Using TwitterTweetle-deetle-deet! It used to be that tweeting was only for avian wildlife and “Rockin’ Robin” singer Bobby Day, but nowadays everyone tweets – celebrities, tweens, Barack Obama, and, of course, business owners. Using Twitter has a number of benefits, so whether your business is brick-and-mortar or online, domestic or international, single-location or chain, family-owned or corporate, familiarizing yourself with Twitter is a shrewd, forward-thinking business move.

One of the great things that a well-managed Twitter account can do is keep you in touch with customers and create a space for them to provide valuable feedback. When your Twitter followers provide feedback, acknowledging their comments with a response can help develop a relationship between you and your potential or current customers. If someone tweets about how wonderfully soft the toilet paper was in your company’s bathroom (which would, admittedly, be a kind of weird and random thing to say unless your company is a toilet paper factory) you can acknowledge them with something like, “@CustomerName Thanks! We just switched brands. The other was too scratchy.”

It’s important to respond quickly to comments on Twitter. Quick responses can open the door for an ongoing dialogue with customers. You also need to tweet regularly. Your Twitter account is just like a plant: if you don’t water it regularly with funny, smart, or useful tweets, it will wither and die. (Or at least you will begin losing followers.) If you find yourself forgetting to tweet on a regular basis, you may want to look into Twitter scheduling managers like TweetDeck and HootSuite, which helps you schedule your tweet calendar in advance.

In addition to building customer relationships, Twitter is great for advertising. And did I mention it’s free? Obviously the more followers you have, the more potential customers your social media marketing is reaching. Getting high-profile followers can help bolster your company’s brand, because high-profile followers can inadvertently help you attract more total followers. Targeting specific people with tagged tweets is a good way to get them to notice and follow you on Twitter. (A tagged tweet is one in which you “tag” someone either by using a hashtag before their name or mentioning their Twitter handle.) Using Twitter can help you drive people to your website, and it’s also a good way to remind people of your company by composing tweets whenever a sale or event is scheduled to occur. In some cases, you can even use Twitter as a hiring tool by advertising job openings.

One way to make the most of using Twitter is to develop a company voice. People like to feel like they’re talking to a specific person, so having a Twitter personality can help you attract and keep more followers. Although certainly you want to provide useful information in your tweets, sometimes it is also good to offer more light-hearted tweets. If your company has a number of people managing its Twitter account, you might want to distinguish between them by having them “sign” their tweets with a caret and initials, like this: ^TP. Posting signed tweets will help reinforce the idea that customers are communicating with an individual voice. Once you get the hang of Twitter, you might also want to consider starting accounts on other social media sites like Facebook, because having a cross-platform presence can help you attract more potential customers.

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