Small Business Resources: Using Twitter to Promote Your Business and Connect with Colleagues

September 06, 2012

In this installment of Small Business Resources, I wanted to briefly share how I use Twitter and the ways I feel that small business owners can benefit from using it. (Check out past posts on LinkedIn and Facebook here.)

Before we get into the nitty gritty, here's a quick rundown of some Twitter basics.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a platform that enables users to post messages in 140 characters or less. Each Twitter user has a name - mine is @hapcactus. Creating an account is free and easy. If you're just starting out, take some time to observe what others are talking about and how they respond to and interact with one another. 

How do you find people to follow on Twitter?
The easiest way to start is by following friends. From there, do a little research and find out the Twitter handles of industry leaders and other companies on your radar. Most websites and blogs these days feature a widget (a small icon) that links to that user's Twitter page. 

How do you get people to follow you on Twitter?
- Use your Twitter handle in your email signature and have a Twitter icon on your website that links to your Twitter page. I also include my Twitter handle on my business card. Announce your Twitter handle on your Facebook page and ask your fans to comment with their Twitter handles. 
- Respond to others. Use the @ symbol in front of another person's Twitter handle to reply or mention them in a tweet. Other users will be interested in who you are and why you are mentioning them.
- Retweet content you like or are interested in. This means you are reposting another user's message. You can automatically retweet or edit the tweet and add your own commentary along with the tweet. This helps amplify the original message and pique the interest of others.

Here's my tips for using Twitter effectively and getting the most out of the service. 
- Choose a short Twitter name. The longer your name, the more characters that get used up when someone tweets at you or retweets your message. 

- Choose a relevant image for your profile! I cannot tell you how many weird profile images I have come across. If you are using Twitter to represent your business, use a photo of yourself or your company logo. Potential followers want to see that you are a real person and not a robot!

- Create a bio. I keep my bio short and sweet - "Owner/Designer behind Happy Cactus Designs - Hand Drawn Paper Goods - Stationery & Greeting Cards" and include the URL to my website. In the weeks leading up to the National Stationery Show, many designers include their booth number in their bio. 

- Be authentic. It's great to use Twitter to promote your own business and share updates on new products and other relevant company news. At the same time, none of your followers wants to read tweets that are only about you. Just like Facebook, it's best to balance self-promotion with sharing other content. 

- Don't be afraid to join the conversation! Part of what makes Twitter fun is you can quickly correspond with others. A lot of people use Twitter to crowdsource requests for information. Before the National Stationery Show, I ended up meeting and tweeting with a number of other stationery designers. It was so fun to finally meet in person! I've even been able to use Twitter to network with journalists which resulted in press mentions. 

- Use a management app. I rarely use the actual Twitter web interface to post tweets and read my stream. I prefer Tweetdeck, a social media dashboard that lets you send and read tweets, view profiles, and search hashtags. It's also integrated with Facebook, so I can manage and follow what's happening on both platforms from one dashboard. I've heard Hootsuite is also a great service.

- Use hashtags strategically. Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the hash symbol (#) and can add context to your tweets. Many events these days have their own hashtags, as well. Around May, you'll start seeing a slew of #NSS hashtags relating to the National Stationery Show.

How do you like to use Twitter? 

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