I personally have been Tweeting for a few months. But I use the phrase "tweeting for a few months" loosely. I haven't been all that consistent with it, and I definitely didn't have a strategy. I just thought it was kind of cool.
Recently I've started paying more attention to it for a few reasons; my mother-in-law was at a librarian conference recently and attended a session on Twitter. I got into a conversation with her about it, and then the next day I saw John Reese's email about Twitter. It seems like there is a lot of twittering about Twitter going on.
What is Twitter?
According to the Twitter FAQ, "Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you're doing."
Wikipedia says, "Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates via SMS, instant messaging, email, to the Twitter website, or any one of the multitude of Twitter applications now available".
Basically Twitter asks the question, "What are you doing?" and allows you to send a short update (your tweets are limited to 140 characters) to your followers (family, friends, colleagues, customers, potential customers etc).
Twitter allows you to send and receive updates (also called tweets) via your browser, email, instant messaging clients and SMS (using your cell phone). No matter where you are, you can tweet!
I haven't been following Twitter since day 1, so I'm not going to comment on it's evolution but I will speculate that as its popularity grows, as more and more marketers use it, 2 things are inevitable:
1. Rules on Twitter etiquette will continue to evolve as we learn what we like and dislike about it, and as we respond to the inevitable abuse of Twitter (don't mean to sound negative but it happens with each exciting new opportuníty - people end up abusing it).
2. More and more companies will jump on board and try to get in on the conversation.
Start Twittering (or is it Tweeting?)
Remember, when you first join Twitter, it can feel like a lonely place. When you aren't following anyone and no one is following you, you may find yourself asking "what is the point?" I've heard so many people say they just don't get it. In fact, I've said that myself.
The key is to find the Tweets you want to follow so you can keep your finger on the pulse of your niche. The next key is to start building your followers. More on that in a minute.
How can Twitter help your business?
The more contact you have with a potential customer, the more likely you are to get their business. You can stay "top of mind" through Twitter. Let them know what's new in your industry, in your company etc. You become a source of quick news flashes for them.
Here are just a few of the benefits of Twitter:
- It reminds people that you exist.
- It shows people you have something to say.
- It shows them that you are human.
- It allows you to mention new offers, sales and breaking news immediately.
- It allows you to form a more casual relationship.
- You can use Twitter to promote your social bookmarking submissions.
- You can ask for referrals, suggestions, feedback and help, and people will respond.
Twitter is also fun and is contributing to the new language we are constantly developing. For example "Twitterference" - the intrusion of twitter updates on your phone making it hard to have a conversation on your phone.
Start by reaching out to your friends, family, mailing líst etc. You can also add your Twitter link to your email signature line; add links to your website and Blog. Mention your Twitter account in your newsletter.
One cardinal rule (that is in your best interest to follow): if you use Twitter as a pure sales tool, you will lose followers quickly. As with all forms of social media, it is about creating a conversation and sharing news - it's not all about you shoving your sales message down their throats.
Tweets are limited to 140 characters. This is to allow them to be easily sent over mobile SMS systems.
You aren't able to embed HTML with the exception of hyperlinks. (But they are no-follow links, so they won't help you in your SEO quest for backlinks)
Bonus: Twitter automatically uses the TinyURL service to shorten links.
Don't tweet too much, or too little. There is no magic number and it varies according to your audience. Some people say don't update more than once per hour. Others say not more than once or twice a day. I tend to be in the once or twice a day camp. If there is breaking news and some days you just have to update more often then it's OK. If your tweets are valuable information, people will be more tolerant of frequent updates.
On the other hand if you are too quiet, people have nothing to follow so make sure you find that balance and tweet just enough to keep people informed but not annoyed.
Don't forget that your profile shows a history of all your tweets, so if a new person comes along and sees that you don't have many tweets they may decide you aren't worthy of following. Also if your past tweets aren't informative or interesting, you lose some potential followers.
You'll find that sometimes you get involved in personal conversation with someone. Try to avoid doing too much of this. Not everyone will be interested in your personal communications. If you do need to do this, put the @ symbol in front of somebody's name - this indicates that this message is for them.
One thing to keep in mind about personal conversation tweets - some people who are following you may not be following the person you are talking to. This means they get only one half of the conversation. One suggestion is to word your tweet so that spectators have an idea of what you are talking about. That way, they can feel more included in the conversation.
Trust and Twitter
With so much hype in marketing, people are really looking for a company that can trust. You can build trust with prospects by allowing them to get to know you, and by providing them with information. Twitter allows you to do just that.
A great tip: look at your Tweet history - is the information valuable, does it build trust? Would you want to follow yourself?
It may take some trial and error, and you probably want to check out what others are tweeting about to get a feel for the style. But don't spend too long lurking - check it out and then jump on in.
About The Author
Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing and co-owner of EcomBuffet.com . Since 1998, her expertise in marketing online and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients improve revenue and achieve their business goals. Jennifer has written a downloadable book on Search Engine Optimization and has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer can be reached at Jennifer@ecombuffet.com.