How to Promote and Participate Effectively on Twitter

Posted on May 31, 2012

Twitter can present some unique challenges to any business that tries to use it as a marketing or promotional tool.  In our experiences, one of the most often heard criticisms of Twitter is that a business simply does not see any meaningful return for the amount of time and resources invested.  If that is the case, then you are likely not using this tool correctly, or you are approaching it with the wrong expectations of what the Twitter community is all about.

Promote When Appropriate, but No ‘Hard Sell’

Twitter users seem to instinctively recognize when they are being marketed to, and they generally don’t appreciate it.  People who consistently tweet only about their products or services, or who use grandiose language describing their business are seen as unauthentic spammers.  Aside from that point, can you really pitch someone on your entire business in only 140 characters?

Instead, think of Twitter as only the first step in the sales cycle.  You are just barely getting your ‘foot in the door’ to get to know potential clients on a more personal level.  When you do tweet about your business, you should only be giving updates that people might find interesting or useful.  Perhaps you are welcoming a new staff member to your team, tweeting a picture of your newest office equipment, or providing a link to one of your blog posts that may be of interest.  You are still getting the message out about your business, it’s just not as intrusive as a flat out sales pitch.

Become Part of the Twitter Community

With the right strategy for soft selling, the next and possibly more important aspect is to realize that the majority of your tweets should not be about your business.  Twitter is a social network, so in order to be accepted by a larger number of followers in a social setting, you need to prove that your Twitter account is more than just a business decision.  There’s no quick and easy way to accomplish this, it’s really just about jumping in and posting about a variety of topics that interest you and learning the etiquette of interacting.

What to Tweet

The options for non-business related tweets can be literally be endless.  But in general, people who either stumble upon or actively seek out your Twitter profile expect to find an inside look at your personality.  Talk about your hobbies, favorite sports teams, musicians, and post links to popular or interesting news articles or blog posts.  A great example of interacting with followers is our company founder and Santa Rosa dentist, Dr. Richard Anderson.  As an avid surfer in his free time he was able to relate to other local surfers in his community, and was able to gain several new patients (without actively promoting his business) who were just happy to find a dentist that shares a common interest.

Who to Follow

For a business that is just beginning the Twitter experience it may be daunting to decide who you should follow.  This is an important point because a strong list of people you follow can provide lots of valuable content to retweet to your own followers.  While there are no hard and fast rules on this subject, we can provide you the basic guidelines that make for a good start.  On the professional side, you should follow any group, membership, association, or school that has to do with your business.  Also, follow colleagues or other local companies that you do business with.  This is a also quick way to potentially gain some followers, since many of these people will be willing to follow you as well.

Additionally, this is a great opportunity to showcase some of your personal interests.  You should follow some of your favorite celebrities, musicians, and especially local sports teams and athletes.  The only caveat to this point is to avoid potentially controversial topics, such as political figures, or you run the risk of alienating some of your followers and current clients.

With a beginning list of 20-30 people you follow, you should work toward the goal of having about twice that many followers of your own.  The idea is to keep the list of people you follow somewhat exclusive, and not to have too many tweets flooding your news feed.  However, as your list of followers grows, don’t be afraid to follow some of the top contributors with whom you’ve interacted.

Use the ‘@’ Symbol

Whenever interacting with followers or commenting to anyone specific on Twitter, be sure to use the ‘@’ symbol to get their attention.  Follower or not, by placing it before their username (such as @deploydental) your tweet will be displayed in their news feed.  It’s a great way to get someone’s attention and reach out to other users.

Hashtags

Hashtags are Twitter’s way to organize conversations and interests by topic.  By using the ‘#’ symbol (called a hashtag) before any word or phrase, such as #dentistry, it instantly makes that word a clickable link that displays all the recent tweets on that topic.  People often actively search for tags that are of interest to them, so this is again another great way to gain exposure for your profile and join in on the conversations about popular trending topics.

Think Local

One of the beautiful things about Twitter is its ability to disseminate news and information quickly.  If you combine this aspect with a specific location, Twitter can be very useful for local businesses (such as dentistry) to reach their potential clients in the immediate community.  Be sure to take note of any local event that is happening in your town, then feel free to either comment on it or just spread the word to your followers.  Additionally, almost every location has Twitter users that have come up with one or more local hashtags that identify their city, surrounding area, or even a specific neighborhood.  Do some quick research on popular local hashtags in your area and be sure to use them when discussing these local events.

Emulate Successful Users

Aside from all the previous points in this article, perhaps the most useful piece of advice for a successful Twitter experience is to learn from others.  Find a Twitter user in your field that has at least a hundred followers, preferably more, and see what they talk about that has made them successful.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, so emulate what has proven to be successful for others, and you too will be sure to both gain a larger following and learn how to effectively promote your business.

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