Posted on Sunday, 4th September 2011 by bruce

Twitter seems to be the Marmite of social networking. People either love it or hate. A lot of business people just don’t ‘get’ it, and for that reason they either avoid it or misuse it. And that’s a shame, because it can be a very powerful tool both for maintaining existing client relationships and cultivating new ones.

The key thing about Twitter is that it’s meant to be personal . From a business point of view, it may seem like nothing but ‘white noise’ – the trivial and seemingly irrelevant details of people’s personal lives. But to dismiss all of that is to miss the point.

“It’s a tool for reaching people who would rather do business with a person”

Like almost no other business tool, Twitter makes you a person in the eyes of your customers. It enables you to make on to one contact with them, for almost no effort. As such, it’s a tool for reaching people who would rather do business with a person than with an institution. In other words, practically everybody.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for using Twitter as a tool for your business.

  1. Tweet about your daily life as well as your business; but try to be interesting, amusing, entertaining and informative. Range wide, from good restaurants you visit to experiences of childcare and favourite jokes. People will ‘retweet’ what they like, copying your tweet to their own stream. Retweets are highly coveted, they help increase exposure and gain new followers.
  2. Actively attract followers. Follow customers, competitors, and any people you find interesting. Most will follow you back. Watch Twitter for trending topics and comment on popular subjects. Don’t be afraid to be controversial, but don’t be offensive. Precede important keywords with a hash tag, eg #twitter #business, but only one or two per tweet.
  3. Reply to the tweets of others and get into conversations. When someone replies to one of your tweets, it counts as a ‘mention’ and increases your profile in the Twitterspere.
  4. When you retweet the tweets of others, add a comment of your own. This gives credit to the original author but makes your tweet unique and increases the chance of a retweet. You may even get a retweet from the original author.
  5. Follow and quite primary sources. Get in early and try to be one of the first to break news.
  6. Use a tool like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to monitor your own mentions and to watch search terms that are important to you.

Twitter is increasingly popular as a complaint mechanism

If you do nothing else, watch Twitter for questions or criticisms from customers, and respond promptly and politely. Don’t be surprised if the balance of comments is more negative than you might hope for. Twitter is increasingly popular as a complaint mechanism. All the more reason not to ignore it, for the sake of your business and its reputation.

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