In case you don't already have an account, Twitter is what is called a microblogging service. According to Twitter, the point is to answer the question, "What are you doing?" If you take Twitter at face value, then it's not much use for a business owner. So why all the hype?
Simpy put, Twitter has exploded to a network of millions of users. Combined with Twitter's open access policy and web developer's creative uses of the information Twitter is willing to supply, small businesses have an unprecedented pool of potential clients at their fingertips. Like everything else, figuring out how to effectively reach those potential clients is the big secret. Here are some tips for small businesses that are interested in giving Twitter a try.
1. Complete your profile - the first place people are going to check you out on Twitter is your profile. You only get one shot at getting that person to follow you. The more information you put in your profile, the more chances you get at hooking that person.
2. Use a picture of yourself as an avatar - Twitter first and foremost is a social network. Real users are there to socialize. No one wants to talk to a company logo, they want to talk to real people and a picture of you humanizes your profile. Using a company logo also screams "BUY MY CRAP!" to a potential follower. Twitter is an opt in service and people are more likely to opt in if you don't give the appearance that you are there to sell.
3. Use relevant keywords in your bio - The bio field is commonly used by third party services in searches for people with similar interests. Be sure to put in some fun stuff in there too, no one wants to talk business all of the time. Most people would rather talk about your mutual hobby interest.
4. Customize your background - Twitter allows you to do pretty much what ever you want to do with your background. Take advantage of this and use the space to give visitors more information about yourself. This is a great place to put your company logo.
5. Don't be a Twitter snob - When someone follows you, follow them back. First, you can always unfollow someone if they are spamming or just totally uninteresting. Second, you never know when you will stumble upon a really interesting person unless you are following them. With the proper tools it's fairly simple to filter out the noise of following many people so take advantage of that. To top it off, unless you are a celebrity, it makes you look pretentious.
6. Get a good Twitter client - The Twitter web site is pretty limited in function and ability to organize your tweet stream. There are free Twitter clients all over the place that make your Twitter experience infintely better by allowing you to organize people in to groups, apply filters, and perform simple functions like re-tweet or shorten URLs. Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop are both very good.
7. Participate - Don't just post links to your company website or blog every time you login. You'll find that the more non-business interacting you do, the more effective your business interactions will be. Engage your followers by talking about everything but business and you will build camaraderie and more importantly trust.
8. Provide value to your followers - If you are a BNI member, you already know their motto is "Givers gain." This couldn't be more true than on Twitter. Answer questions when you can, offer bits of knowledge, and post links to good content when you find it. People will remember you if you help them out, and more importantly they will want to repay the favor when you have a need.
9. Don't use auto DMs - A DM is short for Direct Message, a private message to a follower. You can sign up for services that will automatically send a DM to someone when they follow you. Resist the temptation to do this. Chances are that your message will sound impersonal and will often drive followers away. Many users, including myself, will go as far as unfollowing people who send auto DMs. It's that annoying.
10. Have a plan and commit to it - What do you hope to accomplish with Twitter? Better customer service? New sales leads? As you build your account set definite goals and methods to accomplish those goals. Have Twitter specific landing pages on your site. Use short URLs that can be tracked. Put your twitter profile on everything you publish including your business cards.
It might take a little trial and error to figure out how Twitter best works for you, but there is benefit for virtually any business is you work it. If you found this article helpful or interesting, be sure to tweet about it and of course be sure to follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/bnrbranding