If your brand is on Twitter, you should understand the basics of the social media platform. Here's how to succeed in tweeting for your business.
- With millions of daily users, Twitter can be a powerful tool to raise awareness about your business, engage with customers and develop leads.
- Setting up a Twitter for Business profile is simple, but just like a muscle, it needs to be used regularly to be most effective.
- Understanding how to navigate Twitter for your business can go a long way in business growth.
- This article is for business owners, or their marketing and communications teams, examining the benefits of incorporating Twitter into their business marketing strategy.
From hashtags and pinned tweets to Twitter lists and social media influencers, there's a lot to Twitter. With the right marketing plan, businesses can use the platform to increase sales, boost brand recognition and improve customer service.
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Twitter is a social media and online news platform where people communicate in short messages – up to 280 characters long – called tweets. Founded in 2006, Twitter is now one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
This can be a powerful platform to combine with your LinkedIn and Facebook marketing efforts. Whether you're new to Twitter or you want to start using the platform to boost your business, here's everything you need to know about it.
Parts of a Twitter profile
Your Twitter profile has six parts: your Twitter handle, username, profile picture, bio, header image, and a pinned tweet. All these elements should work cohesively to be an accurate representation of your business.
- Your Twitter handle is your @name, your identifier on Twitter. This is the name at the end of your Twitter page's URL and the name other tweeters will use to tag you in posts. It can be up to 15 characters and should help people find your business easily.
- Your username, or display name, appears above your Twitter handle on your profile and can be up to 50 characters. This would be the name of your business or brand.
- Your profile photo is displayed on your profile and in every tweet you post, so it should visually represent your business and brand. Many brands use their logo.
- For your bio, you have 160 characters to describe your business. Include information such as your location, business hours and website URL.
- You can use the header image behind your profile picture to highlight promotions, events or news about your business. Unlike your profile picture, this image should change regularly.
- Your pinned tweet is the first tweet people see when they visit your profile, so make it an interesting one that represents what's going on with your brand. As with your header image, you can change your pinned tweet whenever you want.
Key takeaway: Your Twitter profile consists of your handle, display name, profile picture and header image, bio, and a pinned tweet.
These terms are important to know when using Twitter for your small business.
@: As on other social media websites, you use the "at" symbol with a user's handle to tag or mention them.
# (hashtag): A hashtag, denoted with the pound sign, is used to index words or phrases on Twitter. When you click on a hashtag, Twitter automatically shows you other tweets with the hashtag. This makes it easy for people to follow topics and events.
Block: If you block an account on Twitter, they can't follow you, add you to Twitter lists or see your tweets. You also won't see their tweets.
Bookmarks: Similar to bookmarks in an internet browser, the Twitter Bookmarks button allows you to save tweets so you can find them easily later. This is particularly helpful if you want to read an article or watch a video linked in the tweet but don't have time at the moment.
Direct messages (DM): You'll often hear people refer to direct messages as "DMs." This option allows you to chat privately with an individual user. If one of your customers or followers has a question, they can ask you via DM. There is no character limit on DMs, so your response can be as detailed as necessary. However, if someone you don't follow messages you, their message will show up in the "requests" folder by default, so you might not notice it immediately. You can change this in your settings.
Follow: When you follow an account, you're subscribing to see that user's tweets in your timeline.
Followers: Twitter users who follow you can see your tweets in their timelines.
Like: You can like a tweet by clicking the heart symbol under it. You can see all of your likes on your profile.
Lists: You can make public and private lists of other users you find interesting. You don't have to follow a user to include them in a list. For example, you may make a list of local news outlets or writers, your competitors, influencers in your industry, or important customers.
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.
Timeline (or home timeline): Your timeline displays the tweets and retweets of the people you follow as well as promoted tweets.
- Trending topics / trends: These are the currently most discussed topics and hashtags on Twitter. You can see trending topics on the left-hand side of your Twitter homepage in the "trends" box. You can customize your trend display to show what's popular in your location or with the people you follow.
Key takeaway: To use Twitter for business, you need to know common terms like "hashtag," "timeline" and "trending topics" so you can use these sources of insight. You'll also need to understand what it means to follow, like, bookmark, block, DM, @mention, and retweet another user or post.
Tools of Twitter
Keeping your account(s) organized needs to be a priority. Two popular third-party tools to help you do that are TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
TweetDeck, which is owned by Twitter, is free to use and has a sleek user interface with customizable columns where you can organize lists, notifications, and your feed. You can also track hashtags in 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 accessible via web browser.
- Hootsuite, which lets you manage other social media accounts besides Twitter, operates similarly to TweetDeck, allowing you to schedule your tweets, manage your replies, respond to messages and tweets, and generally automate your account's management. It is arguably not as sleek or simple as TweetDeck, though, as it uses tabs for each profile you connect to it. Hootsuite offers a free version, or you can use the pro version for $9.99 per month.
Hootsuite and Twitter itself have mobile apps for use on a smartphone or tablet, and you can add multiple user accounts.
Key takeaway: You can use tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck to manage your Twitter account through a centralized dashboard with some automation capabilities.
How to set up a business Twitter account
Twitter and other social media platforms often adjust their setup process, so these steps may change in the future, but as of February 2021, these are the steps to set up a Twitter account for business use:
Create an account. Visit the Twitter homepage and click "sign up." You'll be prompted to create a username and Twitter handle, provide your business email and a phone number, and supply your date of birth to confirm that you meet the age requirements to use the service (your birthdate is not publicly available information). Be sure to pick a Twitter handle that clearly represents your business, but you can adjust it later if needed.
Verify your account. Once you complete the first step, Twitter will send a verification code to the phone number you provided. Enter that code in the provided space and click "next."
Create a password. As you should when signing up for any account online, make sure that this password is hard to guess and not in use for any of your other accounts. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters to make it unique and complex.
- Complete your profile. Now that you've supplied the basics, you'll be prompted to fill out your profile. You will need these components for a complete business Twitter profile:
Upload a profile picture. This is often your company's logo or, if you're creating a personal account to use for business purposes, a professional photo of yourself. Upload the picture (approximately 400 by 400 pixels) and adjust if necessary.
Write a bio. Describe your business succinctly in this 160-character space. You may wish to include one or two hashtags that are important to your business.
Select your interests. Next, you'll be prompted to select some areas of interest so Twitter can recommend like-minded users for you to follow. You can skip this stage, but it will be helpful to select areas of interest related to your business. For example, if you are opening a Twitter business account for a home renovation company, you may want to select "home improvement" or "interior design" as categories of interest.
Choose users to follow from the suggestions. You'll then receive a list of popular accounts that Twitter recommends you follow. You can skip this step if you already know which accounts you want to follow, but you do want to get started with following other users. If you do take some of Twitter's suggestions, only select the recommended profiles that relate to your business, rather than people you are personally interested in following who are not relevant to your brand or industry.
Tell Twitter if you want to receive notifications. Turn on notifications for now, as this is the best way for you to act and respond to others quickly as your Twitter presence grows.
Upload your cover photo and other business information. You have a few more items to provide before your profile is complete.
Create a cover photo. Upload an image or custom graphic that represents your business. This could be an original photo or illustration, your tagline, or other branded imagery. The recommended dimensions of this graphic are 1500 by 500 pixels.
- Add your location and website. Select "edit profile" on your main profile page to supply this information. For the location field, if your company has multiple branches, select the location of your headquarters.
- Create a cover photo. Upload an image or custom graphic that represents your business. This could be an original photo or illustration, your tagline, or other branded imagery. The recommended dimensions of this graphic are 1500 by 500 pixels.
- Upload a profile picture. This is often your company's logo or, if you're creating a personal account to use for business purposes, a professional photo of yourself. Upload the picture (approximately 400 by 400 pixels) and adjust if necessary.
Key takeaway: You can create a business profile on Twitter in a few simple steps. You mainly just need to supply your business's basic information and add some personality and detail to your brand profile.
How to put Twitter to work for your business
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 social media marketing plan.
Here are some ideas on how to use Twitter for your business.
1. Use hashtags.
Hashtags are searchable identifying words or phrases that groups hundreds (or thousands) of tweets together. They're a great way to increase the visibility of your content beyond your own followers. There are many popular hashtags that most active Twitter users are familiar with, like #FollowFriday and #ThrowbackThursday.
Many brands latch onto trending topics to contribute to the conversation or sell their products. You can also create your own hashtags to draw attention to your brand or events you are holding.
Only use hashtags that are relevant to your content. For example, if you tweet about starting a business, you might use the hashtag #entrepreneurship. You should also 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 every day. Located on the left-hand side of your timeline if you're on desktop or on the search tab in the Twitter app, the trending box can provide inspiration on what to share with your followers. Again, just make sure it's relevant to your brand and that you use the trending phrase or hashtag in your tweet.
2. Handle problems through direct messages.
Direct messaging has evolved over the years, especially for brands. This is a major platform for troubleshooting your customers' issues and handling their problems, and the way you interact with them is important.
It's smart to handle individual customer complaints and issues through DMs for a couple reasons. For one thing, you don't want other users to see the problem and think less of your company. Also, there is no character limit on DMs, which gives you the freedom to help customers properly.
By default, only users you follow can send you DMs. You can set up your Twitter account to receive messages from anyone, though, making it easier for all customers to contact you. Simply go to Privacy Settings and enable "receive direct messages from anyone."
3. Use photos, GIFs and polls.
Twitter allows you to add up to four photos to a post. You can also create graphics to add to your tweets. Not a Photoshop whiz? There are numerous tools online that can help you create the image you need.
Using photos and GIFs in your tweets is a great way to connect with followers. Twitter has a built-in GIF keyboard; you simply search for a keyword and choose the clip that best suits your tweet.
Engaging with your followers on Twitter is imperative to keep consumers interested in your brand. One fun way to involve your followers is to create a poll with these simple steps:
- Click the "compose" box at the top of your home timeline.
- Click the "add poll" icon that looks like a horizontal graph.
- Type your question into the main "compose" box.
- Enter your first poll response option into Choice 1 and the second option into Choice 2. You can list up to four answer options in your poll; each option can be up to 25 characters.
The poll stays live for 24 hours by default, but you can shorten that timeframe if you prefer.
4. Do live tweets.
Live tweeting is another potential way to get a topic trending on Twitter. Essentially, live tweeting is when a user tweets their reactions to an event as it happens, whether it's entertainment or breaking news.
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, during the Oscars, you might see the official awards show hashtag listed along with the names of celebrities and films that have just won major awards.
If you throw an event and want your attendees to live tweet about it, it's a good idea to create your own hashtag for the event and share it with your attendees so they can spread and follow it.
When you're live tweeting or using multiple tweets for the same topic, make them responses to the original tweet. This makes it easier for users to follow the entire conversation.
5. Host and participate in Twitter chats.
Another way to engage your followers or get a topic trending is to host a Twitter chat on a topic relevant to your brand or expertise. 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, with prepared questions and discussion points. The host will tweet out the questions, often labeled "Q1" (or whatever number the question is), and participants will respond with "A1" 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 engage your followers (and theirs).
6. 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 with potential customers to help them learn about your business. Perhaps you also want to focus on others, such as journalists or influencers whose specialties are relevant to your brand, and an easy way to do that is with Twitter lists.
"[Take] advantage of the Twitter list function to create groups of journalists who are friendly to your cause or potential customers, influencers, [and] industry-specific trade show attendees," said Jason Myers, senior account executive at The Content Factory. "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."
7. Advertise on Twitter.
Twitter is free to use, but if you'd like to pay to promote your account on the platform, you have plenty of advertising options.
Promoted Tweets: These ads look just like regular tweets, except that they are labeled "promoted" at the bottom, and they appear in the regular Twitter feeds of users who might not be following you yet. Promoted Tweets are a way to increase engagement and expand your reach to a wider group of users beyond your follower base.
Promoted Accounts: Promoted Accounts are designed to help brands become more discoverable and grow their numbers of followers. These ads are displayed in multiple locations on Twitter, including in the "who to follow" box on a user's homepage, on the home Twitter feed, and in search results. Your Promoted Account ads target Twitter users whose interests are relevant to your brand, so you might gain followers who are actively engage with your content. All of the ads are labeled "promoted" just like Promoted Tweets so users can distinguish them from other content on their feeds.
- 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," but otherwise, 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 during their promotion period, including on the Twitter mobile app. Promoted Trends are a good way to get people talking about your business with a specific hashtag.
In addition to these options, Twitter has a host of marketing tools to help you improve your campaigns.
Twitter Amplify: Amplify allows you to share real-time television content (for example, videos of sports highlights) that you can integrate with your brand or sponsors. This can help you reach users besides your current followers by delivering content to targeted audiences.
Promoted Video: While Amplify gives you the ability to share videos from TV programs and other broadcasts, Promoted Video opens up the possibilities even further, allowing you to use any kind of video and thus be more creative with your campaigns. Unlike embedded YouTube videos, Promoted Video content is hosted directly by Twitter and only available as a paid marketing tool.
- Mobile app promotion: If your brand has launched an app, whether it's the cornerstone of your business or a complementary tool for your service, this is the tool for you. This option lets you target your desired audience on mobile devices to drive app downloads. You can create a custom image and app description for the ad and target users by location, gender, language, and mobile platform. For example, if your app is available only on iOS devices, you can target users who access Twitter from those devices. The tool also features a unique measurement system that shows you how your campaign is impacting your app installations, purchases and registrations.
Key takeaway: To increase your chances of success on Twitter, consider using and creating hashtags, sharing GIFs and other images, creating polls, handling customer issues privately over DM, and maybe even paying for advertising to increase your reach.
Verified accounts on Twitter
A blue checkmark next to a user's display name indicates a verified account. This means that the social network considers the user to be a prominent brand or influential individual, and it confirms the user is who they say they are.
According to the site, an account may be verified if Twitter determines it to be of public interest. Typically, this includes accounts of public figures in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other areas of popular interest.
A verified Twitter user can lose their verified status if they change their handle or protect their tweets (i.e., make their tweets visible only to their followers). In these instances, Twitter will automatically review the user's account to ensure it's still eligible for verification. Consider this if you decide to 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. However, in December 2020, Twitter announced that it was bringing back the verification process.
Key takeaway: The blue checkmark verifies to Twitter users that an account is the authentic profile of an influential brand or public figure. After being suspended in 2017, the verification program is back in 2021.
Twitter tips and tricks
In addition to following the best practices and techniques explained above, you should observe these general rules to maximize your success on Twitter.
Don't buy followers.
You can purchase followers from certain services to beef up your 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 won't interact with your brand, so they add no value and make you look bad if you're found out.
The Twitter mobile app is incredibly well integrated with the web platform, so the transition from tweeting on your computer to tweeting from your smartphone or tablet is virtually seamless.
Embed tweets on your blog.
If you have an active blog on your brand's website, you can embed tweets into it to showcase any fun content you shared or comments 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," 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.
Key takeaway: Make the most out of your Twitter business account by incorporating tweets into your website or blog, tweeting on the go from the mobile app, and building an authentic follower base over time.
Stella Morrison and Brittney Morgan contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.