Profit Minded

Ten tweeting tips for small businesses

If the recent Profit Minded post "How a Designer Turns Tweets into Sales" left you thinking that tweeting 14 times a day is beyond your capacity, here's another angle.

A tweet a day could grow your customer base.

Twitter itself has just published a 21-page guide for small business owners on how to use the platform to engage customers and "put Twitter to work for your business." The straightforward, simple, and illustrated tips are designed to show business owners how to "connect with customers, amplify your message, and ultimately, grow your business." And one tweet a day might be all you need to make an impact.

For total newbies, the guide dissects the anatomy of the 140-character tweet, tells you what to do with a hashtag, explains what it means to follow and be followed on Twitter, and shows how and why to retweet and direct-message your followers. It also offers tips on designing your profile page, and developing your company's Twitter voice with plenty of inspiring examples from well-done small business feeds.

For those already up and running on Twitter, the guide offers some sage advice about engaging an audience. Here's a summary:

1. Find your tribe: Plug words associated with your business into the search field at search.twitter.com to find the common hashtags and keywords being used on Twitter by people and businesses you'd like to connect with. Save that search to repeat it again later by clicking on the options wheel and choosing "save search."

2. Gather intelligence: You can also use search.twitter.com to see what customers might be saying on Twitter about your own or a competitor's product or company.

3. Develop a habit: How often must you tweet? Twitter pros say, "there isn't one right answer. Tweeting every five minutes might be too often and tweeting only weekly is very likely too infrequent." Start out tweeting once a day, they say. Eventually you'll get a sense of what works best for your business.

4. Interact with other tweeters: When others tweet favorably about your business, thank and retweet them. When the tweets are not so favorable, respond promptly and even suggest they direct message you with their contact information so you can speak offline with them.

5. Promote your products: For extra help on promoting a product or a service, Twitter provides a best practices guide at support.twitter.com. Among the suggestions: "Share photos and behind-the-scenes info about your business. Even better, give a glimpse of developing projects and events."

6. Engage the media: Follow and retweet selected tweets of local reporters and publications. The content doesn't have to be directly relevant to your product or business, just useful or interesting to your followers.

7. Be gracious: Be sure to include the @username of whomever you retweet—it's not only nice to name your source, but it lets the person know they've been retweeted. It could gain you a new follower or frequent retweeter. If local journalists follow you back, your business could wind up capturing their attention for news stories, or at least your messages might be retweeted to their broad audiences.

8. Create shareable tweets: People retweet tweets that are useful or interesting. According to Twitter, "the most retweeted content tends to contain links, photos, videos, or quotes."

9. Tweet incentives: Encourage your followers to retweet to their followers by offering rewards. For instance, offer a discount to everyone who retweets your tweet. You can direct message those who did with a coupon code, or ask them to show you their retweet on their phone at checkout.

10. Make it easy for followers to find you: Feature your Twitter @username on your business cards, your website, your Facebook page, your shop window, your advertising campaigns. Says Twitter: "Anywhere your customers interact with your brand is an opportunity to encourage them to follow you on Twitter."

For more tips and information about measuring your success on Twitter or promoting your business with Twitter's paid advertising services, download the free guide: Twitter for Small Business.

Is Twitter part of your small business marketing strategy? Or do you consider Twitter a distraction from more important tasks? Tell us in the comments.

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