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Top 10 Twitter tips for start-ups

Thursday, 16 September 2010 | By Oliver Milman

Twitter has arguably overtaken the mighty Facebook as the leading social media platform for budding entrepreneurs over the past year.


Granted, Facebook has 500 million global users compared to Twitter’s 145 million, with a large chunk of the latter group appearing, at first glance, to be crazed Justin Beiber fans. But the immediacy of Twitter has made it a leading source of news and views on businesses. You can provoke plenty of goodwill, and, conversely derision, with Twitter’s 140-character limit.


With Twitter launching a host of new features earlier this week, including the ability to view embedded videos and pictures on the site, we thought it would be timely to run through the top 10 Twitter tips for your start-up business.


Make it human and relevant

Get your Twitter account right from the start. Try and secure your company’s name as your user name, but don’t fret if you can’t – Israel’s recent purchase of the @israel name from a Miami man is one of the rare examples of domain names changing hands.


Make your Twitter page accessible. Use an attractive backdrop and use a picture of a human face - it’s much more likely to elicit a positive response from others. The likes of Pepsi have espoused how ‘human’ they are on Twitter, but you, as a small business, don’t have to fake this. Embrace the fact you aren’t a faceless multinational.


Don’t just promote your business

One of the most obvious benefits of Twitter is its ability to promote your business. But don’t just shove endless messages about your start-up down the throats of everyone.


Try and give a bit of personality to your tweets – after all, Twitter is a conversation, not a noticeboard. Talk about the industry you’re in and post links to interesting content, even if it’s nothing to do with you. You should add value to your followers.


Ask questions

Twitter is probably the biggest free market research tool on the internet. Not only should you not be concerned about people tweeting about your business, you should actively encourage it.


Make sure you regularly check @ mentions of your Twitter ID to see what people are saying about you. Ask them questions about their customer experience and what they’d like to see improved. It’ll take awhile before you are widely known on Twitter and these conversations take time to evolve, but don’t pass up the opportunity to grill your customers.


Don’t be afraid of the conversation

Don’t feel that everything you tweet has to be a strict, one-way company message. You shouldn’t be afraid of engaging in an informal, friendly dialogue with people on topics unrelated to your business.


Remember, Twitter isn’t an advertising channel. It’s a place where you can build goodwill about your business while swiftly responding to people’s concerns. You’re more likely to think favourably of a brand that is friendly and helpful to you, so make sure you act the same way to your potential customers.


Tweet exclusive deals

Major brands such as Jetstar have taken advantage of Twitter by posting Twitter-only offers. It drives traffic to your Twitter account and creates a sense of urgency and relevance. Bear in mind that people will rapidly ‘un-follow’ you if your tweets aren’t of any interest or value.


Create special offers and coupons that can only be accessed via Twitter and watch as they spread around the Twitter community. Also think about Twitter-only content such as sneak peeks at new product offerings or behind-the-scenes photos.


Follow people that interest you

Singer/songwriter John Mayer’s departure from Twitter may have disappointed his 7.2 million followers, but it’s unlikely that a lack of Mayer’s tweets about his nocturnal activities will devastate too many small businesses.


Rather than follow people who everyone else is following, seek out people who genuinely interest you and add value to your business. Tracking the likes of Richard Branson will provide you with the odd moment of inspiration, but also keep an eye out for those who are in your industry, especially your competitors.


Don’t be afraid to block

Twitter is all about conversing with people. Spammers and robots aren’t going to have a conversation, so if you are being bombarded with useless information, don’t be afraid to block them. Many people worry this may damage their follower numbers, but there’s no point having followers if you can’t engage them.


Link to your website

Optimise your website or blog to Twitter so that the two become integrated. Link your Twitter account to your mailing list so that your customers become engaged with your brand for longer. Create content with Twitter in mind. Always think about what your followers will find interesting and provide it to them.


Always listen

If someone vents their frustration at your company on Twitter, respond to them promptly and politely. Not only will you (hopefully) retain the customer, your efforts will be appreciated by others in the Twitter community.


Bear in mind the example of Crust Pizza. The start-up brand offers free pizzas to people who’ve had a bad experience and even when it looked like it had slipped up, by tweeting an ill-advised jibe at female drivers, it quickly recovered by apologising.


Measure your impact

Like any other kind of communication with the wider world, you should regularly assess how you are doing. Are you successfully responding to customers? Are you tweeting content that’s of interest to followers? If the style, offering and size of your business has changed, has your Twitter account reflected this? A Twitter audit isn’t a pointless undertaking.