Many individuals feel they don’t “need” a Twitter account, unlike the case with Facebook, which elicits a wide-eyed reaction and jokes about being “off the grid” if you opt out. As a business owner, you may relate. You may have set up your company’s Twitter page, followed your mandatory five accounts, poked around… and then signed out for the next seven months. But, if your website is the lifeblood of your online business (shamelessly quoting ourselves here), then Twitter is your means of pumping more blood into the heart of your business. Forgive the gross clinical metaphor.

Getting Your Twitter Feed to Take Off

Cultivating a successful Twitter page for your business requires a lot of activity and a little know-how. As a business owner, perhaps you’ve wondered how to grow your followership from the ground up. Perhaps you’re not yet convinced that your company needs to be on Twitter. The fact is, 53% of people recommend companies and products on their Twitter accounts. Your existing customers and future leads are already looking for you online, so be there! I’ve been frustrated many times when I’ve crafted a tweet only to find that a company I want to mention doesn’t have a Twitter account. Below, we’ve outlined the basic Twitter know-how to get your company off the ground and soaring through the Twittersphere.

Content: What to Tweet, What to Tweet…

Twitter can be used many different ways. Although it can be used as a platform for individuals’ witty quips and personal updates, it’s primarily an information channel for businesses. When a user is browsing his or her Twitter feed, the tweets that may cause your followers to pause, or even better, respond or retweet, are the tweets that offer an informative announcement or link. Think of Twitter as a digital version of the sandwich board outside your shop. Use it to broadcast the day’s specials and promotions, behind-the-scenes aspects of the day’s activities, and anything that builds your company’s story or personality.

Retweeting: Manual Retweet vs. Traditional RT

Retweeting is a way to share content that enhances your own page, and offers value to your followers. It’s a way to share articles from industry influencers or tweets with advice on a topic you know your audience cares about. Retweeting adds dimension to your page and demonstrates you are active in your community and industry.

One way to retweet and still voice your opinion is to compose a “manual retweet,” which is a retweet that comes from your account with a little comment of your own before the “RT.” To create a manual retweet, instead of hitting the retweet button and calling it a day, type “RT @____” followed by a copy/paste of the message you’re retweeting in your own text box. Then insert your own brief thoughts at the very beginning, before the “RT @____”. The third party scheduling app, Hootsuite, allows you to do this more easily, but the above is how to accomplish it natively in Twitter. Instead of simply echoing someone’s thoughts verbatim (which is totally fine for the reasons listed above) you are adding to the conversation. Think of it as an alternative way of replying that gives context to your response. The flip side of this is that Twitter will not count this as a legitimate retweet for the person you are retweeting. Since building a strong community on Twitter is built on a foundation of reciprocity, you may want to keep this knowledge in the back of your mind.

Retweeting Praise: Patting Yourself on the Back for All to See

One thing you will run into on Twitter is how to respond to people who are saying nice things to you or about you. First of all, congrats on people recognizing how awesome you are. That dopamine sure is nice, ain’t it? Now, do you retweet it? There seems to have emerged two schools of thought on retweeting your own praise. The old school, standard approach is to favorite it, reply with a “thank you,” and yes, by all means, retweet that sucker! This action shows you appreciate his or her support and it broadcasts to the world (or at least to your followers and whoever visits your page) how awesome you are. The second school of thought has nothing to do with Twitter’s algorithm or technology. It is simply that it is obnoxious and tacky. For a full-fledged explanation as to why this is a faux pas, read Vulture’s Does Retweeting Your Praise Make You a Monster? Whether or not you choose to retweet your praise, do be sure to send a warm “thank you,” and perhaps favorite the tweet as well.

Striking up Conversations: Replies and Mentions

When you tweet about someone, i.e. mention his or her Twitter handle in your tweet, everyone will see it. However, if you tweet directly at someone by placing their twitter handle at the very beginning of your tweet (or if you’re replying to someone, which places their handle at the beginning), you may notice the tweet doesn’t appear on your profile. These types of tweets only appear in the feeds of users who follow both you and the user you are tweeting. This is so the newsfeeds don’t become flooded with conversations. If you would like the conversation to be public and appear on your profile, simply add a period before your @mention.

Hashtag!

Hashtags are a way to join trending conversations, optimize your searchability, and create your own custom conversations. It is not, as I thought when I very first started tweeting, a practice in identifying the words that carry the most importance in the tweet. I would hashtag the nouns that I thought really drove the point home. Ha!

Rather, hashtagging is a way to categorize a relevant keyword or phrase. So, I wasn’t entirely off, but the point is to hashtag keywords that people will be searching for. If people are searching for small businesses, they may search for the hashtag, #shoplocal. Hashtags.org is a good resource for finding the appropriate hashtags for the subject you are tweeting about.

If you are looking to optimize your page’s visibility by joining an already trending conversation, you may want to consult the “Trends” section on the left side of your newsfeed. Don’t stretch it, weave in a trending hashtag only if it applies to your business’s product or message.

Hashtags can also be a way to create your own custom conversation. If you create your own weekly topic that you cover on Twitter, or a weekly contest/campaign, create a custom hashtag so your followers can track the conversation in its entirety.

Although it’s a good idea to optimize your tweets’ searchability by hashtagging keywords, there is such a thing as going overboard. Best practice is to use no more than two hashtags per tweet. In addition to being unappealing to the eye and giving the appearance of spam, too many hashtags can dilute your message and confuse your followers.

Two Things that are Keeping Your Business’s Twitter Page from Taking Off

Perhaps the main reason your business’s Twitter page hasn’t taken off is infrequency of tweeting. Dated, few-and-far-between tweets will make your page look stale.  The user will see that following your page won’t offer much value if there’s no activity on the other end. So, commit to actively tweeting, and see everything that goes on in your business’s day-to-day as an opportunity for content. If you really connect with an individual or another business, find them on Twitter and tweet them! Starting those conversations will build relationships and make them more likely to show you love on Twitter in the future. Building connections and conversations will also make your page more likely to show up in the “You Might Want to Follow These Similar Accounts” section.

The second reason your page may be suffering is that your Twitter brand is bland. Show off your personality, and remember to be friendly, approachable and have a sense of humor. Most importantly, make sure your online personality reflects your business’s personality. As with any arm of social media, the way to stand out is by having your own point of view. So, at the risk of sounding like a total cheese ball, remember to be uniquely you.

Ready for Takeoff

Those are the basics! Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the tools and tactics that will strengthen your business’s Twitter efforts and reach your followers in new ways. And of course, follow us and/or contact us @PostMM.

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