Twitter is a social media and online news platform where people communicate in short messages – up to 240 characters long – called tweets. Founded in 2006, Twitter is now one of the top websites in the world. It's currently ranked No. 8 domestically and No. 13 internationally according to internet analytics company Alexa.
If used correctly, Twitter can be a great marketing tool for your business. Before using Twitter to help your business, here's everything you need to know.
Setting up Twitter for business
There are five parts to a Twitter profile – your Twitter handle, profile picture, bio, header image and pinned tweet. All these elements should work cohesively to create an accurate representation of your business.
Your username, or Twitter handle, is your @name and is your identifier on Twitter. It can have up to 15 characters. It should help people find your business easily. Your profile photo should visually represent your business and brand. Your profile photo is displayed on your profile and is the icon displayed in every tweet you post.
For your bio, you have 160 characters to describe your business and include information about your business. You can include information such as your location, business hours or a link to your website. Your header image is behind your profile picture and can be used to highlight promotions, events or news about your business.
Lastly, your pinned tweet is the first tweet people see when they visit your profile. You can change your pinned tweet whenever you want.
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- # (Hashtag): A hashtag (#) is used to index words or phrases on Twitter. This helps people easily follow topics and events.
- Bookmarks: In February 2018, Twitter introduced Bookmarks. This button allows you to save tweets you want to look at later. This is particularly helpful if you want to read an article or watch a video but don't have time at the current moment. (Previously, you had to like the tweet to save it for later, and your followers could see what tweets you liked.)
- @: Like other social media websites, the at symbol is used to tag or mention other users.
- Block: You can block other accounts on Twitter. If you block an account, they can't follow you, add you to Twitter lists or see your tweets. You also won't see their tweets.
- Direct messages (DM): You'll often hear people refer to direct messages as DMs. This option allows you to privately chat with someone individually. If a customer has a question, they can ask you via a DM. There is no character limit on DMs, so you can respond using as many characters as you need.
- Follow: When you follow an account, you're subscribing to them. Once you follow someone, you'll see their tweets in your timeline.
- Followers: Twitter users who follow you and see your tweets in their timeline.
- Trending topics: You can see current trending topics on your Twitter home page in the trends box on the left-hand side.
- Home timeline: Your timeline displays the tweets and retweets of the people you follow as well as promoted tweets.
- Like: You can like a tweet by clicking the heart symbol under the tweet. All of your likes can be found on your profile.
- Lists: You can make lists of other users you find interesting. With lists, you don't have to follow the users you include. Lists can help you organize your following list. For example, you may make a list of local news outlets or NYC writers.
- Retweet: Retweeting is similar to sharing someone's post on Facebook. If you like a tweet and want your follows to see it, you retweet it. Then, the tweet shows up on your followers' timelines and your profile.
- Trends: Trends are a topic or hashtag that is popular on Twitter. You can tailor trends to reflect what's popular in your location or who you follow.
Tools of Twitter
Keeping your account(s) organized needs to be a priority. There are many 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; it is owned by Twitter.
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite, which lets you manage other social media accounts besides just Twitter, operates similarly to TweetDeck. 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; after that, the pro version costs $9.99 per month. Users can schedule tweets in Hootsuite in a similar manner to TweetDeck.
Twitter and Hootsuite have mobile apps for use on a smartphone or tablet, plus you can add multiple user accounts. [See Related Story: 6 Social Media Tools for Small Business]
Put Twitter to work
Social media holds value for businesses of any size. It spans multiple demographics and spreads your company's message. As a business owner, you should carefully consider how Twitter will fit into your overall marketing plan.
Here are some ideas on how to use Twitter for your business. [See Related Story: Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide]
1. Use hashtags
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 increase the visibility of your content beyond your own followers. There are many popular hashtags that, generally, all active Twitter users are familiar with, like #FollowFriday and #ThrowbackThursday.
You can also create your own hashtags to draw attention to your brand or to events you are holding, though it's possible it may not catch on. Many brands latch onto trending topics to contribute to the conversation or sell their product.
Use relevant hashtags; for example, if you tweet 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. Next, limit how many hashtags you use. The more you use, the less likely people are to interact with your content, because they'll find your posts spam-like.
Also, look at the trending box everyday – it's located on the left-hand side of your timeline if you're on a desktop or on the search tab on the Twitter app. The trending box provides a lot of inspiration on what to share with your followers. Just be sure it's relevant and you use the trending phase or hashtag.
3. Handle problems through direct messages.
Direct messages have evolved over the years, which is especially true for brands. The way you interact with clients is important for troubleshooting issues and handling problems.
It's smart to handle customers through DMs for a couple reasons. First, you don't want other users to see the problem and therefore think less of your company. Also, there is no character limit on DMs, which gives you the freedom to properly help customers without being limited to a certain number of characters.
By default, only users you follow can send you DMs. You can set up your Twitter account to receive messages from anyone, making it easier for all customers to contact you. Simply go to Privacy Settings and enable Receive Direct Messages from Anyone.
4. Photos, gifs and polls
Twitter allows users to add up to four photos to their posts. You can also create graphics to add to your tweets. Not a Photoshop whiz? It's okay, there are numerous tools online that help you create the image you need.
Using photos and gifs with your tweets 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 consumers interested in your brand. One fun way to involve your followers is to create a poll. Craft your question and select the responses. Then click the Compose box at the top of your Home timeline. Next, click the Add Poll icon that looks like a horizontal graph. Insert your question into the main compose box. Then enter your first poll option into Choice 1 and your second option into Choice 2. You can list up to four options in your poll, and each option should be 25 characters or less. The poll stays live for 24 hours by default, but you can shorten that timeframe if you prefer.
5. Live tweeting
Live tweeting is another way to get a topic 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 often creates its own individual hashtag to use and share with the invite list so that others can follow.
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, you might see the official awards show hashtag listed along with the names of celebrities and films that win major awards.
6. Twitter chats
Another way to engage followers or get a topic trending is by hosting a Twitter chat. Twitter chats are straightforward, but they 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 hosts a chat at a specific time and prepares 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 theirs) engaged.
7. Interact with influencers and customers.
It's important to interact with the right people on Twitter. It's always smart to engage with your customers to keep them happy and potential customers to help them learn about your business. Perhaps there are others, such as journalists or influencers, you want to focus on, too. An easy way to do that is with Twitter lists.
"By taking advantage of the Twitter list function to create groups of journalists who are friendly to your cause or potential customers, influencers, industry-specific trade show attendees … you can then filter out the noise of random follower tweets and target your engagement to those folks who are more likely to help you reach your social media marketing objectives,” said Jason Myers, senior account executive at The Content Factory LLC.
8. Advertise 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 learn more about Promoted Tweets on Twitter.
- Promoted Accounts: Promoted Accounts are designed to help brands become more discoverable and grow their number of followers. 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 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. They, too, 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 want to get people talking about your business using a specific hashtag, Promoted Trends are a good way to go. 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: Amplify 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 Amplify gives brands the ability to share videos from TV programs and other broadcasts, Promoted Video opens up the possibilities, allowing advertisers to use any kind of video, thus allowing them to be more creative with their campaigns. Promoted Video is different from sharing a YouTube video in your tweets. While let you 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. This 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.
9. Verified accounts on Twitter
Blue 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 it confirms 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 ensure it's still eligible for verification. This should be taken into consideration should you rebrand.
In November 2017, Twitter suspended its verification process. Many users viewed it as an endorsement by Twitter and criticized the social media platform for verifying accounts of controversial people.
"Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance," tweeted Twitter support. "We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon."
Twitter tips and tricks
Don't buy followers. You can purchase followers from certain services to beef up your follower count. While it may be tempting to make it look like you have more followers than you actually do, it's not worth it. The followers you get aren't 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.
Add a Twitter widget to your website. Show everyone who visits your website that you're active on social media by embedding a Twitter widget on your page. To create a Twitter widget, go to http://twitter.com/settings/widgets and click Create New. You'll be directed to a page where you can customize what you want visible in your widget. You can make a widget out of your own timeline of tweets, the tweets you favorited 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 embed a tweet, go to the tweet you want to share and click on the More tab in the upper right corner. A dropdown menu will appear; choose Embed Tweet option, 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 Morgan.