When Twitter launched in 2006, many misunderstood the platform’s purpose.
With tweets ranging from current events to what users ate for breakfast, the social network was widely discredited. Now, nearly 10 years later, Twitter has gained worldwide popularity with over 316 million monthly active users. Some of Twitter’s top 100 users include household names, like Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama. A community of this size and with this much influence makes taking a business’ online marketing efforts to Twitter a no brainer. So, how does a company get started—or optimize its current social media presence?
Let’s go over the best practices that all small businesses should know before entering the Twitterverse:
Being Different and The Same
As suggested in our recent Facebook Best Practices post, small businesses want to use a few rules of thumb when posting on social media. These include sharing a mixture of industry-related and promotional content in order to position a business as a thought leader, without appearing spammy. Be sure to include a call-to-action in post copy and link to shortened URLs that are easy to remember.
Twitter does play a slightly different game than some of the other social platforms, however. How so? Well, Twitter restricts users to 140 characters per tweet. This character count includes user tags, hashtags and links, so be sure to craft these posts strategically and tweak the content calendar specifically for Twitter.
To create a more unified brand image on social media, it is also best practice to update a business’ Twitter profile to match its other social properties. When designing a Twitter profile, resize the existing profile picture and cover photo to different dimensions. Cover photos on Twitter are 1500 pixels wide by 500 pixels high. Profile photos should be no smaller than 400 pixels high by 400 pixels wide. Without proper resizing, profile images will appear pixelated or unclear, which can come across as unprofessional and lacking attention to detail.
The Power of the Hashtag
A powerful and highly underestimated tool on Twitter is the hashtag. The hashtag first made its way to social networking via Twitter in 2009, by allowing users to tag their messages using the pound sign (#) and a relevant keyword. These hashtags are clickable and allow for users to find conversations amongst the Twitter community that relate to any topic they desire.
Using hashtags in tweets that relate to a business’ industry and subject matter can be very helpful in making a business’ Twitter profile more visible. We recommend attaching one to two industry hashtags on every company tweet. A small business can even increase its visibility on Twitter by simply incorporating SEO-friendly keywords as hashtags in their bio section.
Even more, wouldn’t it be nice to see what your customers are tweeting about your business? A quick, easy and instantaneous way for small business owners and customers to collaborate with one another is by using a branded hashtag. This shared hashtag is intended to generate brand awareness, and filter relevant messages to your business. Examples of a branded hashtag could be #YourBusinessName or #YourTaglineAbbreviated—the possibilities are endless. Be creative and make sure that the shared hashtag is unique.
Interacting with Influencers
At its core, Twitter is a communication platform. It was developed to allow for quick conversations in large quantities. Therefore, interacting with other members is key to a small business’ success on the network.
To begin, it is important to follow industry influencers. Industry influencers are defined as personalities already discussing your subject matter, at scale. These individuals have successfully attracted the audience that you are targeting, so interacting with these influencers can get your business one step closer to that audience. Strategically follow influencers’ interesting audience members and monitor their activity. What types of content do they like? What topics are they discussing and with who? Retweet these individuals to begin correspondence. Then, move on to replying to their questions with valuable answers that showcase the business’ level of expertise.
Twitter Lists are a way to organize people who a business is following into groups. These groups can be based around topic, origin, or company. When viewing these Lists, users are often in search of new accounts to follow. By providing valuable content and having interesting conversations, a business can often land itself a spot on one of these Lists. This is a great way to increase long-term exposure. Keep in mind that a business can interest its target audience by creating Lists of its own that feature accounts they may find helpful or exciting.
So, a small business has followed its industry’s influencers, secured a spot on relevant Twitter Lists, and even developed a basic following on the platform. Now what? A way to consistently grow an audience is by participating in regular Twitter Chats. These are live Twitter events, focused around a general topic, often moderated by an industry influencer. A shared hashtag is used in the chat as an organizational tool to filter all of the chatter on Twitter into a single conversation. A set time is often established, so that the moderator and guests are available at the same time to engage in conversation.
This is a great way to interact with new individuals who are interested in a mutual topic that a business may not have found through other means. Extremely popular Twitter chats, such as Bufferchat, consistently see new participants each week. The possibilities for growth are endless!
Social media marketing is an ever-changing game. Experiment with these best practices on Twitter and see what works best for your small business. If you start by being present, being helpful and being friendly, you can’t lose!