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How to Use Twitter for Small Business: 8 Steps

I like statistics as much as the next guy (which means not very much) but I don't need statistics to tell me Twitter is a popular small business tool: My plumber has a Twitter account.

(No, I haven't checked out his tweets. I found out because his Twitter handle is on his business card... and his invoices, and his envelopes, and the side of his truck.)

Feel like you're getting left behind? No problem. Here's a simple guide to getting started with Twitter for business purposes:

  1. Decide how you will use Twitter. Goals always come first. Do you plan to announce sales or specials? Build brand awareness? Connect with others in your field? Share tips and advice? Whatever your goals, try to stay relatively focused. "All of the above" may sound like a good approach, but some clients may have no interest in finding out about technical information related to your field. At the same time, colleagues may grow tired of hearing about your latest promotions. Followers are only valuable if they are engaged, and if you try to please too many people you'll please no one. Pick a primary goal and stick to it, at least the majority of the time.
  2. Create an account at twitter.com. (Told you this would be a simple guide.)
  3. Choose an appropriate name. Many people try to be cute or clever; clever works fine for personal use, but if your Twitter account represents your business makes sure there's a connection. Use the name of your business, or your name... just be sure the name creates an automatic connection to your business. @Plumber4Life may (or actually may not) sound catchy, but @RicksPlumbing connects the account to the business.
  4. Create a profile. You get 160 characters; don't waste them. Avoid buzzwords, jargon, and hype. Stay to the point and be straightforward. While expressing personality and flair may work in some cases, if you use Twitter for business purposes plain language and accurate descriptions are what potential followers -- and potential customers -- really want to see. (For more guidance, check out my post 8 Words That Should Never Appear in Your Twitter Bio.)
  5. Include a photo. People want to connect with real people. Be one.
  6. Follow people who actually add value to your day. I like cycling, so following, say, Lance Armstrong makes sense, right? Actually, no. I'm sure Lance is a great guy, but I'm really not interested in what he's up to. Avoid the temptation to sign up for "celebrity" tweeters. You have enough stuff to keep up with as it is. If you consistently learn something from a person's tweets, follow away. Otherwise, not.
  7. Add value to others. For the first few days you'll be tempted to go tweet-happy. Restrain yourself. Think about what you want from people you follow: Interesting, informative, possibly entertaining content... but above all, some sort of value. Then take the same approach with your tweets. That's the only way to gain real followers.
  8. Add additional value. Tweeting is good, but providing more value is better. Once you build a handful of followers, make the occasional special offer to Twitter followers only. Not only will they appreciate the gesture (and continue to check out your Tweets), but their word of mouth could generate additional followers eager to jump on your special offer bandwagon.
The key is to determine your goals first. Let your goals drive your use of Twitter. "I need to be on Twitter because my competition is on Twitter" is a terrible reason to start tweeting. In business terms, Twitter is a marketing platform; determine your goals and use Twitter to meet those goals.

Also keep in mind that tweets are free... which makes it tempting to market like a crazed weasel. Most of your followers will not appreciate getting inundated with special offers and announcements, but an occasional promotion -- as long as it has a reasonable payoff for the customer -- might be welcomed. The more direct the benefit to the customer, the better. Announcing a "20% Off, Store-wide, End-of-Season Pro Shop Sale" will drive results a lot better than a general, "Stop in to check out our great deals on golf clubs!" tweet.

And most importantly, remember that 100 engaged followers beats 1,000 followers who ignore your tweets. Where Twitter and social media are concerned, think quality, not quantity.

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