Elance Blog

Tweeting 101: How To Use Twitter Effectively For Your Business

Using Twitter is easy. Getting people to care is the hard part. Here are 8 tips on how to effectively use Twitter for your business. (Yes, that intro is less than 140 characters!)

Like the rest of the always-evolving social media world, finding the most effective way or ways to utilize Twitter for your business’ benefit is still a game without a clear-cut winning formula. However, I’ve put together a quick list of basics, tips, and other relevant information that will help you, the uninitiated Twitter user, get humming right away.

1. The Basics: Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know to tweet. Your message or status, which goes in the “What are you doing?” box, must be shorter than 140 characters. Once you click “Update”, your short message gets shouted to all of your followers. People you “follow” are the people who you hear when they submit a tweet, and your “followers” are the ones that hear you when you tweet. Got it? Good.

2. Slightly More Advanced: Writing is fun, but reading other people’s tweets is where the real fun begins. Read a tweet you like and want to pass it on? Copy the tweet and add a “retweet” marker (RT) at the front to spread the word. Want to reply to someone’s message? You can publicly direct a message by adding an “@” symbol in front of their username, and they’ll be able to review their @replies once they log in. (Same goes for you as well.) Using a hash tag in your message, like #laborday, hyperlinks the word and allows users to quickly follow all updates that contain the same hash tag – think of it as an open chat room. These are great for getting up-to-the-minute commentary on any topic out there.

3. Use Search: Twitter’s search engine is absolutely fantastic. You can quickly find what the entire Twitter universe is saying about your business (or your competitor's) in a split-second -- really important stuff here.  You can also respond to any message directly from the search results page with one single click, allowing you to thank your loyal fans or help your angry customers. Search results are updated in real time, so bookmarking your search results page and fiendishly checking is one of the best points of advice for a business owner.

4. Use Applications: Thanks to Twitter’s open API, there are literally tons of applications you can use to streamline your Twitter experience. TwitterFox is a great Firefox extension that allows you to view your followers, reply to @replies, update your status, and more. TwitterAnalyzer gives you in-depth analytics of your Twitter experience, like number of tweets per day, popularity, reach, links, and more. Looking for more? Just type “Twitter Applications” in Google, and you’ll have more than enough applications to wade through.

5. Use Your Mobile: If you haven’t already figured it out, staying connected to the rest of the Twittering world 24 hours a day is part of the allure. Download one of many existing Twitter applications to your mobile phone, and you’ll be able to keep tabs on the chatter surrounding your business. (Need to find one for your mobile phone platform? Check out our blog post here.)

6. Think Outside The Box: There are the obvious ways of using Twitter for business, like direct communication and interaction with your user base, customer support, and company, feature, or new product announcements, but there is a ton of potential to use Twitter in cutting-edge ways. For example, we automatically post our latest featured jobs at @elance_jobs so followers can be first to spot a job and get a quick leg up over other providers. Need some ideas? Check out our blog post to jumpstart your brainstorming session.

7. Drive Traffic: If you have the following, Twitter can be a great way to drive supplemental traffic to you or your affiliate’s website. Updating your loyal followers with the latest features, product pages, or content is a smart play to engage your online community. Also, try using a link shortner, like Bit.ly, to shorten long URLs into teeny-tiny links to save yourself a boatload of precious characters. And don’t forget, according to Guy Kawasaki’s study, repeating yourself has its benefits when driving traffic. (Very useful information.)

8. Don’t Be Afraid: The Tweeting world is an open, fast-paced, and furious one, so don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone and tweet until you melt your keyboard. There’s an ongoing debate over quality over quantity on Twitter, and while there’s no exact "best" answer for number of tweets you should do per day, you should experiment to see which fits your community best.

Got tips? Tweet ‘em to me at @elance, or just drop me a line with any other questions, story ideas, tips, or tricks in the comments below.

Links:
Elance Blog - @elancers: More Business With 140 Letters Or Less
Elance Blog - @You: Get Twitter On Your Mobile Phone Now
OpenForum.com - How To Drive Traffic With Repeat Tweets
Twitter - @Elance