Social media is an important tool for any business owner, no matter the size and scope of the business. Learning to communicate with your demographic, albeit in 140 characters, can be useful when working with your customers. Learning more about Twitter can only benefit your business.
Twitter is one of the top websites in the world, and is currently ranked No. 8 domestically and globally, according to Internet analytics company Alexa. It has more than 313 million active monthly users, per the company, and 82 percent of those users are active on mobile platforms.
Having Twitter as part of your social media toolbox can propel your business's legitimacy.
"There are many reasons why a small business needs a social media presence. The most practical reasons have to do with your credibility and discoverability," Leah Paul, director of marketing at Mediabistro said to Business News Daily in another piece. "It’s important because it's expected, like having a website, a phone number and an email address."
Tools of Twitter
Keeping your account(s) organized needs to be a priority. There are a number of native and third-party clients you can use to manage your tweets.
- TweetDeck: TweetDeck is free to use and has a sleek user interface with customizable columns where you can organize lists, notifications and your own feed. You can also track hashtags in their own separate columns, schedule tweets in advance (something you can't do on the Twitter website or mobile apps) and add multiple Twitter accounts to manage several users at once. TweetDeck is browser-based and is accessed via the web.
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite, which lets you manage other social media accounts besides just Twitter, operates similarly to TweetDeck. However, it is arguably not as sleek or simple as TweetDeck's layout, as Hootsuite uses tabs for each profile you connect to it. Hootsuite offers a free version as well as a pro version for $9.99 per month (with a free, 30-day trial). Hootsuite also allows users to schedule tweets in a similar manner to TweetDeck. Like TweetDeck, Hootsuite is browser-based, but it does not currently have a desktop version available for PCs or Macs.
Twitter and Hootsuite have mobile apps for use on your smartphone or tablet, and allow you to add multiple user accounts at once. [See Related Story: 6 Social Media Tools for Small Business]
Put Twitter to work
Social media plays multiple roles when it comes to business, including yours. There is a place for it in any size business, as it can reach multiple demographics and spread your company's message. As a business owner, you should carefully consider how Twitter will fit into your overall marketing plan. [See Related Story: Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide]
Twitter offers tools specifically for marketing and your business.
If you're working out what is important and works on Twitter (especially in marketing) consider hashtags. These words or phrases gives users the chance to tag an identifying word that groups hundreds (or thousands) of tweets together. Hashtags are searchable and offer the perfect companion for live events.
Hashtags are a great way to make the content you share on the platform visible to users beyond your own followers. There are many highly popular hashtags that generally all active Twitter users are familiar with, like #FollowFriday or #ff, which encourages your followers to reach out to other users you admire or work with, and #ThrowbackThursday or #tbt, with which many users post attention to your vintage or childhood photos and memories. You can also create your own hashtags to draw brand or to events you may be throwing, though it comes with the possibility it may not catch on. Many brands latch on to already trending topics to contribute to the conversation or sell their product.
It's important to make sure you use hashtags that are relevant – for example, if you were tweeting about starting a business and it happened to be a Friday, you might use the hashtag #entrepreneurship, but using the #FF hashtag would be inappropriate.
Be wary of how many you use, the more hashtags you use, the less likely people are to interact with your content, because they'll find your posts spam-like.
Hashtags or phrases can trend. Trending topics means people are talking about something at a very high rate. Often, these topics are identifiable with hashtags, but they can also be words or phrases related to the subject. As previously mentioned, you can see the current trending topics on your Twitter home page in the trends box on the left-hand side.
For brands, latching on to trending topics is a good way to garner interest and possibly a few followers – just make sure you do it the right way. Only use trending topics in your tweets if those topics are relevant to your brand, and make sure you use them appropriately.
If you're not sure why a certain topic is trending, do some research to ensure that you don't do something to offend your audience, like making light of a serious situation or saying something politically incorrect. Users typically identify disingenuous marketing if brands are just tweeting to tweet.
It should be noted that it's best to stay away from breaking news stories surrounding tragedy, including celebrity deaths, or major tragic historical events (like 9/11). Use your best judgement, and always choose tact when deciding to integrate marketing with trending topics.
This feature will expand the storytelling experience for brands and businesses.
"Visual assets are core to how a brand tells its story, and it's no secret that marketers are giving video more importance in their creative asset mix and shifting dollars from traditional TV to digital video," Sofia Hernandez, executive vice president at MRY creative agency told Business News Daily.
"For businesses which rely on strictly organic posts, this feature will allow them to tell their story over two minutes," added Jenny Marder, director of social media at Red Tettemer O'Connell + Partners in the same article.
These videos can be useful for product demonstrations and a more thorough explanation of product benefits and functionality, Hernandez said. Videos such as beauty tutorials and tech gadget demonstrations will drive users to purchase, she said.
Marder emphasized the importance of providing a call to action, in either the video or the tweet, to give users a reason to interact or share the content, thus increasing brands' views and engagement.
Direct messages have evolved and changed over the years, which is especially true for brands. The way you interreact with your clients is important for troubleshooting issues and handling problems at multiple locations of your business.
Direct messages (DM) allow you to privately chat with someone one on one. If a customer has a question, they can ask via a DM. There is no character limit on DMs, which gives you the freedom to explain and help in as many characters as you need.
By default, only users you follow can send you DMs. Now, you can set up your Twitter account to receive messages from anyone, making it easier for all customers to contact you. Simply go to your Privacy Settings and enable "Receive Direct Messages from Anyone."
Twitter has also launched a new feature that filters messages from users you don't follow into a separate Requests inbox. This lets you choose and prioritize which users to engage with first and helps keep your messages organized. Learn more about the Requests inbox.
DMs also include location services. if a customer has an issue, he or she can share their location with the business. The customer can reference a location even if they’re not physically there – which would be helpful in the case of making reservations or placing a to-go order at a restaurant, for instance, the article said.
Even if you do not run a restaurant or takeout business, the use of the location tool may be helpful when learning of outages, issues at the certain location or other location-based issues that need to be solved.
The feature is also available through Twitter’s Direct Messages API, currently in private beta, and is powered by Foursquare’s location data.
Photos, gifs and polls
Twitter allows the user to add up to four photos to their posts. You can create graphics if you'd like to support what you're posting. Not a whiz on Photoshop? It's okay, there are numerous tools online that help you create what you need.
Being relatable through photos and gifs is a great way to connect with followers. Twitter has a built-in gif keyboard. Search a keyword and choose a clip that best suits your tweet.
Engaging with followers is imperative on Twitter to keep people interested in you brand. A fun way to do so is interacting with a poll. Craft a question and select responses for your followers.
Live tweeting is another way to get topics trending on Twitter. Essentially, live tweeting is when a user tweets his or her reactions to a live event as it is happening, whether that is breaking news or entertainment-related. When brands throw events and want their attendees to live tweet while they're there, the brand will often create its own individual hashtag to use and share with the invite list so that others can follow around.
Live tweeting most commonly occurs with TV shows and televised events. It's not uncommon during events such as these to see the trends box filled with related topics – for example, in the case of the Oscars, it wouldn't be surprising to see the official awards show hashtag along with the names of celebrities and films that win major awards.
Another way to engage followers or get a topic trending is by hosting a Twitter chat. Twitter chats are straightforward, but they do require a relatively large and active follower base to be successful.
A Twitter chat happens when several Twitter users discuss a specific topic simultaneously using a shared hashtag.
Usually, one Twitter user will host a chat at a specific time and prepare specific questions and discussion points. The host will tweet out the questions, often with "Q1" or "Q2" (numbers vary depending on how many questions you're asking) preceding the questions, and other participants will respond with "A1" or A2" and their thoughts.
Twitter chats usually last about an hour. They are a great way to show how active you are on social media and to get your followers (and their followers) engaged and asking questions or sharing their advice.
Twitter offers its users the ability to make lists of other users they find interesting. With lists, you don't have to be following the users you include to see their posts regularly.
Lists can help you organize your following list. For example, you might make a list of celebrities and other users that you admire and label it "Influential People." If you had an interest in something like photography or writing and want to track users who tweet about those things, you could make lists of "NYC Writers" or "NYC Photographers" to do so.
Advertising on Twitter
Using Twitter is free, but if you'd like to pay to promote your account on the platform, there are plenty of advertising options at your disposal.
- Promoted Tweets: These ads are just like regular tweets, and they appear in a user's Twitter feed along with posts from people the user follows. Promoted Tweets are a way for advertisers to increase engagement and expand their reach to a wider group of users beyond their follower base. These tweets are labeled "promoted" across the bottom of the ad, above the reply, retweet and like buttons. You can read more details about Promoted Tweets on Twitter.
- Promoted Accounts: Promoted Accounts are designed to help brands become more discoverable and grow their follower counts. These ads are displayed in multiple locations on Twitter, including the Who to Follow box on the home page, your home page's Twitter feed and search results. Promoted Accounts ads target Twitter users who have interests relevant to the advertiser's brand so that brands can gain followers who are more likely to interact with their content. All of the ads are labeled as "Promoted" just like Promoted Tweets are, so users can distinguish them from other content on their feeds. To learn more about Promoted Accounts, go here.
- Promoted Trends: Promoted Trends appear at the top of the trending topics list in the trends box on Twitter and, like other Twitter ads, are clearly labeled as "Promoted." These ads look exactly like other trending topics, and users can interact with them in the same ways. While Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts target specific users, Promoted Trends are visible to all users when the trends are being promoted. They're also visible on Twitter's mobile apps. If you're looking to get people talking about your business using a specific hashtag, Promoted Trends are a good way to do so. For more-detailed information on Promoted Trends, head to Twitter.
In addition to these options, Twitter has a host of other marketing tools designed to help advertisers improve their campaigns.
- Twitter Amplify: Twitter Amplify is a tool that allows advertisers to share real-time television content (for example, videos of sports highlights) that they can integrate with their brand or sponsors. Twitter Amplify helps brands reach users beyond their current followers by delivering content to targeted audiences. For more information on Twitter Amplify, go here.
- Promoted Video: While Twitter Amplify gives brands the ability to share videos from TV programs and other broadcasts, Promoted Video opens up the possibilities to any kind of video, giving advertisers more ways to be creative with their campaigns. It's important to note that Promoted Video is different from sharing a YouTube video in your tweets, while both methods allow you to play a video in a tweet, Promoted Video content is hosted directly by Twitter and is only available as a paid marketing tool. Learn more about Promoted Video here.
- Mobile app promotion: Mobile app companies, this is the tool for you. Twitter's mobile app promotion option lets advertisers target and reach their desired audiences via mobile devices to drive app downloads. Advertisers can create a custom image and app description for use in the ad, and target users by their location, gender, language and mobile platform (so, if your app is available only on iOS devices, you can target users who access Twitter from only those devices). The tool also features a unique measurement system so advertisers can see how their campaigns impact app installs, purchases and registrations. Read more about mobile app promotion here.
To read more in-depth about how advertising works on Twitter, go here.
Verified accounts on Twitter
Blue and white checkmarks, usually administered by Twitter, indicates the account is verified. This means that the social network considers the user to be a key brand or individual, or confirming the user is who they say they are.
According to the site, an account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically, this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas.
Note: Verified Twitter users can lose their verified status if they change their handle or protect their tweets. In these instances, Twitter will automatically review the user's account again to make sure it's still eligible for verification. This should be taken into consideration should your company undergo rebranding.
Applying for verification
Verification on Twitter can add to your business's credibility. If your business or brand isn’t automatically given a checkmark, you can apply on behalf of your business. Twitter opened the opportunity to apply for verification status.
The requirements include:
- A verified phone number
- A confirmed email address
- A bio
- Profile photo
- Header photo
- A website
- Tweets set as public in Tweet privacy settings
If your profile request is rejected, you must wait 30 days before the next application can be submitted for review.
Don't get frustrated if your business is rejected, more work may need to be done and it isn't an impossibility. Furthermore, Twitter does "rolling verifications" for accounts that are determined to be of public interest.
Twitter tips and tricks
Don't buy followers. There are services that allow you to purchase followers to beef up your follower count. While it may seem tempting to make it look like you have more followers than you actually do, it's not worth it. The followers you get won't be real, and therefore won't interact with your brand.
Go mobile. The Twitter mobile apps are incredibly well-integrated with the web platform, so the transition from tweeting on your computer to tweeting from your smartphone or tablet is almost seamless. And if you don't have a smartphone, don't worry – you can also tweet via SMS text messaging. The process is simple, and you can find step-by-step instructions here.
Add a Twitter widget to your website. Show everyone who visits your website that you're active on social media by creating and embedding a Twitter widget on your page. To create a Twitter widget, simply go to https://twitter.com/settings/widgets and click Create New. This will take you to a page where you can customize what kinds of things you want visible in your widget. You can make a widget out of your own timeline of tweets, the tweets you favorite or lists you've created. You can even do a search for a specific hashtag. You can then adjust the size, link color and theme of your widget. Once you're happy with your new Twitter widget, simply click the Create Widget button, and you'll be redirected to a new page that contains the HTML code necessary for embedding the widget on your website.
Embed tweets on your blog. If your brand's website has an active blog, embedding tweets can showcase any fun tweets you shared or tweets from your loyal followers. This is a great way to incorporate your social media accounts on your website to make them better integrated. To embed a tweet, go to the tweet you want to share and click the ellipsis (also called the More) button under the text. A drop-down menu will appear; choose the option Embed Tweet, and it will take you to a new page with the appropriate HTML code. From there, just copy and paste the code where you want it to appear.
Additional reporting by Brittney Helmrich.