It’s not surprising that The New York Times called twitter “the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” Twitter has quickly become a part of our everyday media and social culture. So how did we get to this point? Twitter began in August 2006 as a micro-blogging site with the sole purpose of answering (in 140 characters or less) this question: What are you doing right now?
In 2006 and 2007, many people were posting items, called “tweets” such as “going to Starbucks” watching television right now” or “looking forward to buying the new Mac laptop tomorrow”. But initially, many users were turned off because there wasn’t a clear explanation on the site about how to actually use it.
Since 2007, though, Twitter has become a valuable tool for entrepreneurs, artists, media personalities, reporters, and marketers. In this article, you’ll learn why Twitter is a terrific way to market your business and services. You’ll also learn about building strategic alliances, attracting raving and dedicated fans, the finer points of Twitter culture and much more.
The Twitter Culture
What used to be a place where you shared what you are doing right now in 140 characters (or less) has turned into a place of sharing tips, tricks, information, motivation, inspiration and a whole lot of communication. It is a content-rich platform where power Twitterers are wonderful about sharing your name, following you while you promote your business, and potentially, strategically partnering with you.
What do I mean by power Twitterers? They are a very motivated, enthusiastic group who are eager to share, learn, and network. However, they also want to add income to their bottom lines.
You’ll find many different types of people using Twitter – coaches, consultants, celebrities, corporate CEOs, artists, nutritionists, speakers, Realtors, recruiters, and entrepreneurs. You’ll also find airline companies, restaurant chains, hotels, tourism destinations, and media outlets such as radio, TV, and print.
To be successful and keep a loyal following, you must abide by the “unwritten rules” of Twitter culture. Keep these Twitter tips in mind to get loyal followers network, and grow your business:
- Share information.
- Care about other users.
- Provide value.
- Share your expertise.
- Be welcoming and generous.
- Be authentic.
- Be likeable.
- Do not plagiarize or “Twagiarize”.
- Do not spam.
- Have fun with it.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to becoming a valuable member of the Twitter community.
Blocking People on Twitter
Unfortunately, there are spammers on Twitter who have a very disingenuous way of following and attracting folks. What’s a spammer? Twitter recently released this list that describes who and what is considered spam:
- Following others to gain attention to your account or links.
- Creating several accounts to promote the same product or links.
- Sending large numbers of @reply messages that aren’t really genuine replies, (@reply messages are personal replies to Twitter users).
- Creating updates just so they show up in search results.
- Disguising links (similar to bait and switch; writing about one thing but linking to another).
- Developing a large number of users (relative to those following you) who have blocked you.
If you block someone, you’re saying that you don’t want them following or contacting you.
How do you block users? You’ll find this by clicking on their photo, or avatar, in the Followers section on your own profile. On the left side of the page, you’ll see an Actions heading. You can click Block to keep that person from following you.
You also have an option to block a user when you receive an e-mail notification that you have a new follower. You’ll see a link – block Jane Doe – in the e-mail. If you already know this is a spammer, click the Block link and you’re free of this pesky follower.
Why You Should Join Twitter
Although Twitter is a social networking site, it has also been called an information site There is so much great content on Twitter that’s being passed around from tweeter to tweeter. Think of it as a giant cocktail party where people share tips, resources, links, videos, and inspirational quotes. If every true “cocktail party” was like that, everyone would want to attend, right? And no one would want to leave. That is the appeal of Twitter.
More often than not, it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Twitter is an amazing resource for all-around networking and getting to know people from all over the world. In one day, you could have a conversation on Twitter with someone from Scotland, California, and Australia. The more people that you know and who know you, the more empowered you become with information, new ways of looking at things, and new ideas. You’ll eventually find new champions for your business and even new customers!
Imagine that your competitors are on Twitter and they’re experiencing amazing conversations, sharing their expertise, and making a lot of new connections. Wouldn’t that make you feel a bit behind? Well, even if they aren’t on Twitter today, chances are they will be soon. Here’s your chance to be a leader in your industry!
As of this writing, Twitter has already merged into the mainstream television media where reporters on CNN are saying, “Follow me on Twitter.” Larry King has a live Twitter feed going across the bottom of the screen during the middle of his show. You almost can’t go to a conference without finding someone twittering away from their seat.
In fact, at a technology conference, you’re more likely to have conversations on Twitter than you are in person – even if you’re both attending the same conference. Does it now seem like the whole world is “a’tweeting”? If it isn’t, it may soon be.
Okay, so let’s get down to the details. How can Twitter help your business?
Twitter is an amazing tool for the following:
- Using PR strategies for your business
- Marketing your business
- Networking for your business
- Driving traffic to your website
- Getting others to talk about your business
- Attracting and keeping loyal customers
- Asking your followers/customers questions
- Staying informed by reading what people are thinking
Twitter Terms You Need to Know
Twitter has an entirely new language, which has emerged as the short “sound-byte chatter” within the Twitter culture. If you’re new to twitter, you might feel like you’ve entered The Land of the Lost when reading tweets like this: “Thanks for the RT on #followfriday see u at the Tweetup.”
Here’s the translation: Thank you for the retweet (sharing my tweet to your network and referencing me) on Follow Friday (the day that tweeters recommend people to follow). See you at the tweetup (also called a meetup – a location that was decided we were to meet through tweets on Twitter).
As Twitter folks merge their tweets into other social media sites such as Facebook, the Facebook “language” is also shifting as people update their Facebook status via Twitter.
Don’t worry; you’ll be a savvy Twitterer in no time. To get you on your way, here are some terms that every Twitterer simply must know:
Tweet: Commonly referred to as a status update or what’s on your mind. People use this to post links, share thoughts, and give information, all in 140 characters or less.
Retweet (RT): An RT is the same as quoting someone on Twitter. Simply use RT@(person’s username). Example: RT@SalesLounge (then repeat the tweet). An RT is the forwarding of a message out to your followers, which helps it become more viral. The fun part is when people start RT-ing what you write.
Hashtags: This is simply a way to group or “tag” tweets together to be searched for later or followed by others interested in that topic or event. A Hashtag is preceded by the # symbol and is usually made up of an acronym of letters for an event or cause.
Trending Topics: This describes what the Twitter users are talking about most often. The Trending Topics are always changing depending on what is happening in the news, entertainment, or online worlds.
Followers: These are the people who are “following” your tweets. These can be your potential friends, advocates, champions, business referrers, strategic partners, customers, and fans.
Peeps: Another term in Twitter culture for your followers.
Updates: Twitter keeps track of how many times you post a tweet. They are referred to as updates.
Direct Message (DM): This is your inbox on Twitter. Someone might send you a Direct Message via Twitter, which is only seen by you and that person, if that person chooses to send it to you privately. A Direct Message can be automated or genuinely typed and sent to you by someone on Twitter. It is good to know, however, that if both parties are not following each other, you cannot DM that person privately. Any messaging would be public until both parties are following each other.
#FollowFriday: Each Friday, power Twitterers recommend people to follow by putting the #FollowFriday in front of usernames of folks they want to recommend. #FF is also commonly used.
Example: “Great Peeps for #FollowFriday,@efame,@eddierents @ RuthSherman,@MeredithLiepelt, ©BarbaraWayman.”
By recommending people to follow, you’ll quickly become likeable in the Twitter culture. When someone from another network, city, or even country recommends you on Follow Friday, you know you’re doing something right on Twitter. One of your goals should be to eventually be on the #FollowFriday list.
Tweetup: A term a Twitterer uses when she wants to meet in person.
Tweeting: This is the act of posting a tweet.
Tweeps: Another word for the people who follow you; same as peeps. It often refers, more generally, to the people (or tweeple) who participate on Twitter.
Twictionary: An unofficial listing of Twitter terms. Find it at www.twictionary.com.
How Twitter Helps Your Business
When initially viewing the Twitter landscape, many entrepreneurs and business owners just cannot imagine how typing in 140 character comments on a site can help their businesses. So if that’s how you feel, you’re not alone. My best advice is to look at this as a free networking and PR avenue for your business.
If your ongoing tweets make use of the Twitter tips that we’ve already talked about, you’ll begin attracting new followers and then some of their followers will start to follow you. There’s a natural progression that occurs after you get those first followers.
Here is what usually happens next: after someone recommends you to his or her network, you will get even more followers. Your new followers simply tell their network how great your services or products are. Next, the tweeps in your new follower’s network decide to check out your website. At that point, there’s a good chance you’ll land a new client or at least develop a solid prospect. All this takes time, of course.
Why don’t you try this goal? Get five new people (tweeps) to follow you during your first week on Twitter. (Hey, that’s five more than you had last week!) In the second week, you shoot for five more; then in the third week, you shoot for 10 more, then 20 more, and so on. All you need to focus on are a few tweeps at a time.
Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty about how Twitter can help your business.
Creating a Tech-Savvy Image
In today’s business world, you can’t afford to look like a dinosaur. You want to be seen as an on-trend and in-the-know entrepreneur. In fact, some say if you aren’t using Twitter, your business savvy might appear suspect to others. Conversely, after you’re on Twitter, you’ll look like a savvy techie (even if you aren’t). You will be marketing yourself and your business while networking with the tech-savvy in crowd of tens of millions.
Communicating Information about Your Business
Twitter also helps you quickly send information out to your followers. Let’s say you’re speaking at an event, holding an open house, running a big special, or announcing a new client partnership. Or maybe you’re closing your business early on Tuesday for some reason. Now you can send that message out with a few simple keystrokes and-voila! – You’re done.
Building Your List
Another Twitter benefit is that it can help you build your list. In the past years, the list referred to your mailing list. Today, it refers to your e-mail list, but you can also gather office and home address as well. To the small business owner or entrepreneur, your list is your gold mine. You want to build a list with which you can regularly communicate with folks outside of Twitter and other social media platforms.
Twitter helps you by driving people to your website, where you invite them to sign up for your e-zine or newsletter.
Networking with Colleagues, Clients, and Prospects
Twitter is also a great place to build rapport with folks you’ve been networking with. Let’s say you meet someone at a networking event. Find out if he or she is on Twitter. If so, tell him or her you’ll become a follower. More than likely, people will follow you back and you’ll begin building a rapport. You’ll share your expertise, tips, and information with each other. This approach also builds credibility and, hopefully, likeability, which certainly helps every business owner.
More Ways Twitter Helps Your Business
You’re a busy professional who wants to ensure that your social media choices give you a lot of bang for your buck. To help you decide if Twitter is for you, here are a few more quick tips suggesting ways to use Twitter:
- Use Twitter as a PR tool to promote your business as a great place to work or to do business with. Tweet something good about your employees or clients. This will give you not only happy employees and clients, but it just makes you look (and feel) good!
- Share interesting links or information about your industry to position yourself as a subject matter expert. Let’s say you run ABC Catering. Instead of only tweeting about ABC, tweet about an article you’ve read that covers new trends in wedding cakes. This approach also shows you’re willing to be a “sharing resource” which will ultimately expand your business reach.
- Create a sense of community around your business. Commenting on fellow entrepreneurs, business owners, clients, and followers will make them feel more attached to you and your business, We’ve talked about how networking can bring you new business and help you retain your clients. But if your tweets show genuine interest in others, this engenders a neighborhood feel.
- Create top-of-mind awareness for your brand. By tweeting each day, you will keep your name and business in front of people. When genuinely used, a daily tweet or two can be an incredible source of PR, marketing, and branding for you and your services. Companies pay a lot of money for advertising. Remember, Twitter if a free way to get some advertising for your brand or company name.
- Learn what your community, customers, and market are looking for. When you read and have dialogue on Twitter, you’ll know what your followers want and what they have to say. You’ll learn things that will help you make decisions about the direction of your business.
- Invite your current clients and prospects to follow you on Twitter. They’ll learn from you and you can follow them back, which will ultimately make you, your clients, and your prospects feel more connected.
What’s in a Username?
Before creating your Twitter account, think about your Twitter username. Your user name on Twitter is your handle or your call name. It’s the word that will be placed directly below or next to your photo, or avatar. It can also be an instrumental part of your branding strategy.
In fact, a great Twitter username will be part of all of your marketing. It will go on your business cards, your e-mail signature, your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and your blog. So think carefully about it. Oh, one more thing – you have only 15 characters for your username.
This requires thinking a little differently from what you’re used to. When we all first got into computing, our usernames were not made public. We wrote them down and filed them away. Well, with Twitter, it’s very different. Your username on Twitter is very public.
So as you begin thinking about your strategy and why you want to use Twitter, carefully plan your Twitter username to attract your target audience. There are also many ways your chosen username can help you reach out to the people you want to follow you.
As you get savvier on Twitter, which will happen faster than you can imagine, you’ll learn that one way to find people is to type in an industry within the Find People tab on Twitter.com.
Here’s an example: Say you want to find someone in sales or a sales expert. Well, if you type in the word “sales” using Find People, anyone with the word “sales” in their username will pop up. Most people who use “sales” in their username have something to do with sales. The same is true with the word “realtor” or “financial. So your username could include the name of your industry.
Another way to find people is to search by their business name or actual name. Many people use their business name for their username. When setting up your account, it’s important to include your actual name so that people can find your Twitter profile.
You might want to brand your own name, such as @JohnDoe. That’s fine, too. Or you may want to use the name of your business as your username. That’s also fine.
The Least You Heed to Know
- Even if you don’t immediately understand how it will ultimately help your business, get on Twitter and become involved in the conversations.
- Don’t be in constant sell mode, because the Twitter culture hates spammers.
- On Twitter you need to relate to others, share information help others, be yourself and reflect a positive image of your business.
- Participate in #FollowFriday, which involves recommending people (or peeps) to follow.
- Retweet someone when you can to show that you’re part of a community, that you don’t always have to take credit for everything, and that you’re willing to give the spotlight to someone else.
- Think about your overall Twitter marketing and branding strategy when you select your username and photo or avatar.
Image Credits – Graph on a tablet via BigStock