Using Twitter for Business

Twitter is the latest web-centric communications service to explode onto the scene, and businesses have moved in rapidly.

Businesses seem to be cautious about using tools like Twitter, and rightly so; if used badly then (in an over commercial way), then customers and potential customer might be put off your brand.

But your company can most definitely benefit from using Twitter. The primary use for it in business should be to listen, because, as every top-performing salesman in the world knows, listening is more important than talking most of the time.

You want to hear from every customer, supplier, client, industry leader, journalist, colleague and competitor who has anything to say (good or bad) about your product, service or business. Twitter has much in common with old-style networking, like early morning meetings at diners and water-cooler chats, except it's been "virtualised" for 21st century knowledge sharing.

With that brief introduction, let's look at 10 great ways to use Twitter to your business's advantage.

#1. Listen more, talk less: If you just think of Twitter as another way to "post" your messages and advertisements on the internet, then you're sadly missing the whole point about Twitter, and your following will probably be nonexistent. Spend a lot more time listening to what others are "tweeting" (posting) about you and you will gather valuable information. When you do post a message, make it something people want to know, not something you want them to know.

#2. Find your niche: Twitter's uses are limited only by your imagination. Don't think of what you can get, but what you can offer and what you can learn. You may want to share knowledge, you may want to obtain it, or you may just want to assure customers, colleagues and others that you are available to them. You will benefit to the extent that you listen and stay engaged, which means referring back to #1 a lot. Twitter is a great forum for asking questions and getting replies back from the people that matter.

#3. Develop a personality: Because you might tend to use Twitter a lot to talk to your followers, they will start to understand your 'personality', that is how humorous (or not) you are; how direct or straightforward you are; your tone. Twitter is therefore a good way to project your business brand. A fresh and interesting personality attracts followers, and some successful firms even allow numerous voices to reach out from within the company's offices and departments, each with their unique 'personality' but adding more value to the larger voice..

#4. Eavesdrop: There are several good tools for monitoring what is being said, starting with Twitter's own search field. If you look to the right, you will also get a list of the current most-popular searches so you always know what's hot at the moment. The site monitter.com, as the name implies, was developed specifically for use with Twitter, to allow simultaneous multiple searches.

#5. Build your audience: The first thing to do is post a few tweets to get a handle on how it all works, of course. Then dedicate some study time to see what your competitors and companies in the same industry are doing (if anything). Make use of the "Find People" function on the top of the Twitter page to find people in your own company, your current clients and colleagues, old classmates and friends, etc. Use the "@" reply to connect directly with people, to make sure they see your tweet, and discuss matters of interest to them. When they respond with the @ reply, other folks following them may notice you and choose to follow you, too.

It's also interesting to see who else your followers are following, as that can give you fresh insight into the types of people to seek. Use the various search methods (see #4 above) to find subjects that relate to your industry, and pay attention to who's talking about these matters. Don't be a broadcaster, be a conversationalist, and if you do Twitter right, you will build a following daily.

#6. More information!: As Tweets are limited to 140 characters, having a big discussion is out of the question, but remember you can post links to new, events or others Tweets that might be of interest to your followers.

#7. Be human: Too many people, from firms both large and small, represent their firms poorly by appearing to be robots on a fixed schedule. They crank out PR verbiage and automated data and don't offer anything for followers to grab hold of. You have to "throw them a line" or you will sail right by everyone.

#8. Be polite and respectful: Whilst you can be pretty much nameless and faceless on Twitter, it helps if you are respectful on anyone that could read your Tweets! Imagine your having the conversation with a roomful of guests face to face. Avoid sensitive topics like politics and religion etc (unless these are directly related to your business dealings!). These subjects have no place in a business conversation, so please leave them out.

#9: Play nice: Don't get emotionally involved or rant about a person, place, product or business. Picture Twitter as one big community, be nice or face the consequences!

#10: Stay positive: Don't be pessimistic, and don't whine or complain about what's wrong with this or that industry or the world in general. People will follow people they like, who offer something of value, who are upbeat and who stay on an even keel. Of course, some situations require a serious, even solemn approach, but those are the exceptions and should be handled delicately. Anyone can gripe, moan and groan. A business leader, on the other hand, offers solutions.

Bottom line? Twitter is a tool, and a good one, for keeping conversations going with stakeholders, potential customers, colleagues and even competitors. It takes real-time management because it's a real-time tool, but when it's done right Twitter can be an important addition to your sales, marketing and business communications arsenal.

If you need help with your social media, then get in touch with me andrew@andrewscaife.com

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