April 30th, 2009

Practical Twitter tips & tools for busy business owners

by Mike Duncan

One of the biggest problems that businesses have with social media is time. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets require a big time investment, and with ROI still not certain, many businesses choose to invest their time elsewhere.

With about 5,000 new accounts created each day, Twitter is the fastest growing social network on the Web and the third largest. It’s quickly gaining in popularity and may even overtake Facebook and MySpace for one of the top spots.

Last week at the Board Retailers Association Summit, I shared some Twitter tips with heavyweights in the surf, snow, skate, and wake retail industries. Here are some of the key points for business owners who want to use Twitter to their advantage but are short on time:

sagetwitter

Find the best strategy for your business.

Twitter allows users to follow information in real time. That means instant access to your customers to listen to what they’re saying about your brand, share information with them, and offer instant customer service. Find the right balance of these uses for your company.

Choose your audience.

Build a network of customers, competitors, strategic partners, experts in your industry (including bloggers), colleagues, and other people within your industry circle. By following them (and being followed by them), you can maintain constant conversation.

Choose your tone.

Twitter allows you to converse with your network casually on a personal level. Try not to be too stuffy, and whatever you do, don’t just focus on marketing and PR and don’t automate your conversation. Automated direct messages and tweets make followers think you’re a robot. Talk to your customers, listen closely to what they’re saying, and keep it casual.

Decide who will represent your brand online.

Twitter and all social media is an online representation of your brand. Be careful when choosing who will represent your business and how. Whether it’s the CEO, an employee, or an in-house community manager, be sure they’re putting the right face on your company.

Start talking.

Initiate conversation about your brand, listen to what people are saying about your company, and be proactive in responding to @ replies and direct messages. Offer information that customers and other people in your network will find interesting — not just marketing and PR speak. Don’t toot your own horn too much, bombard users with links, or repetitive marketing messages. Just like any conversation, these common mistakes will make you boring or annoying to followers.

Twitter tools for building your network:

Twitter Search – Search for your brand name and key phrases associated with your industry to find users who are interested in you and your products.

We Follow – User powered Twitter directory helps you find users that may fit in your network.

Just Tweet It – Another Twitter directory where you can find followers.

Mr. Tweet – A Twitter networking client that helps you discover new people in your industry, find relevant followers, and track usage stats.

Tools for using Twitter:

tinyurl, bit.ly, is.gd and countless other URL shortening services shrink long URLs to Twitter-friendly sizes.

TweetDeck – The Twitter client of choice for many busy users, this free program allows you to track your feed, specific searches, and replies in one window.

tweetdeck

Tools for monitoring your conversation & brand:

TweetScan – Alerts you when users mention your brand and related keywords.

TweetBeep – Google alerts for Twitter. Set it up to tell you when people are talking about your brand or industry.

Twollow – Auto-follow users who mention your brand or products to build your network.

Qwitter: Notifies you of the last tweet you sent before losing followers. Great tool to find out what you could be doing to turn off followers.

Twitterless: Graphs your followers and tells you who stops following you.

Tools for engaging your users:

TwtQpn: Create coupons for Twitter to give users incentive to follow you.

StrawPoll: Poll your followers to find out what they think about your brand and pertinent questions related to your industry.

TwitPic: Share photos of new products, office antics, and other cool stuff they may find interesting.

Follow me:

Sage Island
Mike Duncan