10 ways to use Twitter for your business

Hundreds, even thousands of your customers and clients are engaging in all sorts of conversations on Twitter, but you might still be hesitating to jump on the social media bandwagon. One thing I always recommend to small business owners interested in social media is that consistency is crucial to their success. If you are only posting Twitter updates occasionally and aren't making the effort to engage with the community, you will be wasting your time. The right Twitter strategy, however, can help you develop a strong online presence, build your brand, and even drive sales.

Here are 10 ways to use Twitter for your small business:

1. Use a high-quality profile picture. Whether you decide to use your logo, your headshot, or a picture of your business storefront, make sure the image you choose as your profile picture is a high-resolution image and easy to spot. This will make your Twitter profile appear more professional and give potential customers a chance to find you easily in their stream.

2. Scope out the competition. Are your competitors already on Twitter? Take a look at their Twitter profiles and see who they're following, who is following them, and what types of conversations they're having. You're free to follow people on their lists and can gather some valuable information just from their Twitter profile and presence.

3. Schedule your tweets. If you don't have the time to be on Twitter multiple times a day, you can use a social media service to schedule your tweets ahead of time. You can choose the exact time to publish each tweet and take some time to really think about what you're posting.

4. Ask questions. Twitter is designed for engagement so don't be afraid to pose a question now and then. The question doesn't even have to be related to your business - remember that not all of your tweets need to be focused on driving traffic or generating a sale. Ask questions and reply to any answers whenever you can.

5. Forward updates to Facebook. You can have your tweets post to your business's Facebook page automatically by enabling the Twitter Facebook app. This can save you time and also make it easier for you to reach a wider audience of "fans" and followers.

6. Welcome new followers. You'll receive email notifications when you have a new follower, so why not thank them for following you? Many people will be happy to see themselves mentioned on Twitter and will definitely remember you for the mention. Just round up your latest followers' Twitter handles and drop a "Thanks for the follow!" message now and then.

7. Send out Twitter-only deals. Give people a reason to follow you by offering exclusive deals only on Twitter. Announce the date and time that the deal will be released and be sure to send traffic to a specific sales page or dedicated landing page on your website.

8. Share interesting images. Whether you're launching a new product or just redecorated the office, share both professional and candid images with your Twitter followers. Photos and videos are both attractive alternatives to text-only updates and can keep your audience interested.

9. Respond to client or customer feedback immediately. Keep track of any mentions on Twitter so that you can respond to both positive and negative feedback right away. Customers need to know that there is a person who cares behind that Twitter handle, and you need to be able to quell negative feedback and promote positive feedback at every opportunity.

10. Provide useful and helpful tips. Don't get caught up in just retweeting other people's updates and posting random thoughts. Really think about what your clients and customers will find useful, helpful, and even entertaining. This can be a very important part of your brand-building strategy and will also make you interact with the community in a refreshing way.

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