How to Build Your Presence On Twitter
Many small business owners have heard about Twitter and how other companies are using it to promote their businesses. But some don’t know where to start or how to make the most of the micro-blogging site. In a previous post, I set out a step-by-step guide to deciding whether Twitter was right for your business and how to set up an account and get started. In this post, I’m going to look at how to tweet — which is the act of sending out messages on the channel — and how to build and engage with your audience on the network.
What’s a tweet?
A tweet is a short message of up to 140 characters that you write and broadcast on Twitter. It will show up in the tweet-stream of everyone who follows your account. And, unless you have opted to protect your updates (which kind of defeats Twitter’s marketing potential), it can also be seen by anyone scanning the public tweet-stream or via search.
Types of Tweets
Updates: These are your tweets. In a business context, they can certainly be promotional. You can update your followers about new products, specials or promotions, or changes in your hours of operation. But if all your tweets are all promotional, your followers might lose interest. So it’s a good idea to intersperse your promotional tweets with others of broader interest, such as community or industry news. (I’ll deal with effective promotional strategies in my next post in this series.)
Retweets: When you see someone else’s update you like and you forward it to your followers, or when someone else does this with one of your updates, it’s called a retweet. You can recognize retweets by the arrows icon and “Retweeted by…” directly under the message. Another custom is to write “RT” in front of the message. Sometimes, there is an “MT” in the front, indicating that the original tweet was modified before being forwarded. If there’s room, many people add a brief comment of their own when retweeting someone else’s update.
Direct messages: These let you privately tweet to a user who’s following you. To send a direct message, use the direct message button from the gear icon, or just type “D” followed by the username.. Ex: “D joesmith what is your order number?”
Mentions: You can mention other Twitter users in your updates by using their handles. For example, “Glad your shipment arrived @janesmith!” notifies the account mentioned. People can mention you in similar fashion, and this is usually a sign that they are trying to interact with you via Twitter. (My next post will also cover how to monitor the Twittersphere for mentions of you or your company.) Note: If you start a tweet with a handle, it will be seen only by people who follow both you and the account with that handle.
Multimedia tweets: You can make your tweets more interesting by adding multimedia elements such as photographs, short videos or links to other content.
Finding people to follow
When you set up your account, you had the option of allowing Twitter to scan your address book and identify contacts who were already using the service. In addition to this, you can find interesting people to follow by:
● Searching for people you know;
● Searching relevant keywords to find people and companies in your community or industry;
● Looking through the lists of followers of the accounts you follow to see if their connections are interesting to you, too; and
● Following back people who follow you.
This is a bit trickier since, unlike many social networks where connections are mutual, Twitter allows connections to be one-way. That is, you can follow someone with no obligation that they follow you back, and vice versa.
The best way to attract quality followers is to tweet content that will be of interest and value to the sorts of people you want to follow you. Sounds simple — and it is — but it will take time to develop a good-sized following.
You can help the process along by:
● Simply following people since many of them will follow you back;
● Engaging with people you want to have follow you by mentioning them in a tweet;
● Promoting your Twitter handle on your website, in your email signature, on your business card and in other business and promotional communications materials; and
● Asking — yes, asking! — your customers, suppliers and business partners to follow you.
How much tweeting should you do?
That’s a really tough question to answer. Some Twitter accounts are massively active, spewing out dozens or even hundreds of tweets a day. Others lie almost dormant, uttering a rare tweet only every now and then. The happy medium is just that — somewhere in between — and it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to maintain an engaged audience, however, I would recommend you try for at least 10 tweets per day, and that no more than one in four or five be self-promotional. (I’ll have more advice on frequency and timing of tweets in the third post in this series.)
Do you have any additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.