Twitter is a free service that enables its' users to send and read messages known as tweets.
You have no doubt heard of Twitter by now as it's gained quite a lot of coverage in the press recently. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers. The activity of posting short messages has been called "micro-blogging". Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, text message (SMS) or external applications.
How can Twitter help my business?
Twitter should be an integral part of your marketing toolset. It's useful for businesses large and small. For small businesses that are short on time Twitter, as each Tweet is limited to 140 characters, consumes far less time than blogging.
Therefore it can be a useful tool for those who do not have the time to maintain a news section or blog on their website. Such businesses or individuals can use Twitter as a way to keep their website up-to-date and fresh with minimum time and effort by outputting their Twitter posts onto their sites news or blog page(s).
What do I need to do?
Create a Twitter Account
Make sure you complete all your account details so include your location, website URL and a well written bio. If you have a company logo handy upload that too. These details will have an impact on whether or not other users will follow you.
Customise your profile page on Twitter
You can add a custom background image and/or colour scheme; this is easy enough to do. Once you have logged in click on "settings" in the top right. Then click on the design tab and you should notice two buttons at the bottom one for "Change background image" and another for "Change design colours".
Add some Tweets
This is definitely the most important part of the process. There are plenty of people letting others know what they had for breakfast or what colour shirt they are wearing today. This is really of no interest to anyone but to get you into the habit of using Twitter feel free to post whatever you want. As you get into the routine you will start to hone your skills and you should start to steer your tweets towards more useful, business specific messages such as:
- An interesting website, blog post or news item you have found that is relevant to your particular industry (include a link to it)
- A business idea you have had
- A business event you are attending
- A problem you have encountered in your work
- A new product/service you have launched
- A question related to your work
It's important to remember that Twitter is quite personal so don't feel scared to post about more personal aspects of your life, these posts might be of more interest to your followers that you imagine. Of course you need to keep a significant business focus but the odd update will help to add to the variety and build trust in your audience.
Follow other Twitter users
This is where the social networking part comes in. You can search for other users on Twitter and follow them by clicking on the "follow" button on their profile page. This then allows you to read their Tweets right from your Twitter homepage. You can also search for terms relevant to your industry or names of industry events and discover other users who are adding Tweets that might be of interest to you and follow them as well.
The reason why this step should always come last is because the etiquette on Twitter is usually that if someone follows you, you should follow them back so by customising your profile page and adding some relevant Tweets to your new account you will hopefully get a good proportion of people following you back.
As with any medium like this there are a lot of spammers trying to use Twitter so by putting in some time and effort to customise your account and adding some informative Tweets it helps you to differentiate yourself as a genuine user.
What not to do
- Don't overly promote your own products/services; your followers don't want to be sold to morning, noon and night.
- Be careful what you post on Twitter, unless you decide to make your Tweets private they can be viewed by anyone.
Integrating Twitter into your website
Perhaps you are a small business and don't have the time to write lengthy blog posts, if that's the case you could look to embed your Twitter posts into your website and display them as your news items. Once Twitter is integrated into your website adding an update to your website is as easy as sending a text message (SMS).
Maybe you are a larger business with a news section or blog on your site? In that case you could use a service such as TwitterFeed to pull your blog posts into your Twitter account automatically and also output the most recent tweets from your account onto a page on your site and encourage visitors to become followers.
Perhaps you or your staff are often away from a computer and would like an easy way to send breaking news to the front page of your site from a mobile phone. Twitter is great for this purpose as you can send a text message from Twitter and have it output onto the homepage of your site in a matter of seconds.
There are some handy widgets available, which allow you to integrate Twitter with your own website or others like Facebook and MySpace.
This section includes some more advanced information about getting the most out of Twitter.
When you follow someone on Twitter you can also select to receive device updates. This means you will receive a text message (SMS) when that person adds a new tweet. Currently in the UK you only receive device updates if you are on the O2 or Vodafone networks.
It can be very interesting to create searches for particular terms such as your product; company name and industry events/conferences and then you can get an insight into what people are saying about your product or company on Twitter. Hopefully you might find some interesting people to follow.
Due to the live nature of Twitter just keeping track of searches relating to TV programmes while you're watching them can actually be quite interesting and often amusing, give it a try next time you're watching your favourite programme! This real-time search feature of Twitter is an exciting new area for online search and has no doubt grabbed the attention of the likes of Google, Yahoo and Bing.
There are some great applications available (most of which are free) that make using Twitter even more addictive such as:
Don't know what @replies are, hash tags or direct messages. No worries, these guides will help you get started:
If you would like some advice about integrating Twitter into your website or internet marketing in general please get in touch.
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