27/05/11

By Francesca James, @francescaajames, www.letsgetsocialat.blogspot.com

Those of you not familiar with actually using Twitter by now are at least, I would imagine familiar with the concept, especially after the British media attention it’s been getting due to the recent super-injunction saga.

Perhaps it’s prompted you to sign up and see what all the fuss is about?

Fantastic, well here’s an absolute beginners guide for you. When some guides say beginner they baffle twitter newbies with talk of hashtags and #followfriday (have I lost you yet?). Don't worry, this article does exactly what it says on the tin and should help you make the first step toward harnessing Twitter as a tool for your business.

Twitter at first glance, is much simpler than Facebook, MySpace or Bebo but there is an awful lot that can be forgotten or not done with due care and attention that can really have damaging effects on your business.

PR expert,@Louise Findlay Wilson when asked to give one piece of advice to businesses new to Twitter, said:

‘Have a plan, what are you planning to achieve through it? Let that guide you’

Before you even land on the registration page ask yourself why you’re heading there. Do you want to learn something? Make contacts? Share expertise? Make money? See, there’s a lot more to twitter than 140 characters.

OK so first things first, you need an account. You can do that here: https://twitter.com/signup. The sign up process is simple and free and won’t take you more than a couple of minutes but it is important to a take a moment to choose a twitter handle (user name) and picture carefully.


My name or my business name?

There are arguments for both sides; personally I prefer talking to a person and for me, it is adequate enough to read in someone’s bio where they’re from and what they do.

@ashleyfryer, a writer and blogger shares my view and recommends using your real name. She says ‘A tweet handle is for life, not just for your current job. Depends what you're using it for I guess.’

If you do decide to use your business name and have found that because you were not one of the first to jump on the twitter bandwagon, someone else has taken your name or are impersonating you, you can reclaim that name as username squatting is prohibited by the Twitter Rules. You can find out more about that process here: http://support.twitter.com/entries/18370

Followers

In a nutshell, twitter connects people with similar interests. Any tweets that you post will automatically appear in your follower’s time lines and the same goes for those you have chosen to follow.

But how do you get followers? I’ve probably opened up a can of worms here as there are so many advised and even ill advised ways to do this.

As well as being visible to people already following you, your tweets are searchable and you can harness the potential of this by using keywords relevant to your interests and/or business.

For example, I often tweet about articles I’m writing and request that PR’s contact me with business advice/content that I can use online. If we look back at that sentence, there are lots of keywords that someone could find me under and perhaps then choose to follow me because of.

People you follow will often follow you back, this isn’t a rule and you’ll have to be interesting and relevant to them to get their attention but people usually have a look through their followers for anyone that they feel would be valuable/appealing to them and if your content grabs them the chances are they’ll follow you back. It’s not all about followers though, it’s another case of quality over quantity so don’t get too hung up on the numbers and whatever you do, don’t resort to cheating and waste your money buying thousands of followers from one of the many businesses that offers them. What value could they possibly add to you/your business?

What now?

Once you have a Twitter account, you have to make sure to promote it. Display your twitter name on your promotional material, email signature and business cards. As well as being a way to generate followers, it will also hold you accountable to updating and maintaining your profile and account regularly.

I’ve barely scratched the surface with this post but if you’re anything like me, it will take you a few hours or even days of playing around and finding people and getting a feel for it before you even want to know any more. I know I mentioned that mistakes on twitter can damage your business and/or brand but don’t let that scare you, most of it’s common sense and @ashleyfryer gave me a great piece of advice that was ‘don't be afraid to show you're human!’