Twitter 101 – best practices for business

Please note, the tips below are general guidelines only. These are not hard and fast rules – your own business needs and goals should be thoroughly evaluated before developing and diving in to an online communications plan.

I originally wrote and published this article on my employer’s blog, Digital Dialectic.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get your business on Twitter. You created an account, wrote-up a nice little bio, added your logo and even had a beautiful custom background image developed for your profile landing page. But what now?

As you are probably aware, Twitter is a powerful tool that can allow you to tap in to the minds of your target demographic in ways never before possible – that’s why you’ve decided to get on board in the first place, right? It also gives you a new means of communicating with them (remember, even in business, Twitter is a platform built for two-way dialogue and should never be used only to promote your business or share your news releases). And, perhaps most importantly, it can give a more human feel to your brand – something that consumers and other businesses seem to be quite receptive to. This can absolutely lead to new business and provide tangible outcomes.

Now, let’s cut to the chase and get in to how you will get there, now that your profile is up, running, and ready to go…

Provide Content – fresh, new, and if possible exclusive. Content is what keeps people coming back to Twitter. Because it’s an instant method for people (and businesses) to share basically anything (videos, pictures, news, etc), it is the first place many people check to get the latest information. That said, share some interesting, fresh content with your followers on a frequent basis – a behind the scenes look at your operations, a look at what your employees are doing in the community, or maybe even a sneak-peek at the development of an upcoming product. This kind of content will keep people coming back to your profile in search of more great, fresh content. It will keep them engaged even more so if you keep this content exclusive to Twitter – after all, sharing fresh exclusive content is really what it’s all about, at the end of the day.

Communicate – listen, respond, and ask questions. It is absolutely imperative that you keep a close eye on what people are saying about your product, company, and/or brand online. Pay close attention and find ways to get involved in the discussion. If someone compliments you, asks you a question, or gives you any kind of feedback at all, respond to them, always. And respond within the first 24 hours – Twitter is about instant connectivity and people will grow impatient very quickly waiting for a reply. Also, as mentioned above, one of the great things about Twitter is the window it opens to give you a view in to the minds of your demographic. Ask your followers questions to get them more involved – “as a lover of @CompanyABC, what’s one thing you would like to see in our next product release?” Use Twitter as more than simply another message broadcast channel and you will find success using it.

Be a leader – display ahead of the pack thinking, and know-how. If your company likes to consider itself a leader in your industry don’t just think it, be it. Provide your followers with insight and know-how that isn’t common. Give insight into the future of the industry (that’s not to say that you should make predictions or loose statements), and more importantly provide knowledge on your products or services that isn’t easily found elsewhere or commonly known.

Reward your followers – discounts, exclusive offers. Above and beyond fresh content, another reason that people will continue to pay close attention to you on Twitter is freebies and offers that they can’t find elsewhere. Provide your followers with a little something extra now and then – a discount/coupon to use on one of your products or services, or an offer that isn’t available from your website or sales staff. Keeping it exclusive is key though, so make sure your offers can’t be found anywhere other than through Twitter. Do this and they will not only come back, but will tell their friends about it, spreading your message through word-of-mouth (inarguably the best kind of marketing available).

Champion your passionate followers – retweet, reply, and give thanks. Those who are passionate about your brand are going to talk about it. And when they do you should publicly share their thoughts by Retweeting what they say. Retweeting not only strokes the ego of the user, which will help ensure that they stay passionate and keep on spreading the good word, but it also shares and spreads that particular message in itself. These same people are also likely to retweet your tweets, in turn spreading your message to their followers who may not otherwise see your message.

When users retweet your original tweets be sure to give them a quick thank you too. Something simple like “thanks for sharing, @twitteruser123” will be just perfect. I have one note of caution with regards to re-Tweeting, replying, and giving thanks, however and that is do it with consistency. If you thank a user once for retweeting, but don’t the next time they do it they may be turned off from sharing your tweets in the future. Twitter is very much a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours kind of community. Scratch your community’s back and the rewards will be big!

Thank you for reading and be sure to add your own Twitter tips for businesses and other thoughts in the comments!