A picture of two zebra finches sitting on a branch

There’s no point tweeting if no one is listening

What exactly do I say?

For those who’ve never used Twitter before, it might seem like a strange place where people talk incessantly about themselves, and words like ‘hashtag’ and ‘tweet’ make you more confused than ever. You may even have asked yourself,  “Could Twitter actually benefit my business?”. So you’ve given into the pressure and set up your account, but once you’ve found your way round the many buttons and screens, you then ask yourself, “What exactly do I say?

Before you start tweeting, establish your key message. Who are you, what do you do and why are you the best?

If you have a website you should already know what it is that makes you special. The same applies to Twitter. Your biography text (at the top of your profile) is key in setting out your stall from the start. It’s not enough to just say who you are. Think carefully about the words you use and make sure those who don’t know you, know exactly what you’re about. If it’s information you’re giving, make it clear you’re there to help. Be friendly and be succinct.

How does it work?

Think of  Twitter merely as a sociable space; a house party, a networking event or a conference. Lots of people meeting in one room and starting a conversation. Individuals interact with one another and conversation flows freely. That’s Twitter. The trick is in finding out what conversations you want to be part of and how those could help your business.

Build your following

There’s no point tweeting if no one is listening. Unless you have followers, or someone stumbles over your tweet, no one is reading what you have to say. A good place to start is by following others in your local area, charities you support, businesses in your industry, your suppliers, your customers and so on. The objective is always to connect with people who already have lots of followers.  If they follow you back, then each time they reply to you or share one of your tweets, their followers will see it. In other words, connect with someone who has 1000 followers and you are creating an opportunity to connect with 1000 people. The chances are those 1000 people may be interested in what you’re offering and choose to follow you, too. Don’t overdo it, though, it’s better to build relationships than to make lots of  instant friends.

See http://www.chrisbrogan.com/a-brief-and-informal-twitter-etiquette-guide/ for more great advice on good etiquette.

Another excellent way to build your following and generate leads for your business is by honing in on conversations which are relevant to you. For instance, if someone is on Twitter, talking about their search for a hairdresser in their area, and your business is hairdressing, you can ‘butt’  into that conversation and offer your services.

A picture of a PC screen showing a twitter search result

Find people who need your service or product

You can even limit your search to within a set distance of your business. Get to know them if you can, and don’t be too pushy. (as Fivefifty demonstrates well, this can go wrong if you’re not careful). If your intervention is welcomed, invite the person to visit your website, call your mobile or pop in. No need to be too pushy, after all they don’t know you. If they are reassured and they like what you’re offering, they will get in touch.

The easiest way to do find people like this is by using the search box at the top of the screen. Type in a few words then search. Once in the search results, go to ‘Advanced Search’ and key in words you feel are relevant to your business. Crucially, use words that are likely to appear in conversation. There’s no point searching for “financial advice” when “pension” is more likely to be used in a tweet. Hashtags are used to mark a topic of conversation. For example, yesterday I searched for everyone talking about the snow we’d had in our area. Hashtag Snow (#snow) was used over and over again by people talking about the problems they were having getting around, asking whether the local school was closed, telling customers which roads will be gritted that evening, and so on. I decided to join in on the conversation to see what happened.

A screengrab of a re-tweeted comment

Re-tweeted comment shared by the local press

As you can see above, our local press retweeted my request for gritters to do our road. Also, local people shared their stories with us, and we showed how much we are a part of our community. It may seem an obscure way to reach potential followers, but it illustrates the casual nature of of tweets.

There are other useful aspects to being connected on Twitter.

It’s an excellent way to engage with others in your industry and, as Chris Brogan explains in his Blog, promoting others in your industry is very community spirited. A great example of this is this tweet from a food writer;

Picture of Sally Bee tweet saying how delicious Albert Bartlett potatoes are

Supportive tweeting is quite common

Twitter is also an excellent promotional tool. However, take care, because pleading for business looks cheap and demeans your brand.

Arisaig restaurant saying "Anyone joining us today?"

A flat, desperate attempt to get customers doesn’t help your business

Much better to make your tweet engaging, memorable or exciting, if you can. A call to action is most effective.

Tweet by The Stand Comedy Club about a man and his talking cock

A persuasive and attention-grabbing tweet

One final tip from Susan Gunelius on About.com warns against he danger of tweeting too much. Wait until you have something interesting and useful to say, and try not to lose momentum.

Regular, compelling, charismatic tweets will have much more impact.