5 Ways to Use Twitter Effectively for Your Small Business

from guest author martina iring

For those small business owners out there who give Twitter a big thumbs down, it's time to turn that frown upside down!  At first the Twitterverse can seem like an endless void and an enormous time-zapper.  The key is to learn to use Twitter effectively.

If you're frustrated with Twitter, or you just plain don’t understand what it can do for your business, give the following Twitter tactics a try…

#1) Search it up!  

YOU be the one to look for customers, don't wait for them to find you.  You can search by keyword (the more specific the better) and location.  I recommend searching both at the same time, especially if you are a local small business: keyword + city name, that way you can find people who are talking about what you do, where you do it.  It makes it so easy for someone who is actively looking for a service if YOU contact THEM.  And no need to feel pushy - if they're not interested then they can simply not reply.  Click for more info on Twitter search, including a little how-to video.

#2) The 80/20 Rule

It’s all about building your brand and getting people to like you – not promoting yourself at every tweet! Spend 80% of your Twitter time engaging with others and only 20% self-promoting.  

For the 80% be available and “social” – respond to @ mentions, thank tweeps that help you out, engage in conversations. Provide useful content to followers and retweet others. This is absolutely crucial to Twitter success.

Here's an analogy:

Imagine going into a clothing store and you're wondering if they carry a particular style of jeans.  You go to the store attendant to ask the question, and you get no response.  You try to ask again, but they hold up a sign advertising 2 for 1 sweaters.  Huh?  Then they hold up a sign asking you to sign up for their newsletter to receive additional discounts.  That's it - you're outta that store!

If all you do is self-promote on Twitter and don’t spend time connecting at all, you’ve got the online equivalent of that situation. And it won’t work.

For more tips on the 80/20 rule, click here.

#3) Make Lists!  

Don't be overwhelmed by the vast number of Tweeps (aka Twitter users) - organize them into lists to make your Twitter experience more focused and manageable. With lists, you can easily keep an eye on who's important to your small business.  You can either use the Twitter interface to create and populate your lists, or a social media management tool (see next point). Click for more info on Twitter lists.

#4) Schedule Tweets

This way you look active on Twitter consistently without actually having to be on Twitter all throughout the day (for most small business owners, this is not possible!).  I highly recommend the free social media organization tool Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule future Twitter posts so you have a consistent posting presence, as well as keep track of lists, searches etc… Whenever your schedule allows, you can hop on Twitter and work on your networking and relationship building.

#5) Use hashtags.

Did you know that Twitter is an important part of your search marketing efforts? The content that is associated with your profile is simply another indicator to search engines. Hashtags help you beef things up by highlighting certain words or strings. Use your keywords in tweets, especially when linking back to your own site or blog. One or two hashtags per tweet is a good rule of thumb. And don’t go overboard. Sprinkle in hashtags, don’t douse every single tweet with them.

And voila, there you have my top 5 ways to Use Twitter effectively. Don’t forget to keep your focus on having fun, being real and enjoying the connection with other people. You’ll be a Twitter fan in no time!

How do you use Twitter for your business? How has it helped you? 

Martina Iring works with entrepreneurs overwhelmed with all that web stuff. She’s on a mission to help the little guys make sense of internet marketing, teaching small business owners how being online is not only profitable, but enjoyable! Her blog, Small Business Bliss, offers up gobs of marketing info and doses of inspiration just for little biz owners. Be sure to go visit and grab a free website improvement guide.