Effective use of twitter for your business 1.0 and 2.0
This an an online version of an article originally printed in BiS (Business in Savannah)Magazine, March 23, 2011.
Let’s start at the very beginning – Twitter 1.0: For readers who may have heard about Twitter, but haven’t gotten started. (The next article in this series – March 30, 2011 – will have information for those who already have a working knowledge of Twitter, but are looking for ways to use it as a more effective business tool.)
You’ve read the articles: Use social media! Get on Facebook and Twitter! What is Twitter and how do you put it to use for your business? Why would anyone want to know that you’re waiting for a coffee? The answer is: they don’t. They want to know more about your business, your products, your services, and the personality of your business: in short, your brand.
What is it?
Twitter is a social networking online community where people connect with short text updates (up to 140 characters) called tweets. Your tweets appear in your profile, and you can subscribe to (follow) other users. People who subscribe to your profile are your followers. A real-time display of all the tweets from people you follow will appear on your twitter page.
In order to give specific examples of how to implement the suggestions in these articles, we’ll say your business is a pet store in Savannah named Savannah Natural Pet. You focus on natural products, you have an ecommerce website, and you’re a big supporter of the Humane Society.
Start by going to www.twitter.com and signing up for an account. You will need to choose a ‘handle’, the tag that you will use to identify yourself in Twitter (these always begin with the @ symbol). You want this tag to be short and easily identifiable. If you try @naturalpet, you’ll find that it is already in use. @natural-pet is available but that could easily cause confusion, so you choose @SavNaturalPet, which identifies you and places you in Savannah. Upload a profile image. This could be your logo, or a picture of you or a pet.
Write a concise profile so that people who visit your page can quickly decide if they want to follow you (Twitter gives you 160 characters for your bio). Yours might be something like:
Our pet store features natural products for all pets. When we’re out walking the dog here in Savannah, you can find us on the web. We ship anywhere!
This communicates your personality, and lets folks know that you have a natural focus, that you are in Savannah and online. There are several default backgrounds available in Twitter, and you can create a semi-custom background by tiling an image, but it is much better to have a custom background if you can swing it. Again, branding.
You will be prompted to find people to follow, and to find friends on twitter. Until you get your account going, it’s best to wait on this step. You may make your tweets public or private, but keep in mind that Twitter is the ultimate open community, and if you’re worried about people reading what you write, perhaps it isn’t for you.
When you sent a message, you have 140 characters (including spaces). This is a tweet. If you see a tweet in your feed and you think your followers would like to see it, you can retweet it at the touch of a button. This is like forwarding in email or sharing on Facebook. Everyone who follows you will see this post.
If you retweet this post written by @mary_siceloff
It would display as
RT @mary_siceloff 3rd annual Yappy Hour Blue Jeans Ball in Savannah February 19 Benefits Coastal Pet Rescue http://exm.nr/fcpXkq
In some platforms, you can also edit your retweet, (in this case, adding hashtags – more on that later) so it might say
RT @mary_siceloff 3rd annual Yappy Hour Blue Jeans Ball in #Savannah February 19 Benefits Coastal #Pet Rescue http://exm.nr/fcpXkq
You can reply to a tweet without retweeting, just like replying in email except that it is public – everyone who follows you will see it. It would look like this:
@mary_siceloff Thanks for posting about the Blue Jeans Ball – Can’t wait to go!
If you don’t want everyone to see a tweet, you can send a direct message (DM) to someone. This is only visible to the person you send it to, and will not appear in their public page or yours. You can only send a direct tweet to someone you follow who also follows you.
D mary_siceloff Great news about the Blue Jeans Ball – do you have a contact there?
Hashtags. When you add the hashtag before a word or (unspaced) phrase, anyone who searches that hashtag can see your tweet, not just those who follow you. In the examples above, the words #Savannah and #pet are tagged. This is a way of getting your tweets out there to folks who might be interested in your business, but don’t yet follow you. If they watch that hashtag (or meme), they will start seeing your posts and if they see value, will start following you.
These tags develop organically on Twitter – no one decides what they will be. You might see both #pets and #pet in tweets – you can use either or both, and also create your own.
Links, pictures, and video:
Many tweets have links to articles, blog posts, websites. The actual URL is usually much too long to include in a 140-character message. There are many link shorteners, and almost any platform you use to manage twitter will have an automatic link shortener included as a default. When working from the Twitter website, you will need to shorten the link externally, on a shortener like bit.ly. When you shorten a link, it will go from this:
Photos and videos can be uploaded similarly, with slight variations in each platform.
You can use Twitter from the website at www.twitter.com, but you may find it much more manageable to work from an interface that helps you sort and manage tweets and contacts. Some of the many are Tweetdeck, Twhirl, and Hootsuite. Each of these has lots of wonderful tools to help you manage your Twitter account. There are great videos in YouTube with tutorials on each. Here is one on Tweetdeck: Twitter TweetDeck Tutorial
Twitter 2.0: The next article in this series will cover researching your business on Twitter, early tweets, engaging your audience, who to follow, using lists, more on memes, building your followers, and creating buzz.
Mary Siceloff was an early Twitter doubter, but has become a big advocate of its business value. She handles communications @clarkcreative in #Savannah. You can reach her on Twitter @mary_siceloff, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org