When I first joined Twitter several years ago I signed up, had a look around, got confused and then didn't use it for months! It took a little encouragement from a friend to give it another try and start tweeting so I know exactly how you feel if Twitter felt like a different language to you! It can be a little overwhelming when you first start using Twitter but I promise you will get the hang of it when you get going. So to help any of you out there who felt like I did the first time round I've put together a quick beginners guide to using Twitter, like I did for Instagram a few weeks ago...
N.B. This is my beginners guide to Twitter but if you'd like more in depth tips + strategies for using Twitter (plus Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) to market your small business or blog and turn your followers into customers you might want to CHECK THIS OUT.
WHAT IS TWITTER AND WHY USE IT?
Twitter is a real-time social media platform that shows you updates (tweets of 140 characters in length) in a 'timeline' from the people and brands you follow. You also have a dedicated profile (I'm here - @ChloeAdlington) where others can follow you and see all the tweets you've posted, with the most recent at the top.
It's essentially like "micro-blogging" or sending public text messages, so not only can you communicate with your potential customers, industry peers, key influencers, etc but you can also see the conversations others are having and therefore gage what people are really care about and whats actually going on in your 'niche' or part of the world in right now!
You can use Twitter to raise brand awareness, provide customer service, build credibility, drive traffic to your website, promote your products and events. But if you ask me it's best used for networking, research and for establishing your brand personality.
HOW TO SET UP AN ACCOUNT ON TWITTER
To set up an account go to twitter.com or download the free Twitter app on your smart phone and sign up. You'll be asked to verify your email address then you'll be guided through the set up process. Before you jump in though here are a few pointers...
Choosing a 'username' - your @username (also known as your Twitter handle) is your unique identifier so choose something recognisable like your name or business name. You have a maximum of 15 characters so if you have a really long name think about how you can shorten it to fit. For example Not On The High Street use @notonthehighst. Your username will always be preceded by the @ symbol as this is what Twitter uses to link others through to your profile.
You'll also be asked to enter a name which appears at the side of your @username in your profile and when you tweet. You can either use the same as your @username or something different, here's an example of each taken from my twitter feed today to show you what I mean:
If you find that your name or business name isn't available as a username (because someone else is using it) you'll need to try some different variations, maybe using an abbreviation or shortened version.
Your profile photo - this is shown as the icon in every tweet you post as well as bing on your profile page so make sure you choose a good quality, eye-catching, recognisable image that fits well into a small square. It's best to use a photo of yourself (people like to know who they're 'talking' to) or your brand logo and 400 x 400 pixels is a good size to use.
Writing your Twitter bio - this is for your profile page and is a 160 character description of who you are, what you do and why people should follow you! Keep it clear and concise and include useful information such as opening hours and location if you have a bricks and mortar business.
I share a couple of really good formulas for writing brilliant twitter bio's in my online course called Social Media Whizz.
Include a link to your website - make it really easy for potential customers to find your website or blog by including a link to it!
Make use of the header image - this is shown when people view your profile page so make use of the header space with an attractive image or pattern that visually represents your brand. The recommended size for this is 1500 x 500 pixels but don't forget that it will be cropped to a 2:1 ration on a mobile.
Customise your profile design – once you've got your account set up you can customise your profile page even further by going into the 'Settings' menu then choosing 'Design'. In here you can add a background image and change the colours of any links on your page too which just keeps everything on brand and look more professional.
Download the app - if you set up on a desktop I'd highly recommend downloading the free twitter app on your phone too, I hardly ever go on twitter on the desktop. It's much easier to scroll through and tweet from your phone!
Following people on twitter - as you set up your profile Twitter will ask you to follow a handful of people to get started and will give you some suggestions. You can follow celebrities you like, other businesses, friends, customers, competitors, influencers in your market, your favourite blogs and magazines, etc, this is a great way to start building your following to so aim to follow 25 - 50 people to start with!
WHAT TO TWEET ABOUT + WHEN?
As Twitter is real-time it moves very quickly. It's recommended that businesses tweet 5-10 times a day but to get started just aim for one or two a day then build up from there. According to the stats the best time of the day to tweet is between 1-3pm but experiment and find what works for you and your business.
I'd also recommend using a tool like Buffer.com to schedule your tweets in advance (I do mine for a week at a time) so that you don't have to spend hours each day writing updates! You'll still need to check in a couple of times a day (once of twice for a couple of minutes at a time if fine) to respond and interact but it makes it much easier to manage if you're not having to tweet several times a day.
A tweet is a maximum of 140 characters which includes any links or images so it's all about keeping it short and sweet. If and when you want people to take a specific action when they read your tweet e.g. to click through to your website or reply, include a clear call to action to tell people what to do next!
Here's a few ideas of things you can tweet about:
- Share links to your blog posts or products
- Discounts and offers
- Entertaining / funny quotes + images
- Share links to good articles you've read
- Business news or announcements e.g. an upcoming sale
- Recommending other local businesses or brands that you use and like
Make sure you don't oversell too, people aren't on Twitter to be sold to you need a softer approach! Mix up your tweets with personal snippets, content which gives your followers real value (i.e. it's interesting, entertaining or useful) and keep your promotional tweets to under 20%.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER
1 - Add your Twitter @username to your marketing materials so people know how to follow you. For example on your business cards, add a link on your website and email signatures.
2 - Follow and interact with people - just as you would if you walked into an actual room of people at a networking event you need to start introducing yourself, joining in conversations and handing out your business cards. Twitter is exactly the same, don't sit back and wait for people to find you... go and find them!
If you're a little shy to start with just trying following, commenting (see #4) and retweeting (see #5) others.
3 - Tweet regularly! It sounds an obvious one but if you hardly ever tweet why would people follow you?! Even if you just aim for 1 good quality tweet every weekday, give people a reason to hit follow.
4 - Mention others in your tweets - use someone's @username in your tweet to have a conversation with them or to notify them that you've mentioned them. Promoting others content is a brilliant way to build relationships, give value to your followers and the more you do it for others the more likely they are to reciprocate! So when you share a link to a great article, product or event include the twitter handle of the person who wrote it, makes it or runs it.
5 - Retweet - this is really a quick and easy way to do #4. You just click on the little retweet symbol (in green in the example below) on any tweet to share it with your own followers. The person or brand you've retweeted will be notified too so again it's a good way to make connections, whilst sharing something with your audience that you think they'll like.
6 - Use hashtags - a # or hashtag is just a way of Twitter linking together conversations on certain topics. In this example below I've used the hashtag #GBBO (short for The Great British Bake Off) and you'll see that it's turned colour to become a clickable link. When people click this they'll see all other tweets that use this hashtag... clever right?!
You can use hashtagify to find relevant hashtags to use in your industry or business but I'd recommend sticking to just 1-3 per tweet.
7 - Take part in twitter chats - bloggers or brands run twitter chats to have conversations around particular topics or interact with their followers. They'll usually tweet to let followers know what time and maybe give them a particular topic then to join in you just use their specified hashtag in your tweets. Here's three examples... (#SBS stands for Small Business Sunday)
They're a great way of finding and engaging with your target audience, industry peers or like-minded people!
8 - Use the search function - it's worth searching for your business name every now and again to see if there are any conversations happening about your brand which you can join in on. But it's also a great tool for finding your ideal clients. Try searching for keywords they might be using related to your business... For example if I ran a hairdressing salon in Norfolk I might enter 'hairdresser norfolk' in the Twitter search bar (in the top right hand corner ) to find tweets from people who've mentioned these words asking for recommendations. Then I could tweet to them and offer my services!
The search function comes in really handy if you're doing market research as well, so try searching for your competitors or your local area too.
Lastly be courteous. Being polite and friendly goes a long way on Twitter in building relationships so make sure you thank people (by including their @username in a thank you tweet) for retweeting, following or sharing your content and start making genuine connections!
Has this guide been useful? Do you have any other Twitter related questions? If you do, this might also help.
PS. To get lots more advice, tips and strategies for marketing your business on Twitter (plus Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) get your name on the waiting list HERE to be notified when my new online course 'Social Media Whizz' is ready!