Today Is My First Day on Twitter. Now What?

06th Jun 2013

NB: This is an article written By : Rod Kurtz 

More and more business owners are embracing the popular social platform. Problem is, most of them have no idea what they’re doing.

Mastering social media remains an elusive goal for many business owners. Think of it like a middle school dance-everyone’s trying to put their best stuff out there, and most of them have no idea what they’re doing. And then there are the wallflowers standing in the corner, afraid to even step on the dance floor.

So it came as little surprise when a lively debate surrounding social media broke out recently in the new OPEN Forum community. Rieva Lesonsky, the CEO of GrowBiz Media and an OPEN Forum contributor, kicked off one of our most popular conversations to date when she simply asked, “If you could only use ONE social media platform to promote your business, which one would it be?”

Members of the community responded in droves. And while everyone had their favorites-responses included “Facebook has allowed me to reach around the world” and “YouTube would be the keeper for me”-Lesonsky puts her money on Twitter, especially for entrepreneurs just starting to dip their toes in the social media waters.

Lesonsky, a devout tweeter herself (with more than 22,000 followers and counting), got the idea for the question after speaking at a recent event, where most business owners said Facebook was their primary use of social media. “I was on a panel with experts and they all said that was wrong,” Lesonsky said. “The problem with Facebook is, in order to establish yourself, you really have to work at it, and it’s almost impossible to attract new customers. Facebook is a place for deep discussions, and if you can’t commit to that, people aren’t going to show up. Twitter is easier to do, takes less time, and enables you to interact with existing customers and attract new ones-basically at the same time. You can expand your reach on Twitter much faster and much more easily.”

Entrepreneurs, never a shy bunch digitally or otherwise, continue to embrace Twitter. While Facebook remains the dominant player, 25 percent of business owners now say Twitter is their most effective social media platform, up from just 7 percent a year ago, according to a survey by Constant Contact. But for every 140-character luminary like Virgin’s Richard Branson and Zappos’ Tony Hsieh, there are scores who know they should “be on Twitter,” but have been reluctant to dive in. “Do my customers really care what I had for lunch?” is a common refrain among the skeptics.

With that in mind, we decided to ask Lesonsky, the prolific tweeter who kicked off the conversation in the first place, to share her best tips for Twitter newbies-and a list of best practices that even Twitter veterans can forget.

  1. Don’t be scared. Dive right in. “Tweeting is like sending a text. It’s direct. You’re not beating around the bush. The beauty of Twitter starts from the beginning. It’s easy to create an ecosystem and be direct with what you’re saying. Nobody has time-they’re either going to ignore it or act on it. And the more you build relationships, the more they’re going to pay attention.”
  2. Understand the importance of the hashtag and search. “The hashtag and search are how you find conversations about things you care about. Whether you’re looking to learn something-let’s say you want to know more about mobile marketing-you can enter related hashtags or search terms and see what people are saying, see who’s talking about it. Or you can focus on location. It enables you to hone in on something you care about.”
  3. Start following. “When you find people sparking those conversations, you want to follow them, so you can keep learning more. The most important thing is to build your list. Most people on Twitter have reciprocity, so unless they’re famous, they’ll probably follow you back. That’s how you start building your own following. Then you can chime in. Part of Twitter is just jumping in the conversation.”
  4. Tweak your profile. “First of all, make sure you put your company website in your profile. And you want to choose your description carefully. Here’s something I didn’t know for a very long time: Twitter has lists. When you sign up, they’ll show you people they recommend you follow. You’ll also see keywords in that intro. Use those relevant keywords in your profile. When I first signed up, I didn’t use ‘small business’ and someone suggested I do it. When I did, I suddenly popped up on some Twitter small business lists. So use the word or words designated for your industry. You also don’t want to be too clever in your profile. If you want people to take you seriously as a business, don’t lead with ‘I’m a parent.’ If you want to play on Twitter, feel free. But that’s a mistake I see a lot of people making.”
  5. Be a human being. “If you’re using this to promote your business, you do want to show that you’re also a person. So if you have a friend on Twitter and you make a personal comment, that’s fine. If you lead with the @ symbol, not everyone in your stream is going to see that. It shows you’re a person, not just a brand that’s broadcasting. Twitter’s not a billboard. I like to think of it as sort of a written talk radio station.”
  6. Remember, Twitter is a community. “The most important thing is to be helpful. It’s not about selling or promoting yourself. It’s about offering tips and insights. Say you’re a plumbing company-there’s probably a lot of things you know about that would be helpful to your followers. As winter approaches, you might want to offer tips about how to prevent your pipes from bursting. Maybe it’s summer and you have a pool and you want to check for leaks, here’s how to do it. Here’s some little do-it-yourself tip. Put yourself out there: ‘If you have any questions, just ask me.’ People will come to think of you as a go-to source.”