5 twitter tips

Get started with twitter for small business - 5 tips

I see a lot of articles about how to use twitter to help build your business, but I see very few articles on how to get started on twitter.  I myself am a fairly new twitter adopter.  I found it difficult to navigate the world of hash tags, mentions, and the 140 character limit.  Here are five tips for people wanting to start using twitter for small business.

1. Understand Twitter

I don't think I can stress this point enough.  If you use twitter like you use Facebook then you are going to have a rough go of it.  So, what is there to understand?  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is extremely public.  Let me explain...

If you are just getting started with Twitter I recommend that you use the advanced twitter search to familiarize yourself with how much content is on Twitter.  I actually use the advanced twitter search tool as part of my tool kit to understand the need for a new product.  To get started type in something like "wedding dress" into the "All of these words" search.  You can now see every public conversation regarding wedding dresses happening on twitter.  You can see who is talking about them, what they are saying, and when they are saying whatever they're saying.  AMAZING!  That's what I mean by public.  Be careful what you say, and how you interact with customers in this very public interchange.

2. Hash tags

Now, as you're looking through those search results you'll notice a few things.  When I did this search one of the first things I stumbled across was a hash tag (#) saying "#wow".  Hash tags are ways that twitter users punctuate and give emphasis to their tweets.  For example, when the person uses "#wow" I can guess that they are expressing amazement based on the rest of the tweet.  Here are some quick facts about hash tags:

  • Searchable - you can search any hash tag and see all public tweets that included that hash tag. 

  • Trending - Some hash tags get picked up quickly in social circles and pretty soon everyone is using that hash tag.  You can see some trending hash tags on the twitter home page.

  • Customizable - Anyone can create a hash tag anytime.  Just type and go.  If you are trying to make a hash tag trend you need to make sure people know what hash tag to use.  If not, everyone could make up something different and you may end up with many different hash tags and miss the big effect of a consistent hash tag.

3. Mentions

After the first few hashtags popped off of the page I saw "@wright_jordan" type stuff. This is the way twitter users call out other users or talk with each other on twitter.  Not impressed yet?  How about this.  Let me give you an example of how I used mentions on twitter recently...

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference.  There were thousands of attendees.  I wanted to meet with a few of them.  I sent them a message on LinkedIn but got no reply, so I looked for them on twitter.  Once I found them on twitter I messaged them using the "@" sign followed by their username and asked them if they planned on attending the conference.  They said they did.  I then said that I had been wanting to meet with them for sometime and asked if we could grab a drink together.  Their answer?  "Absolutely!"

So why the different response?  Once again, you need to understand the different social media networks.  Twitter is so public that the person may come off as rude if they don't respond to your tweet.  LinkedIn is so private that they feel no shame if they don't respond.  I'm not bashing LinkedIn.  In fact, I love LinkedIn and will be posting more on how to get the most out of LinkedIn in the future, but you have to leverage the strengths of each network!

4. Engagement

You have thousands of potential customers at your fingertips on twitter.  How should you engage them?  With caution.  No one wants to do business with someone that is throwing stuff at them all day.  Be human!  Get involved in the conversations that are happening.  Don't just go plaster your message all over them by mentioning them and spewing out whatever you think is your best 140 character sales pitch!

This takes tact, patience, and dedication.  Stay on top of conversations happening in your industry.  Find out when things are trending in your industry and join the conversation.

I think an example here could prove helpful.  Recently in my business we noticed a trending twitter hash tag in a segment of our potential customer base.  We researched the hash tag and found that this particular customer segment was trying to win a competition.  We fired off a tweet to that segment, called out the hash tag, and wished them luck - thereby promoting it to our network.  Within seconds we had new followers, people retweeting our tweet, and some great social activity building our brand, but also bringing potential customers to our website.

5. Retweet and Reply

This is really part of engagement, but it merits its own section.  People love knowing they are valued. When someone retweets something you posted it is somewhat similar to them saying "You're awesome!"  That feels good, doesn't it?  As you consider how you engage your friends and customers remember that they want to feel valued and retweeting their thoughts can strengthen your relationship.

When someone calls you out in a tweet be sure to reply back as often as possible.  This is a great practice.  If someone says "hi" to you on the street and you don't even look at them it is a bit rude.  Just because the communication is electronic doesn't mean we should treat each other as if we aren't human.

I hope this article is helpful to you.  I'd love to hear what I may have missed on getting started with twitter for small businesses.  Feel free to follow or message me on twitter here for more to share your thoughts with me or hear my thoughts on this and other subjects.