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Twitter Best Practices for Small Businesses

November 22, 2009
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Please Note: Three new best practices are added each month. Please subscribe to the Small Business Tech 2.0 e-newsletter to be alerted when new Twitter best practices have been posted.

1. Authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community.

Those small businesses who are most successful at utilizing social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace know from trial, error, and experience that a Web 1.0 marketing  approach on social networking sites does not work. Traditional marketing content is perfectly fine for your Web site and e-mail newsletters, but Web 2.0 is much more about having personality, inspiring conversation, and building online community. Nowhere is this more true than on Twitter. Relax, experiment, let go a bit… find your voice. Be authentic.

2. Be nice. Be thankful. Reply and ReTweet!

Twitter is a great exercise in practicing Karma. The nicer you are to people in the Twitterverse, they nicer they are to you in return. The more you ReTweet (RT) others, the more they will RT you in return. And whether it’s Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or YouTube, if someone does something nice for you in the online public commons, it is always a good practice to send them a message of “Thanks… much appreciated!”. Kindness and appreciation will make you stand out from the others and makes an excellent impression.

3. Don’t Tweet about your coffee (unless you sell coffee), the weather, or how tired you are.

Provide value to your followers, not chit-chat! It’s one thing to chit-chat about the weather, your headache, or how you need coffee to wake up in the morning on your personal profile on Twitter, but it’s quite another if you are active on the Twitterverse via your business profile. The messages you send reflect upon your business. Example of what not to Tweet: “Got stuck in traffic this morning. Ugh! I need coffee and a vacation… and I think I am getting a headache!” No one likes a whiner. Let me say that again. No one likes a whiner. People follow you because they want good content from your business and updates about your products and services. Make sure your Tweets provide value and are Re-Tweetable.

4. Don’t only Tweet your own content.

Twitter is a news source. Participate in spreading the news. Tweet articles or blog posts by your favorite newspapers, bloggers, or  local Chamber of Commerce. If is a good read or a good resource, it reflects well upon your business that you Tweeted it. There is also a good chance you might get ReTweeted if the article is deemed timely and worthy by the Twitterverse. The more often you are ReTweeted, the more often potential new customers see your brand on Twitter.

5. Send messages, but not via auto-responders.

There are tools out there that will automatically message your new followers. Don’t use them. It’s Spam. It’s not authentic. It’s robotic. It’s lazy marketing. I think this cartoon sums up auto-responders perfectly.

6. Create an account on Bit.ly and track your Twitter referral URLs.

After you have created an account on Bit.ly, every website address that you shorten can be tracked. It allows you to view stats on exactly how many people click the links you post on Twitter, what country they live in, and then how many people RT your link and share it on Facebook. This is a crucial best practice so you can track ROI and discover what content your followers are most interested in reading.

7. Poll your followers to increase participation.

Twtpoll.com is a free service that allow your to create polls with your Twitter ID. Folks on Twitter love anonymous polls, especially if they are bit controversial. Polls often get ReTweeted which can be great exposure for your business. Also, keep in mind that the polls can be posted on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

8. Promote your Twitter profile on your website , Facebook Page, blog, etc. and vice-versa.

If your business has a website and/or blog, grab the Twitter icon and put it on your website (Example), Facebook Page (Example), etc. Most blogs also offer Twitter widgets (see right) that post you most recent Tweets directly on your blog.

9.  Use #hashtags strategically.

If you use hashtags too often, then you dilute their usefulness. If every one of your tweets has a hashtag, some people will question your intentions for using them. There is such a thing as hashtag spamming. In the case of hashtags, I am a firm believer in less is more.

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10. Get professional training on how use Twitter!

Knowing how to use social media in your personal life is quite different from knowing how  to use it professionally. Training is essential for launching and maintaining a successful social media strategy for your business. Be sure to take Small Business Tech 2.0’s webinar on How Small Businesses Can Successfully Use Facebook and Twitter.

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