Few could doubt that when used well, Twitter can raise a business’ profile and help it to attract, sell to and retain clients. But when used badly, you can pay a very high price. So what key Twitter etiquette rules should you be aware of?
1 Create a good profile page. As well as letting ‘tweeps’ (ie Twitter users) quickly know what you do, it helps them to find you. Go for a simple but eye-catching and professional-looking page design. Use a high quality logo or photograph as your profile picture. In just 160 characters, your ‘bio’ information must strike the right tone and sell your business. Include your website address, obviously.
2 Be a follower. When someone follows you – follow them back. Don’t wait for followers to come to you – search for them (sites such as Twellow are useful). As well as potential customers, it could be suppliers, membership organisations, trade bodies, media organisations, small business or networking sites. Retweet or reply to tweets regularly. Sort the people and organisations you follow into categorised lists (eg customers; suppliers; media, etc) using Twitter’s ‘List’ tab.
3 Be a regular user. You risk losing followers or followers losing interest in you if you show up every once in a while with a few random tweets. Three or four well-considered tweets a day provides a useful benchmark, although occasionally you might tweet more or not at all. If someone makes an enquiry by direct message via Twitter, reply quickly.
4 Watch your manners. It pays to be polite on Twitter. Say thanks when people follow you, mention you or ‘retweet’ your tweets. Mind your language, too. Swearing isn’t big or clever – especially for businesses. And use the ‘Direct messages’ function if a message is best kept private.
5 Don’t get personal. Sharing deeply personal information with people you don’t know probably isn’t wise. Don’t criticise competitors and steer clear of contentious topics. You don’t want to upset customers or get drawn into a slanging match on Twitter.
6 Don’t bore people. Some measured wit, intelligence and personality can win you followers, but only if you’re capable of it. Write engaging tweets about interesting subjects; use teases that encourage people to click-through to find out answers to questions you pose. Leave out the mundane stuff – no one’s really interested in what you had for lunch. And don’t just tweet about yourself or your business all the time. It’s not just about you, you know.
7 Don’t just broadcast sales messages. It turns people off. Instead, engage them in a conversation. Ask questions. Provide valuable, interesting or entertaining information. Include links to other websites, not just yours. Share information that can help them. Encourage your followers to like and trust your business, then they won’t mind occasionally hearing about products or special deals. Just don’t overdo the selling.
8 Recommend others. Let your followers know about people you follow and why they should follow them. ‘Follow Friday’ is perfect for this, when every Friday you list the Twitter address of users you recommend following and add #followfriday or #FF in the tweet so others see it. If someone’s tweet appeals to you, retweet it.
9 Don’t forget your hashtags. The # symbol (‘hashtag’) marks keywords or topics in a tweet (eg #smallbusinesses). Tweeps organically created hashtagging to categorise tweets. Using hashtags will mean your tweets will show up in searches, which could win you new followers. Don’t use more than three hashtags per tweet.
10 Maximise your efficiency. Clicking a button on your Twitter profile page will mean tweets appear automatically on your business’ Facebook page, if you so wish. And rather than logging into your Twitter page every time you want to post, sites such as TweetDeck or HootSuite enable you to schedule your tweets in advance.