12 Most Beneficial Ways for Businesses to Engage on Twitter

12 Most Beneficial Ways for Businesses to Engage on Twitter

Using Twitter for business is nothing new. Medium-sized and larger businesses have been successfully implementing Twitter for years. Smaller businesses, though, may find it difficult to get into. Along with the unrelenting stereotype of Twitter consisting merely of banal chatter about users, for example, going to the bathroom, Twitter is under-utilized by small businesses because of the time commitment involved in using it successfully.

Many small business owners, and possibly even some large enterprise executives, think that it’s enough simply to have an open Twitter account. That could not be further from the truth. Very, very seldom is anyone actually going to randomly view your Twitter profile. If they do, and your last Tweet was over a month ago, they will ignore you without a second thought. If your account isn’t going to be active, you might as well close it out. You’re doing more harm than good.

On the other hand, if you have someone on the team that can consistently and creatively update your Twitter account daily, you could open doors that you never dreamed possible. Twitter is a highly engaging platform for those willing to put in the effort to play the game. If that’s you, you might be interested in a few tips to make the interactions with other “Tweeps” more fruitful.

I apologize to veterans of Twitter, but I am trying to narrow it down to the raw basics for beginners. First, we’ll cover how to get started and then we’ll delve into how to manage interactions…

1. Make your Twitter handle easy to remember

The first thing you do when setting up a Twitter account is to choose a profile name and a user name (also known as a “handle”). For your profile name, you’ll want to put the name of your business. Let’s say it’s Johnson’s Bikes. For your user name (@username), you’ll want something memorable so that people can more easily mention you in their tweets. In other words, don’t make it @ourbikesrcool or something abstract like that. Preferably, in this case, it will be @johnsonbikes. It’s not a license plate; it’s a way for users to recognize you on Twitter. Make it simple and memorable.

2. Include a profile photo

It’s one of the oldest pieces of advice in the Twitter rulebook, you must have a picture! The default picture is an egg and when Twitter users see it, they think rotten egg. (It used to be a clear sign that you are a spammer but then spammers got smart and started including profile pics of attractive women). Preferably, your profile photo will be your business’s logo or a picture of your office — something that says you are legitimately who you say you are. People are visual; give them something to look at. (As a side note, unless you’re Starbucks, don’t make your profile picture one of an attractive woman).

3. Include a compelling bio

You aren’t pitching to a venture capitalist. You’re trying to connect with people. Let your bio ring with personality. Say who you are, what you do, and who you hope to meet on Twitter. Try to even inject a little humor. Twitter doesn’t give you much space, so don’t waste a single character. Be honest, to the point, and interesting.

4. State who from your company is Tweeting

In the bio, one thing you’ll probably want to include is you from your company will actually be managing the Twitter account. To users, this opens to the door to engaging with a real live human being. If you’re tweeting from Johnson’s Bikes, twitter users have no idea who is talking to them. If you say “tweets by Ryan,” it gives personality to your account. Be transparent.

5. Add a link to your blog, website, or Facebook page

The best link to put on your Twitter account is a link to a blog. Twitter users love sharing and, if you have something more extensive to contribute to the conversation, they will be happy to oblige. If you don’t have a blog (and will stubbornly refuse to start one), at least include a link to your website. Your Facebook page can also be linked in order to drive traffic there, but that could possibly come across as spammy, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

6. Customize your background

This is step is simple but often overlooked. When people do visit your Twitter profile, you don’t want them to see the same thing that is on everyone else’s profile. Be unique. Ideally, you’ll want to include your brand logo and a color scheme that matches that of your website. You want the visual cues given by your background to be sticky in the user’s mind.

How to Manage a Twitter Account:

7. Share content that interests your customers

Rarely should you share promotional content. Most of what you tweet will be links to articles or other content that would be of interest to your target audience. You want to be their key resource for cool stuff in your niche. For Johnson’s Bikes, Ryan may want to share content about fitness or outdoor sports. Whatever it is, make it interesting enough for people to read. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and hurting your brand.

8. Follow others if you expect to be followed

Users only see your tweets when they follow you. How do you get people to follow you? Follow them! It’s so simple, but so many business people on Twitter are afraid to follow other users. You want to make sure, however, that you keep your follower/following ratio fairly even so you don’t look 1) arrogant or 2) spammy. Also, don’t just follow at random. Follow people that you could foresee becoming customers or people who will possibly send you customers.

9. Mention or retweet someone new every day

You can publicly mention anyone on Twitter by including @username in your tweet. Whether it is someone who currently follows you or someone you are trying to get to follow you, tweet @ someone new every day. It shows them you are interested in them specifically rather than simply broadcasting your message. Also, for people that you follow, you’ll want to retweet something interesting from one person each day. This means that you resend their tweets out to your followers. It shows them that your recognize their content as being valuable.

10. Public replies are almost always better than direct messages

Rarely is does something need to be said in a direct message. Only use the direct message (DM) to communicate unique and private messages to users. Never automate your direct messages. I know you’re tired of this word, but it’s spammy. If you have something to say to another user, you’ll typically want to say it publicly. Why would you hide it? In your comment, you’re also showing other users that follow you how good you are at recognizing people.

11. Use hashtags for keywords

The hashtag (#) is a device used to search for topics on Twitter. For Johnson’s Bikes, #mountainbiking would be a good hashtag to use in a Tweet about mountain biking. Doing this allows users to search for and find your content without having to be introduced to you through other users. Another thing you might want to use hashtags for is trying to find people to follow. Search for keywords about your industry and you’re likely to find potential customers sharing content with those keywords in it.

12. Participate in Twitter chats about your industry (or your customer’s)

Twitter chats are a fantastic way to form deep connections with other users on Twitter and set yourself up as a knowledgeable resource in your industry. A Twitter chat is scheduled event in which users participate in a chat on Twitter using a specified hashtag (#twitterchat), naming the chat. For Johnson’s Bikes, Ryan may want to participate in a Twitter chat called, for example, #outdoorenthusiast. Twitter is about conversation and the chats magnify that theme significantly.

For something so simple as a newsfeed of 140 character posts, Twitter is a very dynamic world. I have only scratched the service. Notice something I did not mention, though: selling. Twitter is not about selling; it’s about networking. Very rarely should you promote your product or service on Twitter unless it is solicited by a follower. Twitter users are highly sensitive to spam and it only takes one gimmicky statement for you to acquire the dreaded “spammer” stereotype. Don’t risk losing the relationship. Your compelling content and authentic engagement will be all the selling you need.

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Featured image courtesy of Creative Tools licensed via Creative Commons.

Doug Rice


Douglas E. Rice is a marketer, writer, and researcher who blogs regularly. He is the author of The Curiosity Manifesto, a provocative guide to learning new things and keeping an open mind.

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