Okay, so you don't look like the average Twitter bird or Social Media guru...but you have a sense Twitter is a place to be for you and your business to be...and you're here....Now what? A few, quick suggestions:
ACCOUNT SET-UP ASSESSMENT
1. PROFILE PICTURE. Make sure you have one that is recognizable, professional and, preferably, in a picture, tells a little something about what your business does. Ask a few people to tell you what they think about the avatar (i.e., profile picture) you've chosen.
2. LOCATION. Let us know where you are located. Make it easy for us to find you.
3. BIO. You don't have much space, so make it count. Remember the use of keywords to help would-be customers and clients find you. Fine to include a phone number, your hours, whether you accept credit cards. We want the basics quick and easy.
4. WEB. Bring us to your website or to your Facebook page so we can learn more about you and your business -- and please make sure your website is current and has information on how to find you on Twitter!
SIGN UP AT TWITTER DIRECTORIES
There are several great sites that allow you to register your Twitter account in a way that is akin to a Yellow Book listing. (Sorry, kids, long ago, there was a non-digital directory of businesses that usually appeared each year on your front porch that was a pretty comprehensive listing of businesses.) Twitter directories will help you be found by those looking for your goods and services, as well as give you a good gauge of what your competition is up to. Sign up.
See: "14 Twitter directories to find new friends" - http://goo.gl/Jkmn)
So what to tweet about? Sure, you'll get to let us know a bit about your business or services, but you'll need to be patient and social. How? Network on Twitter the same way you would network anywhere: it's not about you, it's about your company (no, not "company" as in your business, but "company" as in your social community). Basic courtesy counsels you to be a good listener, invite conversation, learn about others in your setting, talk about film, current events, subjects beyond your business -- to engage them. Viola! That's it.
"Say that again...." Be a good listener. Invite conversation. Learn about others in your setting. Engage them. -- "'Engage' them?..." -- Good point: Talk to them. Tweet with them. Give and take.
DO STRIVE TO BE A LEADER IN YOUR NICHE. Focus your tweets on subjects related to your business so that people will turn to your as a thought leader in your field. But, mix it up. Throw in a YouTube link to an exciting clip about your business. (They're out there!) Take a twitpic of your hottest dish or newest dress. Think mixed media.
OBSERVE THE 80/20...90/10 RULE. The percentages are always a subject of debate. The Rule, however, is not. A business brand is expected to contribute to the Twitter community by sharing content that is not simply self-promotional. Strive for 80% of your tweets being about others, 20% letting us know about your goods and services. Some brands ignore the percentages and still thrive. How? They offer great Twitter promotionals and discounts. Find and follow the ones in your business or profession to see what they are doing.
HASHTAG IT. What? Use the symbol #, attached to your business, to let others target in on you. Hashtags are a way that experienced Twitter users locate subjects that are of interest to them. You're a pizzeria? Throw in a #pizza or #pizzeria ever now and then to your tweets. Add some geographic hashtagging as well, e.g.: #NJ But, please don't overdo it.
RETWEET. Finding and sharing great content from other Twitter users is a great way to "make friends and influence people" on Twitter. Retweeting tells people that you are listening and sharing. You'll also find that your content is shared more often as you retweet the content of others. It will also bill bonds with those whose content you retweet. (By the way, if you want to increase the likelihood of your content being retweeted, make it easier for others to do so: leave room for an RT and the senders name. Try not to use more than 120 of the 140 characters you have to tweet.)
FOLLOW AND FOLLOW BACK
Use Twitter search and directories to identify and follow good prospects, beginning, perhaps, with those who are geographically close to you if location is an important component of your business.
Follow back. If you want your following to grow, following back is important. As a "social" network, mutuality is important. Following back says that you are interested in a conversation. It also allows people to direct message you. "Why is that important?" If someone has a complaint about your business, best to give them a way of venting privately or they'll do it publically.
USE TWITTER APPS TO OPTIMIZE YOUR TWEETING
There are an abudance of Twitter applications that will help you to pace your tweeting, keep track of your new contacts, and see what others are saying about you or your profession. Use them.
See: "Business Twitter Applications " http://goo.gl/NY1G
KEEP AT IT
You're unlikely to build a big following overnight. Done right, establishing a strong Twitter presence takes time and a consistent effort. Share. Learn. Contribute. Along the way, you will build brand awareness and customer loyalty. You do, however, need to listen and respond to both the good and the bad.
WHAT ABOUT MISTAKES
You will make mistakes tweeting. When you do, fess up to them, apologize if appropriate, and move on. Despite popular lore, social media is usually a pretty forgiving place for honest mistakes.
*Photo credit: Pylon757 via Flickr.