Time to try Twitter for business

Twitter has just turned 8 years old. And to honour that, I finally signed up! @robynRHD is now one of about 700 million users. A little late to the game, you might say, but the game is always changing (and will certainly continue to, given that Twitter floated last year). I’m just learning how to play, but want to share the experience with you.

 

I’ve been encouraged by a few people over the past year to join Twitter, and then recently heard from a social media ‘guru’ that Twitter should be the social starting point for any business. So, I signed up, and it’s all been quite easy. And a little fun!

 

What I like about Twitter, compared to Facebook

I like its brevity. The 140 character limit forces you to condense your thoughts.

 

I like its pace. The world of Twitter is fast. And it’s real-time. There’s always something new appearing every minute or so.

 

I like that everything appears sequentially on my timeline. I like that there’s no complex little Facebook-style algorithm constantly tampering with what might appear. I like that after I click on a link and read it, I am returned to the same location on my timeline so I can easily keep browsing.

 

I like that I don’t have to follow my followers. Twitter doesn’t require a handshake. Unlike Facebook, there’s no need to accept a friend request.

 

I like its search capability. I don’t have to be following everyone because I can just search on a person, business name or topic when I want to find something.

 

What I don’t like about Twitter

 

I don’t like shortened links. I understand that shortened links are a fact of life on Twitter. Doesn’t mean I have to like them. I know people also use shortened links in other social platforms, but I prefer to see the full URL so I know whether it links to a site I already trust and follow, and whether I’ve perhaps read it before.

 

I don’t like timeline spam. I began by following some of the big names in social media. Jeff Bullas (Aussie social media expert) was one of them. But I quickly unfollowed him again as my feed became littered with hundreds of tweets, with so many @’s and #hashtags. It looked more like a page of code! I’m sure my brain will soon sort the wheat from the chaff after using Twitter for a while, but meantime I’d rather not deal with it.

 

Obviously Jeff Bullas is using some sort of automated service, and even though I’ll touch on Tools in this blog, I’d say that level of automation takes away the human element and certainly doesn’t encourage conversation.

 

I don’t like spammy followers. My early experience with Twitter has been that there are a LOT of people who will follow you simply in the hope that you will follow them back. Seemingly with the simple aim of increasing their numbers.

 

I’m not into crowds. Twitter has been likened to a giant cocktail party (sorry, but I can’t remember where I read that) where it seems everyone is shouting over each other and trying to grab attention. But in the corner are some real conversations happening amongst a few genuinely interested (and interesting) people.

 

Cartoon of Pacman being followed by ghosts
Twitter – who’s following you?

Why Twitter for Business?

 

Twitter with its 140-character messaging platform has been described (in typically short-form) as “micro-blogging”, “sound bites”, “news carrier” and “instant customer service”.

 

It feels less about friends than Facebook and less about business than LinkedIn. Twitter is more about sharing news, ideas, opportunities. And, yes, products and services can be shared too.

 

Because it is such a public platform – and searchable – it can also be used to find resources you need for your business. For instance, you could tweet that you need to find a catering company in your local area for an upcoming event. Or that you need a plumber to fix a leaking pipe in the office. Or it’s time to get a personal assistant or virtual assistant. You might receive replies from those services directly, or someone may pass on a recommendation.

 

I believe you should have 2 main aims with Twitter:
 

  1. Encourage conversation
  2. Increase sharing

Carry on a conversation publicly where it makes sense to, but you also have the option to take it offline through the direct message facility. People refer to this as DM, eg. “please DM me the details”.

 

Note that there’s zero obligation to follow someone who’s following you. Even when they’re a legitimate, engaged follower, what you’re tweeting can be useful to them but the reverse doesn’t necessarily apply. Just as in real life you might employ the services of a plumber, the plumber may not need your typing service in return.

 

Unlike Facebook’s Pages, which are mostly used by businesses and differ from personal Profiles, Twitter is kind of all-in-one. Maintain separate personal and business profiles if you prefer, but you don’t have to. As a soloist, I like to inject a little of the personal stuff into my brand. Hence my Twitter profile lets on a few of those personal traits. One of those is that I’m a weather-watcher (I love commenting on the seasons, the sunshine, storms and how they make me feel). Another is that I’m a food-lover.

 

So my tweets won’t just cover the world of websites, SEO and social media, but will be peppered with other details that have nothing to do with my business. By sticking to those topics, I am staying true to what my profile promised, even though it’s not all strictly business.

 

What to Tweet

You want to provide some diversity with your tweets (so people don’t get bored), but maintain relevance to your line of business (so they don’t get confused or annoyed). If you let people know which topics are your focus, and then stick to them, you’ll keep your (legitimate) followers happy.
 
Use a mix of images, quotes, questions, links to articles, interesting facts and, of course, retweets.
 
A good way of adding interest to tweets is with pictures. The ability to post images is relatively new to the Twitter world. I think it makes perfect sense – post an image that can ‘say a thousand words’ rather than being limited by a 140-character sentence.
 
Make sure the image is a minimum of 505 pixels wide by 253 high so that the image is shown and can be seen clearly enough to encourage engagement. Images smaller than this will be inserted as a link that must be clicked on, which kinda defeats the purpose. Larger images are better, and will get scaled down to display as 505×253.

 

As I’m still very new to Twitter, I’ll instead share some advice from the experts. Check this Social Media Examiner article for 9 ways that small business can use Twitter for marketing.

 

How to Tweet

In the interests of brevity (for which I am not renowned) I’ll point you to this useful list from Kate Toon: http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/how-to-tweet-a-beginners-guide/

 

Blue birds twittering
Twitter has its own abbreviated lingo to learn

Tools for Tweeting:

Link shortening tools:

A long URL link can use too much of your valuable 140 characters in a tweet.

 

Scheduling tools:

There are third party tools available to schedule your tweets.
 

  • HootSuite and Buffer are two of the most popular. Apparently HootSuite doesn’t yet show images in tweets, so for now I’ll stick with Buffer.

 

  • If you use Chrome or Firefox as your browser, you can add a Buffer plugin. When you want to tweet something, including images you find on the web, you get the option to buffer (delay/schedule ) the tweet. Cool, huh?

 

Blogging tools:

  • WordPress plugins for sending previous blog posts to Twitter include “Tweet Old Post” and “Evergreen Post Tweeter”.

 

  • You don’t even have to be a Twitter user to make use of Click-to-Tweet in your blog posts. Let others who do use Twitter put your link out there. Find the basic version here: http://clicktotweet.com/basic

 
If you do sign up to Twitter, be sure to look me up and say hi. You’ll find me at @robynRHD.
 

Author: RobynRHD

I'm a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: "Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I'd like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it." I'm a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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