Tweeting for small business owners

Twitter is not just a trend for tweens to update the world on the things they are doing every hour of the day.

This social networking site allows users to release updates in 140 characters or less to their followers. If used properly by a business, Twitter can be a tool for success.

“One of the things that is most misunderstood about Twitter is the value is not in constantly putting information out,” Rebecca Markarian, founder and CEO of The Social Method, said.

The 140 character limit is rather short, sweet and to the point as desired. However, business owners should give as much information on Twitter as possible.

“Every time they have an opportunity to set up a site of any kind, they should fill out all of the information because it’s great for Search Engine Optimization. The more information they put about themselves in different places, the more search engines see them,” Markarian said.

Once businesses start to receive a following, business owners need to make sure they bring consistency to their feed. They set expectations for their followers and need to meet that expectation to maintain their credibility.

“Put out good information. When people start following them, they should not take that for granted. Now they have said, ‘Okay, I’m willing to give them a piece of my time’ and as a business they should be respectful of that time,” Markarian said.

Businesses should tweet a minimum of 5-7 tweets a day, including @replies and retweets. In this sense they should not overload their followers. Of course, they want to interact but they do not want to annoy their followers either.

What is put out is very important. Business owners must be very careful, especially if they run a personal account as well as a business account. It is vital the two do not get mixed up.

“It is very public and very out there. They do need to be very careful about what they say,” Markarian said.

Twitter can be used to find the opinions of their consumers, interact with their audience as well as finding and reaching new people.

Through using the option of searching for keywords, such as those that apply to a business, the owner can find people tweeting about their area of interest.

“The good use of it is actually using the back end of Twitter, which is the search functionality and being able to see what people are talking about and then giving them an opportunity that meets a need they have,” Markarian said.

It is important for a business to interact with their audience because that is the whole point of Twitter. They will get a feel for how customers react to their business as well as their services and products.

“If businesses are not interacting with their audience, they’re doing themselves a disservice,” Markarian said.

Hashtags can become widely known due to the humor or importance behind them. This can be seen in the most recent trending of the hashtag #winning, courtesy of Charlie Sheen. However, they can also be used as marketing tools and ways in which businesses find out what consumers think by encouraging its use.

“Hashtags are great for finding people at events and talking to them when they don’t know who they are,” Markarian said. “They can track that hashtag and see a whole conversation around a certain topic.”

Businesses should also direct their followers to their own website as well as other social networking sites they use.

“Businesses shouldn’t rely solely on anything. Businesses should think about who their customers are and rely on whatever is going to get them to a conversation with them,” Markarian said.

HootSuite and TweetDeck are third party applications that help with categorizing lists by certain topics and users. Some even have features that allow them to prepare tweets to be released at scheduled times.

Twitter is not for every business. A business should analyze their target audiences before deciding whether Twitter is the right application they should use. A business’ target audience may not even be on Twitter.

An audience’s presence on Twitter determines how involved they should be with their account.

“They should be looking for the people who want them, whatever age they are and that depends on your product,” Markarian said.