search terms into separate columns. The columns create a dashboard of current activity that you can quickly glance at throughout the day.
> Find other people and businesses to follow: Visit search.twitter.com each day for two weeks, run a search for relevant terms to your industry and then follow the other users that you find posting interesting content. Only follow between 5-20 people a day to avoid looking like a spam account.
> Post to Twitter on the go: Twitter’s power comes in the real-time nature of the updates. If you are in a tradeshow, send out a tweet with your booth location. Offer a discount to your Twitter followers if they place an order on your website in the next 48 hours. There are a number of Twitter applications for BlackBerries and iPhones that make it very easy to manage your account throughout your day.
WAYS TO USE TWITTER FOR YOUR BUSINESS
> Be interesting: One of the main objections to Twitter is the perception that it’s a big accumulation of chitchat. In fact, a study of 2,000 tweets from Pear Analytics in August 2009 classified 40% of the tweets gathered for the survey as “pointless babble.”
Combat this by sending out content and updates that position yourself or your business as an expert. Because other Twitter users need to choose to follow your updates, it’s important to present your business as smart, successful and useful. Become a resource your followers turn to, keep them up-to-date with new developments in your area of expertise and you’ll quickly stand out above the noise.
> Reach out to your local market: Naked Pizza in New Orleans used a Twitter promotion to set the one-day sales record for their two-year-old pizzeria. 41% of their customers on their “Eat Like an Ancestor Day” promo on May 29, 2009 came from Twitter.
Naked Pizza wanted to focus on residents who live within three miles of their store and have been so successful reaching out to customers with Twitter that they have replaced the phone number on the billboard above their store with their Twitter ID.
Use the geographic search feature in the advanced setting of search.twitter.com to see who’s in your neighborhood.
> Listen in on what’s being said and join in: If you see a tweet complimenting your business, post a quick reply thanking them for their kind words. Send an apology and an offer of help to a complaint. Add your opinion about news stories that apply to your field.
> Ask questions: Twitter is a very useful venue for asking questions – whether it’s a recommendation for a new vendor or troubleshooting a computer problem. Questions also engage your followers and get them involved with your account. Make sure to thank anyone who takes the time to reply to your query.
> Retweet posts that will benefit your followers: When you come across an interesting link or a funny tweet from a user you are following, add “RT” in front of the post and send it back out to your followers. This is known as “Retweeting.”
Retweeting is a great way to recognize someone you follow for providing good content and to add quality information to your updates that may be out of your area of expertise.
> Include your Twitter User ID everywhere: Once you’ve decided to get started on Twitter, you need to add your Twitter ID to just about every piece of forward facing communication you send out.
Add it to your email signatures; post “Follow us on Twitter” links on each page of your website; add your User ID to the contact information on your business card; post a “Follow us on Twitter” sign in your retail location, include a “Continue the discussion on Twitter” link to your email newsletter, etc.
Twitter makes a bad first impression. If you keep with it, post a few tweets and find a few fellow Twitter users to follow each day for two or three week, I’m confident you will soon be using this new tool to expand the reach of your business into social media.