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Basic Guide To Using Twitter

Updated on September 25, 2012

How to use Twitter to promote your business

This page is a basic introduction to how you can use Twitter to promote your business. People often admit to me that they just don't "get" Twitter.

Just looking at it from the outside, it does look like just a bunch of people talking about what they had for lunch. But it's not.

A lot of valuable networking can happen through Twitter, and that's what I hope to be able to explain to you in this page.

First, Sign Up

If you haven't already ...

Signing up takes just a few minutes. To sign up, go to Twitter.com and look for the area that reads "New to Twitter? Join Today!" Enter your name, the email account you want to associate with this account, and choose a password for yourself. Be careful when choosing a password. Make it a combination of numbers and letters that is difficult to guess. Keep your password in a safe place. A verification email will be sent to you at the email address you provided Twitter. Check for that, verify you own that email account, then Twitter will take you through the steps to set up your account.

Choosing Your Twitter Username

Your Twitter username can only be a certain number of characters. Choose carefully. Shorter is better because it takes up less space - avoid any underscoring ( _ ) in your username (the underscore makes it difficult for some people to reply to you if they are texting via a cell phone that is not a smart phone).

If you must shorten your company name, think of what elements of the company name are most important. For example, I have a Twitter account for a local blog I publish, My Snellville Blog. I could not fit all of the name in the Twitter username field. Rather than MySNLVLBlog (which WOULD fit), I used @SnellvilleBlog, because it would allow the keyword "Snellville" to be shown in full. The keyword Snellville was a lot more important for that purpose than the word "My." Makes sense right?

Why keywords are important could be the subject of another page, but all it means is that keywords are the words people are most likely going to use in order to find you. It won't just be your name or your company's name, because if the person doesn't know your name or your company name, they're not going to be able to search for you. So good keywords are where you are or what you do!

The @ Symbol

Know it, love it

The "@" symbol before the username of another Twitter user is how they will be aware that you are messaging them publicly. Keep that in mind It is public. If they have made an error in a tweet an you feel you really must tell them, send your message as a private Twitter message. They'll appreciate that. Be positive toward everyone on Twitter publicly. If you put a space between the @ and the username, it will not link to the person/entity and they will not get the message. By putting the @ symbol immediately before the username, they'll find your message in their "Replies" link.

What is a Retweet (RT) ?

A retweet is just a way to share what you think was a good Twitter post. You can share the entire post or just a little bit of it that you are commenting on. You can put your comment ahead of theirs, then you place the abbreviation RT then their username preceded by the '@' symbol.

Here's an example. I will use my own Twitter accounts as our guinea pigs -

If @SnellvilleBlog posted: "I'm going swimming at Briscoe Park in #Snellville!"

Darla Dixon (myself in my art account) would post:

I live there too, love that park! RT @SnellvilleBlog I'm going swimming at Briscoe Park in #Snellville

Notice I did not have to do this -

@SnellvilleBlog I live there too, love that park! RT @SnellvilleBlog I'm going swimming at Briscoe Park in #Snellville

I did not need to put '@SnellvilleBlog' at the beginning of my RT, because @SnellvilleBlog will receive it whether @SnellvilleBlog is at the beginning of the tweet or not. So realize that you don't need to double-up, because doing that will take up space you need (and it's just repetitive)

Using Twitter to search for leads and prospects

Or just for subjects you're interested in!

Once you're signed into Twitter, you'll see a Search field at the top. Type in a keyword of something you're interested in, or even better, something you know a lot about -- with the idea of helping people. I think a lot of people get this part wrong. They look for prospects to sell their stuff TO, instead of just trying to see if they can help someone. Being helpful and providing useful information gets you more Twitter followers and people who actually care and will listed to what you say.

This can be helpful for personal use -- for example, when there were tornadoes recently in Stillwater Oklahoma, I was able to type "Stillwater" in the search field and get Twitter posts that people were making from their phones FROM the Stillwater area. My cousin and her family live in Stillwater, and I was able to get minute-by-minute and sometimes even faster updates about what was going on there.

If you know you will want to search for the same topic again and again, then you can click the link to "Save This Search." The search terms will show up and all you have to do is click them after that, no more typing unless you need to put in new terms. You can save, add and remove search terms at will.

If you're an electrician, you could save a search term like "need electrician in Snellville" (or your town or county). If you're a plumbing company, you can search for tweets that have a keyword in them like "leak." Or, "I have a leak"

Location, Location, Location

When it's important and when it's not

If you are a plumber and you only want to do plumbing work in Snellville Ga, then the word Snellville should be included in as many of your tweets as possible. If the word Snellville can't be fit into the sentence, then add #Snellville to the end of your tweet, after the sentence's end. If your product or service can help anyone, anywhere, then don't bother with location. You can also make a selection on Twitter to show your location. Again, unless where you're located has a huge bearing on your business, don't bother with that.

Ways to keep your Tweets under 140 characters

You only have 140 characters per tweet. Sometimes there won't be enough room. Consider abbreviating as much as you can, but avoid letter/number combination like "L8r" for "later" and "b4" for "before." It just makes you look like a pre-teen in a pink and purple polka dotted bedroom. I've found it better to remove unnecessary periods and short words.

I attended the computer symposium in Atlanta. I learned a lot about new Internet security systems and I was impressed by all the new advanced products.

(152 characters, 12 over limit)

Attended computer symposium in ATL. Learned abt new security systems. Impressed by advanced products.

(102 characters, 38 under the limit. That leaves room for some hashtagged keywords!)

Books about Twitter on Amazon.com

What are "Hashtags"

You may have heard people talk about "hash tags." Nope, it's not a labeling system for pot. All it is is a word, phrase or abbreviation, with the '#' (pound symbol) directly before it. It's a way Twitter users can connect. For example, I recently attended a business simulcast. Although I was in Snellville near Atlanta GA, the simulcast was being seen in several cities. The simulcast was organized by a company called EA Leaders. The hashtag for the event was #ealeaders. Anyone attending who used Twitter and included the hashtag in their tweets would then also be able to click that hashtag's link in their own posts to view every other Twitter post with that same hashtag. In that way, you can connect with other business Twitter users attending the same event. In this case, not very many other people were tweeting about the event. Probably like myself, they were trying to pay attention to the presentation. But you can see how hashtag use can be very useful if you were attending a specialty trade show, for example. How do you know what the hashtag is for a certain event or topic? It's usually created by the organizer of the event, and if you don't know, just ask. Or you can perform a search in Twitter for the topic, and you may find someone else using the hashtag.

You can also invent your own hashtags, you don't have to wait for someone else to create it. Create one to add to your posts anytime you want. Once you pick a hashtag term, tweet it to share what it's purpose is. If you run a bookstore and are having a science fiction book sale, you could use #SciFiSale - then you can follow up on that hashtag to see how far your promotion traveled on Twitter. A hashtag I'll often add to my Snellville blog Twitter posts is #Snellville. Because you only have 140 character spaces to use in a tweet, go ahead and include the hashtag in your post wherever that word would appear anyway.

For example:

I had a great meeting at Summit Chase Country Club! We worked on the new #Snellville Spirit magazine.

Even better for networking would be to give the Country Club a "Shout out" by including their link in the Twitter post:

I had a great meeting at Summit Chase Country Club (@summitchase), working on the new #Snellville Spirit mag!

See actual Tweet HERE

Not only is it just a nice thing to do, the company or person you linked will be notified that you shared their info (in their Replies). You are helping the other account gain more Twitter followers. People who weren't aware that @summitchase had a Twitter account now will.

Getting Tweets Sent Automatically to your Cell Phone

You might want some Twitter users' Tweets to be sent immediately to your cell phone. I think the most useful to have directly sent are accounts that announce local traffic alerts and weather. But there might be others you'd like to go to your cellphone automatically as text messages. Keep in mind if you don' t have an unlimited messaging service with your cell phone carrier, or this might be a costly thing to activate. Find the account that you want to receive automatic alerts from. Click on the small icon of a cell phone to activate. If you haven't yet set up your cell phone to receive Twitter alerts, Twitter will walk you through the steps. You can activate or deactivate twitter feeds to your cell phone at any time.

When you want to reply to a tweet that's been sent to your cell phone, you can, but just remember you need to text in @ and then the username in order for them to see it as a reply. Otherwise your reply will show up as just a basic tweet, and it will be strange and out-of-context when not directed to anyone in particular.

What is the Fail Whale?

People use the term "Fail Whale" to refer to the image of a huge whale being held up by little birdies which Twitter uses on their "Over Capacity" page or when Twitter is having problems. There's nothing you can do about the Fail Whale. Sometimes it happens. Enjoy the cute picture. That's what I do. I don't usually tweet about it, but sometimes people do. I think it can seem like whining, especially when Twitter is free for everyone to use.

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