Twitter 101 for Businesses

Like Facebook before it, Twitter has become the place to be found in the online world. From February 2008 to February 2009, Twitter grew roughly 1,400%, hitting 7 million visitors in February 2009. From February 2009 to April 2009, it grew another 250%, topping 17 million visitors. This is a growth trend that is expected to continue for a long time.

Is your business taking advantage of this incredible opportunity? It should be!

Unfortunately, if you don’t know the Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter, you could do more harm than good.

Twitter users, like users of any social media platform, are looking for sources of genuine value. They want information, humor, and great deals. They want breaking news, or the latest gossip. They want a place where they can communicate with people who share their interests.

Twitter users don’t want to be bombarded from every direction with self-serving tweets, advertisements, and blatantly commercial links. There is no quicker way to alienate potential followers than to try to sell them something every time you tweet.

These 10 steps can help your business to avoid mistakes and to succeed on Twitter:

#1 – Determine a Niche

It is important that you find and occupy a niche in which you are an expert. If your company is a bakery, you should be tweeting about recipes, food related news stories, great places to eat, and the like. If you are an automotive company, your tweets should similarly focus on that niche. Be an expert in your niche, and those who are interested in that niche will look to you for information.

#2 – Optimize Your Account

When you create a Twitter account, it is important to select a Twitter name that either contains your company name or that contains a keyword that is important to your niche. Make sure you fill out your profile with keywords relevant to your niche so that you can easily be found. Make sure you include a link to your website. It is helpful to have a custom, branded Twitter background created to set you apart, preferably one that contains business info to the left of the Twitter feed.

#3 – Tie Your Social Media Accounts Together

A unified social media presence helps to establish your company as trendy and cutting edge. You can set Facebook to automatically update your status from your Twitter feed. You can add a Twitter module to your company blog. You can link to Twitter from your company LinkedIn page or your Google Local Profile. The more genuine and reachable your company is the better.

#4 – Be an Expert

It is important once you have occupied your niche that you establish yourself and/or your company as an expert. Look for question tweets related to your field and answer them. Post up links to the latest information regarding your industry. If someone searches for terms related to your industry on twitter, your tweets should show up. It is recommended that you build up to at least 50-100 tweets before you actively hunt for followers, so that potential followers have something to look at and judge you by.

#5 – Find People in Your Niche

There are numerous search tools for twitter, from search.twitter.comto Twellow.com andTwitScoop.com. Search for keyword related to your business or industry. As you find people who are interested in your niche, follow them. Read what they have to say, RT and @ reply to their tweets (re-tweet and at reply). These people will hopefully check out your tweets in return, and if you are adding value and are relevant to their interests, they will follow you back.

#6 – Add Real Value

Do not be overly-commercial! A good rule of thumb is 9 out of 10. Out of every 10 tweets, 9 should be about your industry, informative and non self-serving. The other tweet can be about your business or products. If every other tweet is about your own products or services, you aren’t adding value to the community, and you will alienate potential followers. For example, if you sell baked goods you could use Twitter to announce when food is coming out of the oven or to offer free samples. If you own a restaurant, you could announce new menu items or freebie deals. If you sell online software products, you could offer a free copy to the first 10 people who respond to the tweet. Be creative.

#7 – Build Loyalty

Twitter makes an excellent platform to distribute coupon codes and special deals. People love getting free or discounted stuff, and this will help to build a more loyal following. You can then track how many additional sales occurred using the coupon code or special offer, to determine if Twitter is an effective platform for your company.

#8 – Tweet Often

5-10 Tweets per day is a good, safe number. Any more than that and you may become a nuisance. Any less and you risk not being noticed. The tweets should be staggered, perhaps every hour or so (you don’t want to dump 10 tweets all at once). If you can’t tweet throughout the day, TweetLater is a great free tool that allows you to schedule tweets in advance, amongst other things.

#9 – Tag Your Posts

It is helpful to use #hashtags to mark your tweets with relevant keywords for searchers to find. A hash tag is a # followed by a keyword, no spaces. Twitter has a lot of search engine strength, and proper keyword tagging can help you to be found by search engine users in addition to twitter searchers.

#10 – Measure It

Twitter is actually pretty easy to measure. If your website has analytics installed, you can see how many visitors to your site are originating from Twitter (Google Analytics is free). If you sign up for a Bit.ly account, whenever you put a URL in your tweets use your Bit.ly account to shorten the URL. This will allow you to track how many people follow your Bit.ly shortened links.

If you follow the above steps, you can create a solid Twitter following, improve your branding, avoid damaging mistakes, and determine just how valuable Twitter can be to your company.