How to use Twitter for your business (when you really kind of hate Twitter)

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I like Twitter. But I talk to a lot of business owners who really hate it.  I mean, they do not mince words.  They think it’s pointless and a waste of time, when it comes to their businesses.

Well, Twitter can be a waste of time, or to put it another way, recreational.   And it can be tricky to sift through a rapidly updating stream of tweets from the many people and brands you’ll follow.

Unless you know how to work it!

Even if you don’t like the idea of Twitter, there are ways for your business to benefit from Twitter, with a minimal investment of time from you, or one of your staff.  What you need is a system to make your involvement of time with Twitter manageable and productive.  This system works well, and anyone can do it, without using third party applications.  Most of the work is set-up and is done upfront, which we can help you with, if you prefer.

The first step is to stake your corporate claim on Twitter.  Take the time to set up a branded Twitter account for your business.  Start following Twitter accounts, just aim for 100 or less to start.  If you’re looking for good accounts to follow, check out who your competitors are following on Twitter, or look at trade associations and local groups affiliated with your business.   If you have a blog, fix your blog settings to post a link on your Twitter account to announce new articles.

The next step is to make sure you don’t miss anything important, like comments about your company.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  In Settings, set your notifications to receive an email when anybody mentions your Twitter account name or replies to you (an “at” or “@” mention).  Then in Search, set up a few saved searches: your company name, important brand names, maybe your proper name, perhaps a key competitor’s name.

Next, create a few lists of people and accounts you really want to follow on Twitter.  You can make them public or private.  For example, you might create a list for

  • Partners, trade associations, and vendors on Twitter.
  • Clients on Twitter.  Be sure you’re following their updates!
  • Trade media, reporters, and bloggers who cover your industry.  Twitter is an excellent way to build your media contacts.
  • Competitors (you can put this list on private view — you don’t even have to follow them to put them on a list.  If you only list your competitors and put the list on private, you can keep tabs on them  — and emulate their best practice on Twitter! — surreptitiously. They will never know it’s you 🙂
  • Speed Dial List: this is the private list I make of accounts I really enjoy following and ones I really must keep tabs on — best clients, most significant competitors, news about my industry, etc.  Most days, it is the only list I check.

Next, just check in once day.  If that’s too much, check in every other day.  This is what you’ll want to do during this check-in, and it will only take a few minutes.

1. Check your followers and see if you have any new ones.  Follow back new followers.  You don’t have to thank them (and don’t use auto replies!)  — just follow them back. Take a quick peek in case they should go on your Speed Dial list.

2. Check and respond to your @ mentions.  You already get notifications, but just be sure you have responded to all the @ mentions for that day, or past couple of days. It’s important to be responsive on Twitter.

3. Use your lists to keep updated and toss in a comment here and there.  This makes your Twitter corporate profile appear real, engaging, and dimensional.  Now, don’t worry too much about the stream.  Trying to read all those updates will only make you dizzy.  I follow more than 600 people and there’s no way I could read all those updates.  Try my approach, instead.  Go right to your private “Speed Dial” list (your curated list of people and brands you really need to keep tabs on).  What have these people and brands posted?  Interesting links?  Anything you can make a value-added comment on or retweet?  Good. “At mention” that account: post a tweet responding to their update, but start it with their profile name, like this: “@FletcherPrince posted a great article on how to use Twitter in an effective way: http://linkhere.com”

4. Monitor for mentions: check your saved search terms to see if anyone mentioned your name or company name on Twitter recently (it will only save a day or two of posts, which is why you should check daily or every other day).

5. If you have something important to announce, or a new article, by all means, do post an update, but try to keep your updates useful and relevant to your brand on your corporate Twitter profile. Extra points if you can tie in your update (meaningfully) to a hot topic or non-disaster-related news story everyone is talking about (think seasonal, weather, sports, and pop culture references).

And that’s it!  Using this simple and quick process, you will soon come to appreciate the power of Twitter and will find it much more manageable to use as you present your brand online, respond to customer queries and concerns, monitor online mentions, and track your competitors.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on August 5, 2011, in small business marketing tips, Twitter Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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