How to use Twitter for business success

Rebecca Weeks Watson · April 2, 2009 · Short URL:

Learn these tools and techniques before following people and posting content

 Having used Twitter for the past three years, Sarah Milstein has gained a wealth of knowledge about using the platform for business success. At this week's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, she led a session that described effective Twitter tools and techniques, posting, audience development and smart integration. One point she kept reiterating was that as people are going through their daily lives, they are encountering your brand or product and openly communicating about it.

Leveraging Twitter gives you the ability to take part -- and potentially make a real impact -- in these conversations. Here's a robust outline to get you started using Twitter for business success.

Smart strategies:

First, ask yourself: with whom does your company want to connect? Are you hoping to engage with people who already love your brand? Angry customers? Or potential customers? Once you determine which group you're seeking, you need to determine what kind of information is interesting to these people. Loyal customers might want updates on your company or news about product launches; potential customers might discover your brand through relevant content or overlapping connections; and existing customers with problems will respond well to customer service help. For example, Comcast does a great job at listening to customers on Twitter and helping solve their issues.

Listening tools and techniques:

From today on, you need to keep an eye on what people are saying about your brand or product so that you can both learn and respond. Regularly check the "Trending Topics" section accessible within Twitter's search function. The advanced search function on Twitter allows you to refine with specific words, people's names, date range, and attitudes, and you can grab an RSS feed for a particular query. Other helpful tools include (sends you an email with tweets related to your query), (enables you to run multiple searches at one time), and Twist (lets you compare Twitter buzz on certain topics).

You don't have to have a Twitter account to listen to the buzz (so yes, you can be a lurker). Now there are no excuses for missing out on Twitter conversations.

Effective posting:

Who should post?

When trying to determine which person should manage your company's Twitter account, consider who can act like a switchboard operator to answer people's connections and provide value to them. This person should include personal information in the bio section, a photo, and a conversational tone so that the person can bring an authentic personality to a company. CoTweet enables multiple people to post for one company.

What should you post?

The biggest mistake people make is pushing out information to people (i.e. think of how much you hate spammers). Rather, it's a platform to listen to and engage in conversations. Smart ways to hold conversations include posting to specific people, sharing links to valuable content and free stuff, and revealing aspects about yourself. It's okay to link to your own website but remember that it needs to be interesting to your audience. To amplify and validate others, consider re-tweeting, meaning repeating/quoting someone's tweet. For example, Kodak re-tweeted a man's tweet about a cool old camera he discovered in his garage.

Especially enticing to Twitter users are promotions and contests. Their engagement and motivation to win or save money has the potential to drive substantial traffic back to your site., a domain name registration business, had huge success with its Twitter contest. It asked people to follow the company on Twitter and answer random trivia questions in an effort to win three domain names given away every hour for two weeks.

Finding followers:

Once you "follow" someone on Twitter, you've taken the first step at engaging with that person and it's highly likely they will follow you back. You can search for potential people to follow by focusing on content related to your industry and using keywords. Other tactics are described here. While it does take time to build a large following, the good news is that it's not very complicated.

Smart integration:

An increasing number of companies are integrating Twitter into their businesses and systems. As an example, TrackThis lets consumers track packages by "following" the company's Twitter account, sending a direct message to that account with their package tracking number, and then they receive a message via Twitter with the status of their delivery.

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