Of all the social media platforms, Twitter is perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned – but it’s also one of the most powerful, and used properly can promote your business and attract traffic to your website. So here are some tips on how to get started, and how to make the most of Twitter for business. (There’s even a glossary at the end…)
Short is sweet, so keep it snappy! You only have 140 characters, and ideally you want to use less, so that if someone wants to “retweet” your message (ie, repost it so that their followers can see it) this leaves room for them to add a comment. (Eg – “Great post from @yournamehere )
Shorten your links: Twitter will often shorten links in posts, but if you need to shorten your URL to make space you can use a ‘link shortener’ such as http://bit.ly . Simply paste your link into the site and it will create a new short link for you. This also has the advantage that if you set up a (free) account, you can see on bit.ly how many times your link has been opened.
Be clear: don’t try and be too clever or opaque in your tweet, or people simply won’t click through to the link. Remember that most people on Twitter will be following literally hundreds – or even thousands – of people, so you need to catch their attention in a split second. That said, a little bit of humour or character will make people warm to you and can help you stand out.
Use keywords and hashtags: people search on Twitter using keywords – so if everyone is talking about “phone hacking”, you don’t want to be talking about “telephone espionage”. You can use a hashtag to emphasise this, eg #phonehacking (no space after the # or between words, but put a space after the hashtag if you’re using punctuation – eg ‘Murdoch denies knowledge of #phonehacking ! – if you don’t leave a space, the punctuation negates the hashtag as Twitter doesn’t recognise it).
This aids with searching so that people can easily see a group of tweets on the same subject. Hashtags can be used to highlight your topic even if the specific word isn’t in the tweet. (eg, Murdoch interviewed about emails #medialaw). If you’re not sure of whether a hashtag is appropriate, you can do a quick search to see if the one you want to use is being used already. But don’t worry – there’s no such thing as an “incorrect” hashtag, so there’s no penalty for getting it wrong. Though note: never add a ‘trending’ hashtag to a post where it’s not appropriate just to get attention (eg #ladygaga The FSA today announced new fines…) – this can lead to being ‘flamed’.
Understanding hashtags, part 2: although this is less relevant for a business account, it’s worth knowing that hashtags have now developed to become humour: it’s common for people to add them as a punchline to a joke. So not all hashtags are actually subject specific or relevant (eg, ‘I am working late and everyone is out of the office #mightaswelleatallthebiscuits ‘).
Caution required: Twitter is PUBLIC: every one of your tweets is public and can be seen by everyone on Twitter – even if they don’t follow you – and can come up in a Google search. Even if you delete tweets, people can find them – just think of some of the news stories about people being arrested for what they post online. This includes replies sent to other people’s tweets (but not private messages). Use sensible precautions. Don’t be abusive or offensive, and be careful using humour – it may not translate. Remember that if you’re tweeting a series of messages, followers may only notice one: so don’t rely on context to clarify your tweet. Also, if you’re tweeting to promote a business, poor spelling and grammar and an over reliance on ‘text’ speak can look unprofessional. Never tweet anything confidential and be careful about being controversial. If in doubt, don’t tweet it.
But, don’t be scared: it’s highly unlikely you’ll break the internet. Providing you don’t tweet anything abusive, confidential or offensive, it’s not a disaster if you accidentally have a typo or a broken link in your tweet, or send something out half typed. Just send a “Sorry, here’s the correct link” type tweet.
You have to engage! Those who use social media a lot are rightly suspicious of people they see using it JUST to broadcast about themselves. Don’t just use Twitter as a way of advertising your blogs, products or newsletters, but to build relationships with contacts, potential clients and other thought leaders. There are a number of easy, low maintenance ways to engage with Twitter:
- Build a “following” list, and keep adding to it: every so often look at the list of Twitter suggestions and add a couple who seem relevant. Following only a tiny handful of people makes it look like you really don’t care that much.
- Look at who’s following you and consider following them back: you don’t have to follow everyone who follows you (and you will get a fair number of ‘spam’ followers) but if it’s appropriate, it helps build a relationship.
- Retweet other people’s tweets: again, only where appropriate, but it’s a good way of a) showing you read your feed, and therefore engage and b) building relationships, because people can see who has retweeted their tweets.
- Check your messages: Twitter has a ‘@mention’ button on the main screen. By clicking this you can see if people have retweeted your tweets or sent you messages. Always reply to any direct messages, unless they are clearly spam.
- “Follow Friday“: Follow Friday is a way of recommending other feeds to your own followers. This is done by posting #FF then the address: so #FF @rpcprivacylaw . You can add commentary also: “For up to date news on privacy law, #FF @rpcprivacylaw.” It’s considered good ‘netiquette’ to thank people who have suggested you as an #FF – simply by tweeting “Thanks for the #FF @name” or similar. (You can see who has done this by checking the @mention button).
Twitter – a social media “microblogging” platform
Tweet – each post or message that you put on Twitter
Retweet – reposting someone else’s tweet
Hashtag – # symbol that helps when searching for topics (see below)
Trending – what people on Twitter are talking about which shows up as a list when you search topics (eg, at the moment, you will often see #Leveson trending as people follow the inquiry).
Followers – the people who are following your Twitter feed
Following – the people whose Twitter feeds you follow
@mentions – tweets where your twitter address has been used
Flaming – abusive tweets or messages, often multiple
Spam – useless tweets often aimed at getting you to click into dodgy websites; direct messages from people you don’t know inviting you to click onto links.
Bots – automatically generated spam messages. Ignore.
URL: the unique web address of a webpage, blog post, news story etc: eg http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17867537
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