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10 Tips for Using Twitter for Business

September 17, 2009
eMarketer just reported that Twitter usage will reach 26 million US adults in 2010 – a 200% increase over last year. And in a recent study by MarketingProfs, 83% of participants said that they expected their company’s use of Twitter to increase in the next six months.
 
If you’re just getting a business account started up on Twitter, here are 10 tips to help you on your way.
 
1. Use a Person Picture, not a Logo
People like talking to people, not a faceless corporate logo, so upload a person shot as your user image. It can even be a picture of someone using one of your products, but nothing too stock photo-like. If you want to apply branding, corporate colors, logos and the like, then you can always incorporate this as part of your Twitter background.
 
2. Have Company and Individual Accounts
I haven’t come across anything that says you should use a Twitter account linked to a company vs. an individual (or vice-versa). There are fors and againsts of using both, which is why I think having both types of account can’t be a bad thing. If resources are low, think about starting up with a company account first, and then individual accounts can always follow.
 
Company: A well known company name can provide instant recognition from users and instill trust as an information source (EG: BestBuy), but it can come across as less personable.
 
Individual: If you take the individual option, then make it clear that this person is linked to your company, either through the Twitter Account Name (EG: “BestBuyJim” or “JimAtBestBuy”) and/or in the Bio (EG: Tweeting for Best Buy). The risk, of course, is that if this person leaves your company, they could end up taking all of your followers with them.
 
3. Be Human, Not a Robot
Regardless of whether you choose to take the company or individual route, make your Tweets human. Use conversational language; language you would use when talking to people face-to-face, as opposed to very formal language you would use in a business report.
 
4. Listen
Twitter is a great listening tool to see what people are saying about your industry, company and products. As an example, just type your company name into the search box to see the conversations happening. Save this search so you can regularly check in to see what people are saying about you. Look for ways to address anything negative (in a helpful, non-argumentative way), and acknowledge promoters of your brand.
 
5. Share, Don’t Sell
If anything, Twitter is about information sharing and increasing communication. Try to share news that is informative and provide links to interesting, educational content on your website. Don’t be sell, sell, sell all the time. Rather strive to be the expert in your domain, and the sell will follow.
 
There are exceptions of course. Some companies (particularly larger organizations) have multiple Twitter accounts, focused on different business areas. For example, Dell have @DellOutlet to promote up-to-date availability of refurbished products. It works well since it is a timely, reliable information source and one that shares discount codes to followers for online purchasing. If you decide to follow this approach, then make sure you set the “sell” expectation up front, through your Account Name and/or Bio.
 
6. Don’t Just Push, Engage
Twitter is a great two-way communications tool (which is how marketing should be). Don’t just push information out, but engage in conversations. There’s nothing worse than a Twitter Account that is being used as an RSS feeder (remember Be Human, Not a Robot) or a user that is “All about me, all of the time”.
 
As an extreme example, celebrity Sean (P. Diddy) Combs was criticised for using Twitter to simply push out information about himself and his clothing line, whilst ignoring conversations with his followers. This led to a Twitter onslaught, that became a top trending topic, encouraging followers to unfollow him!
 
7. Track Your Clicks
When you send out a tweet that includes a link to information, it is good to know if people are clicking on it. Bit.ly is a handy tool that not only shortens URLs (to help keep your tweets within that 140 character limit), but also allows you to track how many people click on these links. This can help provide insight into what kinds of content interests your followers. Twitter is also working on more substantial Twitter measurement tools for business use, but this will come at a price.
 
8. Use Hashtags
Hashtags are a way of tagging your tweets so that people who are interested in specific topics can find and read about them. In a business context it can be used when talking about an industry (EG: #hitech), or company (#AT&T), or product (EG: #iphone).
 
Another popular use is at events or conferences (EG: #NIWeek) which can help you raise visibility and gain followers from attendees who are potential prospects. With the growing popularity of Twitter, it is becoming more common for event organizers to encourage people to use an “official hashtag” so that attendee tweets can be more easily seen and managed.
 
9. Add Yourself to a Directory
There are a number of Twitter Directories which you can join to help people find you. Two good directories I recommend are:
 
Twellow: The equivalent of the Twitter Yellow Pages. Twellow groups Twitter users into categories (EG: Education, Real Estate, Small Businesses…) which you can add yourself to. There are hundreds of categories to choose from. It is also a good way to easily see and follow other Twitter users within categories of interest.
 
WeFollow.com: WeFollow allows you to tag your Twitter Account for keywords you want to be associated with. For example, a dentist may want to be associated with #dentist #teeth #healthcare. You can have up to five tags and see how many others are tagged under certain keywords. My recommendation is to tag yourself for keywords with higher volumes.
 
10. Manage Your Twitter Account
There are a number of tools that help you to more effectively manage your Twitter Account. The one I use is TweetDeck which can be accessed directly from your desktop and/or mobile phone.
 
A few reasons why I like TweetDeck:
  • You can more easily see mentions, replies, and direct messages so you don’t miss out on any engagement opportunities.
  • You can easily add columns to include certain topics, keywords, and hashtags. For example, you can set up a column with mentions of your company and another column for mentions of your competitor.
  • You can manage multiple Twitter accounts in one place. For example, if you have a company account and an individual company account.
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