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Twitter “Best Practices” and How to Tweet Like a Pro

If your business isn’t on Twitter, it should be. With more than 200 million twitter members sending out approximately 65 million different tweets a day, it’s worthwhile for small businesses to engage in social media. This blog post discusses how small businesses and companies can make the most out of Twitter, and how they should tweet to their best advantage.

The first step to a successful twitter campaign is to build a following. No matter how much time you spend creating tweets and how often you do choose to tweet, your efforts lack purpose unless you’ve got readers. Although tweets are publically searchable for those who’re interested in specific topics, you’ll still have to be proactive about building a following of users who are subscribed and actively reading your content. These followers you have represent your online community. Unless you’re a celebrity, it’s unlikely that millions of twitter followers are likely to follow your account the instant you sign up. The first step to developing a fanbase is to invite any existing communities who are relevant to your industry. You may also try to figure out who your competitors are following and follow them.

One good thing about the twitter community is that twitter users generally follow back those who follow them first. “Tweet Adder” is a useful tool that can provide details as to who to follow. Twitter makes it easy with the “who to follow” suggestion link. You can use tweet adder (or twitter itself) to recommend similar companies to follow, or those who are interested or relevant to your industry or topic. Twitter allows you to automatically follow those users.

Before hunting for new followers, you should first make your own twitter page more attractive—take the time to add a custom background, appropriate “About” description, and icon or profile image. A partially filled out profile is a turn off for some users. Keep your twitter profile professional and filled out completely.

If your company has a blog, e-mail distribution list or platform such as constant contact, website, newsletter, or other means of communication with clients, you’ll want to use that to encourage twitter users to follow you. If any of your customers are on twitter, invite them to follow you and follow them as well. Include a twitter icon and link to your account in your email signature, any marketing material, or other distributions for increased exposure. If you’re looking to gain a whole bunch of twitter followers in a short amount of time, offer the chance to win a free service, product, or discount.

If you’re new to the game, brush up on the twitter rules of engagement. This includes twitter’s basic “best practices”, including tweeting, replying, direct messaging, hash tags, and retweeting.

Private Messaging: You have the option to reply directly to a twitter user (a follower). Type the letter “d” before their username before replying to a tweet or initiating contact.

Public Replies: If you’d like to reply publically, use the @ symbol to comment on other users tweets (just before their username). For instance, @boomtownig.

Retweeting: If you’d like to repeat someone else’s tweet, type “RT” in the beginning of your post. It’s a good idea to suggest followers retweet you as well. Why bother retweeting? It demonstrates to others you’re noticing them. Add your own insight to retweets rather than just repeating what others have said. “GroupTweet” is a good tool for communicating with other users and groups.

Hashtags: Don’t neglect hashtags (i.e. the # symbol). You can use these hashtags to make your tweets searchable. Hashtags.org allows you to check out the latest relevant tweets for any hashtag. Want to gain more exposure? Check out the top hashtags of the day and post a relevant tweet.

Keep it short. Twitter only allows users a 140 character limit so ensure you aren’t wasting those characters with a long link or web address. There are a variety of URL shortening websites and services available. Bit.ly or TinyURL are excellent for abbreviating long URLs. If you choose to use Bit.ly, you can also monitor how many clicks your links receive.

Focus on value. Twitter is not like old-fashioned marketing—anything that sounds like it could be a magazine ad or on a billboard will very likely come across as either false, spammy, or boring. Your tweets should include original thoughts and encourage other users to retweet, build conversation, and engage others. Your goals should be to provide value for readers and stimulating conversation with others. Twitter is a great medium for announcing promotions, tips and advice, and relevant industry news. Ensure that your tweets provide enough value to keep your audience interested and engaged. Keep your tweets witty, entertaining and unique. If you demonstrate your expertise in your field and offer free advice, and fill your tweets with personality and opinion, you’ll do well. Avoid being boring or parroting other users or news headlines.

Don’t forget to take advantage of all the third-party tools available. Yfrog and TwitPic are useful for sharing video clips and photos. Make your tweets more interactive by making use of polls (Twtpoll is a good example) or appropriate chat rooms, like Nurph, for instance. If you make it easy for followers to participate in conversation, they’ll find your conversations more interesting. You also have the option to integrate location in your tweets. Foursquare is a good example of how you can share your location—if you’re speaking at a conference in Philadelphia, share that and maybe local users will take notice.

Remember that you very likely not going to achieve a mass quantity of followers instantly, and probably unlikely to see a massive spike in sales because you created a new twitter account. There’s no magic twitter shortcut to a successful SMO campaign. Be patient and take the time to build a community, provide value, and let your content to drive success.

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