Being on Twitter is one of those "be there or be square" things – but it's also a great opportunity to market your small business. And compared to a lot of social media, Twitter has a small learning curve and doesn't take a lot of time.
Want to tweet but don't know how to use Twitter? Even if you’ve never seen a Twitter page before, this article will show you how to tweet and introduce you to basic Twitter tools that will make participating in Twitter regularly easy.
How to Twitter
1) Set up a Twitter account.
Go to the Twitter sign up page and follow the instructions.
2) Start following.
Following is the most basic Twitter activity and the best way to start using Twitter because you always want to study an environment a bit first before you plunge into it. And as always, you'll learn a lot more about your potential customers if you listen first and talk later!
When you follow someone, you choose to receive their tweets (messages). (You can follow me at @SmallBizCanada, for instance.) You can find people to follow by using the 'Find People' link on the main Twitter menu at the top of your home page, which will open a dialogue box with a selection of tabs where you can search for people already using Twitter by real name or user name, search for people on other networks, or choose from 'Suggested Users'.
Twitter Tools to Help With Following:
You can also use Twitter Search; pick a 'Trending Topic' or type one into the search box and browse the tweets that come up to find interesting people to follow.
WeFollow.com is like a catalogue of Twitter users organized by topic. You can find interesting people to follow by clicking on a topic and browsing the profiles of people in that category. Add yourself to WeFollow so more people can find you – and you can check your ranking in the categories that you join. Be warned, though; this part is addictive!
Many people now add their Twitter links to their email, blogs and other communication - another great way to find people you're interested in following.
3) Tweeting and Retweeting:
Tweeting is the term used to describe talking on Twitter. To tweet, just type into the box at the top of your page and hit 'Update' – and you've sent a message to everyone who's following you.
Retweeting is tweeting something that someone else has posted; just be sure to attribute what you're reposting properly by crediting the person who tweeted it with an RT in front of it for retweet. For instance, if you were retweeting something I had posted, your retweet would start ‘RT @SmallBizCanada’.
What should you tweet?
In a nutshell, things that are going to interest other people. Do not post a blow-by-blow of what you're doing unless you are one of the five people on the planet who lead truly interesting lives. As I say in How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Business, your posts need to offer people something, whether it's information or entertainment.
Post relevant links and articles and ask questions. Reply to other people's tweets. (When you drag your cursor over the right hand side of a tweet, you'll see a curved grey arrow; click on it to reply to that person. Be aware that your reply will show on your public list of tweets where everyone can see it, unlike a Direct Message (DM) that only the person you're sending the message to will see.)
Don't be afraid to post tweets promoting your business; just make sure that you do it less than 40% of the time and never post the same promotional message repeatedly, a practice that will make many people stop following you right away.)
Tools to Help With Tweeting:
When you start sending out tweets with links in them, you'll notice one problem right away; those long URLS suck up a lot of characters. Solution: use URL Shorteners to condense them.
Bit.ly is one URL Shortener I really like; besides shortening URLS, it also tracks the performance of your bit.ly links in real time.
TinyURL is another.
4) You can auto-tweet too
One of the most useful Twitter tools I've ever come across is TwitterFeed because it lets you auto-tweet, so to speak, by tweeting your RSS feed. Just go to TwitterFeed and sign up, add your RSS feed, and it automatically ports every post to Twitter.
5) How to Twitter: Staying Organized
If you're like most small business people, Twitter is just one of your forays into social media.
TweetDeck is one of those Twitter tools that lets you connect with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook etc. and it help you stay organized because it uses a column format where you can see everything that's happening all at once.
HootSuite is another such Twitter application you might really like; one of its great features is the ability to schedule and drip tweets. And besides letting you organize your Twitter experience by using tabbed columns and creating groups, it also offers link statistics and Ping.fm Integration so you can update your Facebook, Wordpress, and LinkedIn accounts all at once.
So there you have it; a basic how-to guide that should have you tweeting away in minutes, and, with just a little more effort, coordinating your Twitter communications with your other social media efforts.
Where to from here?
If you're still at the stage where you're wondering why your small business should bother with Twitter, you'll want to read Top 7 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Use Twitter.
If you're already persuaded that Twitter is/can be an effective marketing and networking tool, my article How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Business will help you make the most of your Twitter experience.
And don't forget to add your Twitter link to your website, your blog, your email and wherever else you can. The more followers you have, the better. Happy tweeting!