six ways to make the best use of Twitter

Twitter has 175 million registered users, growing at the rate of 8.3 million a month, sending 68.5 million tweets a day. Some of those users are your customers, and they are eager to follow you.

Gather a large crowd, and enterprising business leaders see an opportunity to reach their base. With that much activity on Twitter, there must be a way to channel some of that attention to your product, service or mission.

The good news – it’s not going away any time soon. Over the web evolution, we have watched channels come and go, from the early days of AOL through the recent – and very public – decline of MySpace. But Facebook and Twitter have reached a critical mass. For at least the coming year or more, your business can catch this wave and use it to express your brand to a lot of people.

As a comprehensive digital creative agency, esd & associates believes a business needs to use any available channel to get the right message to the right audience. We have helped several of our client-partners develop a social media plan and establish an effective presence in Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and community-oriented platforms.

Twitter is the most fluid of the popular social media hubs, changing messages every few seconds. Here are some tips for maximizing your exposure on Twitter:

1. design your profile

Just because you’re new to Twitter doesn’t mean you have to look like a newbie. Experienced users will look at your profile before deciding to follow you. Your profile should reflect your identity and branding – it should look like your company, carry your tagline, express your corporate personality. And complete all the fields – your followers will want to see your description and the most recent tweets to determine whether they want you in their timeline.

2. seek qualified followers

You can register with lists of people that will automatically follow you, but do you really need a bunch of anonymous users across the United States to know about your daily special? As you register for Twitter, define the audience you are seeking to attract – it’s pretty much the same as your favorite customers. In fact, that’s where you will begin building your base on Twitter – by contacting your most important customers, and spreading the word through your normal business communications.

3. spread the word online and off

You keep hearing this from us – use every appropriate channel to reach your customers, and make your online presence obvious in all your communications. Website addresses have made it onto business cards, signage and on-premises collaterals, and the Twitter or Facebook icon should become just as obvious.

4. tweet early and often

As online social butterflies have already discovered, the Twitter timeline and Facebook newsfeed are constantly changing. In the time it took me to write the previous paragraph, the @esdresults Twitter page picked up 7 new tweets. It would be nice to know when your favorite followers are online, but it could be anytime. Marketing Week recently quoted Twitter CEO Dick Costolo reporting that 40 percent of all tweets in 2010 were made via smartphones and other mobile devices – an increase of 25 percent over 2009. Many Twitter users are constantly “checking in” via Foursquare just to let their friends know where they are.

For business, the best time to Tweet is probably during the lunchtime on a weekday. Social Media Guide has done a more thorough analysis for national trends (peak time – 11 a.m. Central – coincides with mid-morning on the West Coast, lunch on the East Coast and end of the business day in London) and offers some tools for finding out the best time to tweet a specific user. But business users, consumers and students often check their tweets during lunch, and that leaves the afternoon available for responding during business hours.

5. engage, engage, engage

Social media is all about the conversation, and conversations go both ways. Monitor your Twitter timeline and make sure you respond to tweets about you or addressed to you. You can also reach out, commenting (be nice, of course) on clients and customers, sending birthday greetings and other shout-outs.

6. develop a strategy and train your team

For business, social media is a high-maintenance form of communications. You need to keep your posts circulating and you need to respond to direct tweets and references from your customers. As you establish your presence, identify your objectives, plan your messages and train your team. The changes in your business traffic will be subtle at first, but it won’t be long before your customers start chiming in, “yeah, I saw your tweet.”

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