Newcomers to Twitter: 10 Steps to Assessing Whether Twitter is Suitable for Your Business
by Tim Rimington
If you're itching to learn about Twitter or to perhaps assess the viability of Twitter for your small business, then this article is for you. What I will show you is how to become an everyday Twitter user, and how to actually enjoy your time using it. Your first Twitter account will be your personal account and not necessarily connected to your business or work life. To cut your chops on Twitter, I suggest that your first account be fun and used for your personal interests, whatever they may be.
My personal Twitter account is used to follow and engage with sports people and like-minded fans of the sports team I follow. I'm also into music, so again, I follow and engage with like-minded music fans. What's great about this is that I learn about new things all the time and get behind the scenes background knowledge on these interests.
So create something that's fun. If you like football, follow your club and its players. If you like music, follow the various record labels and artists. I've had some amazing chats with my music and sports "idols" on Twitter. It's fun and helps me to better understand ways of adopting Twitter into my professional life - the purpose of this exercise so that you can assess whether Twitter is right for your business or not.
I think you'll discover that it's the latter.
Here's what you need to do:
Create a Twitter account for yourself, not your business
If your personal interests cross over into your work life, all the better. But if they don't, you're going to "cut your teeth" on Twitter by using it for personal interests such as your favourite sports team or code, music interests, cooking, outdoors - you name it.
Create a friendly, witty screen name to use in your account and upload a suitable image as your "avatar" whether that's a photo of yourself or something fun that you're happy to use. DO NOT leave the avatar as the default Twitter "egg" symbol. Many Twitter users equate that symbol with robot-created spam accounts and therefore may ignore you entirely. Upload something - remember, you're here to have fun.
Own a smart phone?
If you have a smart phone, all the better. I believe that Twitter and smart phones go hand in hand because when you're standing in line, waiting for a train, at home on the couch or sitting in the park relaxing, that welcome "down time" can often become your "Twitter time".
Following like-minded people
Begin to follow people that share similar interests to your own. Every niche is covered on Twitter, trust me on that! Follow a manageable number of people to begin with, say, 50-70 people. From those you'll begin to pick your favourites and from those favourites, you'll eventually begin to engage in conversation. No different to the real-world. We're attracted to like-minded people and we converse with those that offer us something, and those that we're happy to offer information back to.
Sometimes post about every-day events
Your "Tweets" take on the tone of who you are and what you do. Tweet about what you're thinking at that moment, Tweet about some pending event or activity, comment about other people's Tweets, local news or events. One step at a time - Twitter is a conversation so you don't want to be standing in the corner staring at a brick wall talking to yourself. In time, you'll start to engage other "Twitterers" in conversation.
I'm having a bad day!
At every possible free moment (we all have them throughout the day) Tweet about your day, things you're looking forward to on the weekend, and so on. If by this time you've picked up a few followers of your own, it's possible that you're catching the eye of some people. Sometimes I find that tweeting about having a bad day attracts comments from close followers offering encouragement!
"Trending" and "hashtags"
To begin with, use existing Twitter "hashtags". What are "hashtags"? Throughout your Twitter timeline you'll notice hyperlinks preceded by a hashtag: #. When you click any one of these hashtags your timeline will populate with the most recent Tweets that incorporated that hashtag somewhere within their Tweet.
When enough Twitter users use the same hashtag, we say that it's "trending". To give an example, whenever a major news event happens, it's likely that you'll find that news event trending on Twitter. Specifically, if a celebrity passes away, you'll bet that the "Twitterverse" goes wild with trending about that event! Examples include #QueenslandElection #AmyWinehouse - you get the idea.
Hashtags get your Tweets in front of other users
The more often you use an already common hashtag (i.e. one that's already ternding) as opposed to creating one yourself, the more Twitter users your Tweets will be visible to. How? Like you, when other Twitter users follow a hashtag link somewhere within their timeline, your Tweet will also appear in their timeline because your Tweet happens to feature that particular hashtag. This is a great way to be seen by non-followers on Twitter and is how many Twitter users discover new people to follow. So put yourself out there by using already-trending hashtags. If you're Tweeting enough about your interests, you'll begin to attract new followers. This is one of the many ways that Twitter works!
Fancy yourself as a trendsetter? Create your own hashtags! Keep them short and succcinct, and consider capitalising words. Remember, no spaces in hashtags.
Engage and make friends
Once you've selected a reasonable volume of people to follow, you'll start to focus on a select group of people. They're the people to engage to get you started (from time to time you'll also drop or "unfollow" people you don't care for anymore).
Like any new conversation, keep the tone friendly and engaging. Ask questions, provide a compliment - anything. But strike up a conversation and check in with those people from time to time. If you do this with enough regularity you'll strike up some interesting "friendships" (but don't ever give away personal information such as phone numbers or addresses).
Invite your followers to action something
With the people you regularly engage, share links with them about news stories, topics of interest, photos, blogs, anything. Those people that know you by now will often follow a link if they're asked politely. When it comes to engaging customers, you'll be sharing useful info with them via your own website or blog. Make the info valuable enough and your followers will gladly "retweet" your website links to their followers. Free propogation!
Sometimes it's likely that your followers don't follow the same people that you follow. So whenever someone says something that you believe your followers may find interesting, you can choose to "reTweet" that person. Your followers can do the same for you too. It's simply another way of finding new people to follow.
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