Latecomer’s Twitter Marketing Guide –

By now it is nearly impossible to ignore the little bluebird of Twitter. The social media site and its 140 character messages have blossomed into one of the most important places of conversation on the web today.

If you’ve avoided the world of social media to this point, it isn’t too late, this guide can help you. As a professional or small business, Twitter is a priceless marketing tool. With an understanding of the basics, Twitter is an easy way to spread your name, message and business.

Take small business owner Curtis Kimball, whose crème brulee food cart is now famous on the streets of San Francisco. He owes much of that success to Twitter. Like many small business owners, his advertising budget was almost non-existent. Kimball earned his cult following by announcing his location and flavor of the day through Twitter. He gave customers a reason to follow him and today he has more than 22,000 followers as a result.

Kimballs success can be replicated. This guide will help you setup your account, get the basics and strategize your marketing potential.

Getting started:

First step is to go to the Twitter website, here you will be guided through the process of selecting your username, password and photo. Friends, family and customers will be able to find you more easily if your username and photo closely resemble your actual business or personal name.

Twitter will lead you on an orientation process. You can learn the basics of what a tweet is, how to search for friends and brands to “follow” and you can manage your settings. Update your account with a bio where you can specify your location and attach a website.

Once you’ve created your account do some brainstorming on your strategy. Consider how you want to engage with customers or create a Twitter personality. The first step is to make sure you have properly branded your Twitter page. Choose a photo and profile background appropriate to your professional goals.

The Twitter Language

Fortunately, the glossary of Twitter-specific words isn’t too long. Once you understand the basics they are easy to use.

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less that you send out to your followers.
  • Timeline: The list of messages being Tweeted by your followers in real-time.
  • Mention: You can address other Twitter users by using the @ symbol in front of their username.
  • Retweet: When you see a message you want to share with your followers, you retweet the message and it shows up as your tweet on their timelines.
  • Direct message: If you want a message to stay private, you can type DM or M in front of your tweet, followed by the recipients username and only that user will be able to see the message.
  • Hashtag: A hashtag is a word or phrase with a #symbol in front. As a business you can use a hashtag to give a tweet a theme. It could promote a specific event such as #blackfriday or for a theme of tweets such as #fallrecipes. Users can click on a hashtag and see a list of that hashtag being used by other users.

How to build your network of followers:

There are many best practice ideas to employ while you build your network. Strategize what will work for you.

1. Listen: Search for your business, profession or name to see if any conversations have already started. Gather market intelligence. Scope your competition; follow customers, colleagues and industry experts.

2. Respond: Take action when customers compliment your business or service. Recognize input with a retweet or mention their username. When customers provide a word-of-mouth recommendation that is something to promote.

Use Twitter when a customer experience goes awry. Send a direct message to solve a problem or steer a user in the right direction. Twitter can turn a bad customer experience into proof of good customer service.

2. Engage: Get your followers interested in your account by sharing the latest information in your business or field. Get creative. Use photos to tell a story or give a behind-the-scenes taste of your work.

3. Ask questions: Starting a conversation is a great way to establish authority or get insight from a targeted knowledge base.

4. Demonstrate expertise: Use Twitter to disseminate information, articles and references important to your line of work or business goals.

5. Use Twitter as a way to give followers special discounts or online coupons. Promote business or professional events, and find ways to make face-to-face connections.

The potential for Twitter to impact your business or profession cannot be underestimated. Baratunde Thurston, the digital director for the The Onion, faced a Twitter disaster when he mistakenly set-up his organization’s account to spam followers instead of thanking them individually for following the account. Within minutes Thurston was barraged by followers blasting his account. Thankfully he managed to turn off the feature he enabled, saving his account from a total collapse.

It doesn’t take long for a Twitter reputation to lose its clout. Use it well, and the marketing potential is endless.

Check out these handy Twitter resources:

Twitter created a useful small business guide to supply you with the basics and best practices it promotes.

The Small Business Trends website has a helpful guide to get you started and strategize Twitter’s impact on your business.