Tweet, Post and Pin: A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media (Part 2 of 3)
As we discussed in Part 1 of this blog series, social media has become an integral part of marketing plans for businesses, small and large. Our best advice is to choose the social media channel that is best for you, your business and your customers. While it’s exciting to think about taking over the world, one social media channel at a time, it’s better to master one or two social media channels to connect with your customers.
We discussed Facebook on our last blog post, but today, we’re talking about Twitter.
Twitter is an information network that instantly connects users with the latest stories, ideas, and news that other users find interesting. Users share short bursts of information through 140-character “tweets.”
Twitter connects your business with your fans in real time, meaning as soon as you post a tweet, they will be able to see it. It can help you build relationships with your customers and partners. Since you only have 140 characters (letters, numbers or symbols) to use, Tweets need to be short and sweet. They are a great way to link to your website or to an article that you find relevant for your followers or to ask your customers questions and start a conversation. While you can attach links for photos, Twitter is a more text-heavy interface than Facebook, and photos probably are better placed there or on Pinterest.
Your Twitter handle is the short name you choose that – when you write it – begins with @. For example, we go by @LSMGuru on Twitter. However, when you’re choosing a handle, you don’t have to type in or include the “@” symbol as part of your name – Twitter automatically adds it for you.
On Twitter, your handle, or username, is your identity. It will appear before each tweet you send out, so, if you can, sign up for Twitter by using your company’s name, or a variation of it as your handle. This will make it easy for your followers to identify you. Using your company’s name (or a slight variation) will also enhance your ability to be found through search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing). Keep in mind that Twitter handles can only be 15 characters long, and they do count towards your 140 character limit per tweet.
Hashtags are the secret weapon of Twitter and knowing how to use them will make your tweets that much more findable.
Hashtags (otherwise know as the “#” symbol) are used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. For instance, if you want to promote the new shipment of Virginia wine your restaurant just received, you could add “#VAwine” to the end of your tweet. Users (whether they are following you or not) that are interested in learning about Virginia wine (and search Twitter via that hashtag) will find you and your tweet. We recommend that you include 1 – 2 hashtags per tweet. Use any more than that, and your tweet will look more like spam.
As a Twitter news stream updates at a much faster pace then, say, Facebook, it’s important to tweet 4-5 times a day to increase the chances that your tweet is seen. Don’t worry – not every tweet has to be an original, perfectly-constructed thought. Here are some ideas for what to tweet:
- Promotions or news from your business
- Re-tweet (“RT”) relevant tweets from people or businesses that you follow
- Link to articles or websites that you find relevant to your business / industry
- Tweet the same message (“We’re having a sale!”) in a few different ways
- Questions to engage with your followers
In any form of communication you have with your customers, fans, and potential customers, you’ve got to make sure you’re being meaningful. That is, providing relevant content that they care about. In real life conversations, how boring and annoying are those who only talk about themselves or that only care about what is happening with them? You don’t want to be that kind of person on Twitter or via any form of communication.
Make it a conversation. Share relevant content that is NOT about you, but about things you know are important to your customer. Don’t just be a spigot of information gushing out sales messages, be a filter and provide quality message, information, tips, tools.
Examples For Using Twitter
Let’s use an example to demonstrate how to communicate with your followers on Twitter.
Say you own a restaurant, and you want to tell everyone that you got in a new shipment of Virginia red wine from ABC Vineyard. You think it pairs perfectly with the cheese plate on your menu, and customers should come in and try it.
Winter blues? Try our newest Virginia red from @ABCvineyards – it pairs perfectly with our gourmet cheeseboard. #VAwine
Note: Due to the 140-character limit, the message is shorter and less eloquent than it could be expressed in an email or on Facebook, but it’s also to the point and quick to read – important on Twitter! By linking to another company’s Twitter handle (@ABCvineyards), you will appear in their stream, and your message will be delivered to all of their followers, too! Don’t forget to include 1 – 2 relevant hashtags for what you’re promoting.
Let’s say your restaurant constantly stocks different types of Virginia wine, and your customers come to you to experience Virginia wine. Instead of sharing information about sales or menu items, share an article about Virginia wine that has nothing to do with your restaurant. Here’s an example:
Did you know that in 2012 exports of Virginia wine more than tripled? We love Virginia wine! http://1.usa.gov/WngvEE #VAwine
Note: Short links are the best way to feature a website address in your tweet. A standard URL (Uniform Resource Locator – or, the link to a website address) can sometimes be 140 characters on their own! To save yourself space for your message, shorten any link by copying and pasting the full website address into the “shorten” field on http://bitly.com . This free website will create a custom short URL (or link) for you to use in your tweets, or anywhere you need to save space.
Here’s an example for a retail store that’s having a President’s Day Sale.
Spring cleaning time! Enjoy up to 70% off Winter merchandise now through President’s Day! (include short link to your website) #sale #presidentsday
Putting It To Use
Our Top Tips for Twitter:
- Use 1 – 2 relevant hashtags in each tweet. Not sure which to use? Search Twitter for keywords by signing into Twitter, and typing words that you think are relevant to your business in the search field (located in the upper right-hand corner). If you’re a retail store, try #retailmarketing or just #retail or #accessories. If you’re a franchisee, you could try #franchisee or #burger or #fastcasual. See which hashtags seems to be the most popular – if they appear several times an hour for most of the day, chances are that they are relevant for your business and your fans and people are looking for news on these topics. Keywords that don’t produce any results, or show up 1 – 2 times a day are probably not the best fit for you.
- When possible / appropriate, include Twitter handles for vendors, your Chamber of Commerce, business neighbors and fans in your tweets. This way, your message is spread to their social networks, as well.
- Use short links when referencing websites in your tweets.
- Use a social media dashboard (like Hootsuite) to schedule tweets and easily keep an eye on what’s happening in your Twitter universe.
For more information on using Twitter for your business visit: http://business.twitter.com
Up next… Pinterest! We’ll help you decide if this highly visual social media channel is right for you!