20 Must Read Beginner Twitter Tips for Small Business Owners

By Mark Hayward – Follow him @mark_hayward.

Do you own a small business? Are you having a hard time understanding Twitter?

As a small business owner and social media user going on two years now, I can honestly say that initially I did not really see the point or power of Twitter at all.

However, after sticking it out passed the learning curve, picking up a couple of followers, and following really intelligent people, thanks to Twitter, I get to make connections and learn something new every day. In fact, at this point I feel like Twitter is a tool that all small business owners should use as part of their overall efforts to build a distributed social media footprint.

Nevertheless, if you are like many in the small business community who have tried Twitter without success, then you might be fond of saying, “I just don’t get it.”

For numerous small business owners (including myself at one point in time) who are new to Twitter, and social media in general, there appears to be a common misconception that as soon as you sign up customers are going to fall from the sky in droves and you will immediately be inundated with more business than you can handle.

Small Business Twitter Frustration
Amongst the business people that I discuss Twitter with there appear to be two types of discouraged small venture owners who give up on Twitter at rapid rate.

Frustrated business owner number one feels like Twitter is analogous to entering a large cocktail party or hotel lobby where she doesn’t know a single soul. Yet, conversations are happening all around her and rather than trying to ease into the discussion, she gives up without talking to anybody because the sheer numbers are overwhelming.

Disgruntled Twitter quitter number two is the complete opposite of number one. He will get on Twitter, see all of the conversations going on, and assume it is the customer “candy store.” This leads to the sending out of many spammy messages, which spew forth details about his great products and prices. He will typically stop using Twitter when to his surprise nobody follows him back and he doesn’t receive one @ reply.

Twitter Tips to Help Small Business Owners
Recently, a friend asked me to help him with that “Twitter thing” because he wants more customers for his niche jewelry business.

After our very long discussion and Twitter run through, I thought that perhaps there might be other business owners out there who are beginners on Twitter and could use some help. Here are the 20 tips that I passed on to my friend:megaphoneman

  1. Twitter is first and foremost a place to connect, learn, and listen.
  2. Define your goals if you have any (e.g. business promotion, socializing, etc).
  3. If you’re confused about where to begin on Twitter, but are interested in learning, take a look at the previously done Twitip post that highlights key people for beginners to follow.
  4. Twitter allows you to interact with individuals who you might not normally come into contact with. If you want to interact with a celebrity or a person with a huge following then send a simple @ message or comment on something they are doing. If you get a response you can then take it from there.
  5. Don’t be offended if folks don’t follow you back. It’s not personal. (Even if it is, it doesn’t really matter.)
  6. Use a photo of yourself or your business logo in you profile.
  7. If you’re interested in connecting with someone you might want to try ReTweeting some of their messages before you introduce yourself.
  8. It’s probably going to take a good 3 to 6 months to get a following.
  9. Find out who the influencers are in your industry and see if they are on Twitter. If they are, follow them.
  10. Always follow Jeff Pulver’s rule of giving 95% of the time and asking only 5% of the time.
  11. Utilize a Twitter photo-sharing site like TwitPic or Yfrog to share cool photos from your typical business day, or while plying your craft, so that people get to know you. It helps to build social trust.
  12. Use Twitter Search with keywords to find information and conversations that are relevant to your business. It’s also a good way to find out if anyone is talking about you or your company.
  13. If you are not part of a particular conversation that concerns your area of business, but you would like to participate, approach with caution.
  14. If you are sending DM’s to your followers with something related to your business, make sure to use your social capital wisely. Overwhelming folks with DM’s can result in a rapid loss of followers
  15. Don’t Tweet anything that you would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper or wildly famous website.
  16. Do interact and connect and don’t hesitate to @ message folks who have 10x or 100x the number of followers you have.
  17. Employ sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit to find, and share amongst your followers, interesting stories from your particular area of business.
  18. Create connections don’t spam. You most likely would not just walk into a crowded venue where you don’t know anyone and say, “Hi my name is Bob and I replace window screens and have great prices.” This method does not work very well on Twitter. (Should be a given but you still see it every day!)
  19. Twitter is only one area online where you can begin to build a distributed social media footprint for your business. Do NOT rely solely on Twitter as your social media business promotion tool.
  20. It takes a long time to build up a following and develop trust, but it only takes one Tweet to alienate every one of your followers.

To be sure, on a daily basis we are all trying to figure how best to utilize Twitter effectively as a small business tool. Certainly, this is not a be all end all list, so your thoughts and input on how small business can better tap into Twitter are appreciated.

Comments

  • August 12, 2009

    Mark,

    Great tips for beginners to follow in getting into Twitter. I remember how strange Twitter felt when I started, but I love it now and use it throughout the day.

    Thanks,

    Sean

  • August 12, 2009

    Excellent article. I shall use it in my tweet. Many time people stop me to ask what is twitter. Great tool. Thanks

  • August 12, 2009

    Really good post Mark. I work with several businesses helping them to create and establish their Twitter presence and I started reading your post intending to correct mistakes and add the parts you missed. You did neither! Well done!

  • August 12, 2009

    Mark,

    Excellent list not only for business owners but folks in general. I think 1 of the reasons people don’t continue with twitter is the frustration that can happen in the beginning when it can feel like a small fish in an extremely large pond. So point 8 is especially important – don’t expect everything to happen over night. Like most things in life, you need to work at it.

  • August 12, 2009

    Great Tips, But I am Still Struggling with Twitter.
    People Say I is good for blog promotion, but i think blog promotion is good for getting twitter followers

  • August 12, 2009

    I especially like #18. This seems to be where a lot of well-meaning beginners start. Its important to give before you receive!

  • August 12, 2009

    I love the first tip, it’s importance is so vital to any businesses success on Twitter. Business owners need to understand what Twitter is really made for… the rest follows :-)

  • August 12, 2009

    #10 Jeff Pulver’s tip of giving 95% before askingfor 5% is probably THE most important tip on here. Showing that you respect the community and what they’re doing goes a LONG way towards building a relationship with them.

    Sara @ iGoMogul

  • August 12, 2009

    Really enjoyed reading this! Humor mixed with seriousness made it that much better!
    I liked #18 and have realized for years that when someone acts like that at a party and/or (now) consequently posts the equivalent on a blog or Twitter, it’s their doom.
    I certainly appreciate the hints!
    Cindy H
    Brown Sugar</a

  • August 12, 2009

    Thanks for another great article. I recall not so long ago how strange Twitter felt using and now it’s a part of my daily personal and business life. We have developed many beneficial business relationships and gained numerous repeat customers.

    Thanks again.

    Marie Rhoades – Founder
    http://www.SallyLeeCandles.com
    http://www.twitter.com/sallyleecandles

  • August 12, 2009

    I like your analogy for the 2 disgruntled Twitter quitters. There seems to be a tipping point with Twitter where you really get to understand the power of it.

    For me, initially it was about @replies & RT’s, but then one day we did a Tweet Up & used a URL shortener with visitor stats, that’s when I saw another side of how powerful Twitter can be.

    But now I’ve found another use that is extremely useful.

    I’ve established a seperate, secured Twitter account to provide information for the attendees of my workshops. I’ve found this to be a very powerful tool, because after each event I give the attendees a 5 Step Go Forward Plan & Step 1 of their Go forward Plan is to follow me at the secure Twitter account.

    I can now see who has completed Step 1 of their Go Forward Plan & who I need to follow up on.
    Pretty much at each step of the way I can now see who is implementing the plan & who isn’t & it all begins with Twitter.

  • August 12, 2009

    Very good information. I am relatively new to Twitter and have been struggling with how to use it to promote my business. Everything you say makes perfect sence but is often forgotten in our zeal to promote ourselves and sell our products and services. I see lots of people violate rule 10. It’s a big turnoff.

  • August 12, 2009

    Thank you for the interesting information. I was looking for something like this to maximise the our company’s campaign on twitter & other social media networks.

  • August 13, 2009

    Hi Darren,
    Thanks for brilliant article. I was looking for tips so that I can start getting big traffic from twitter since long time. But guess I got it today after reading your article what i was looking for..thanks a ton…

    Ah Darren please do link this website on your problogger website as I never knew that you are also running this website and advising people on how to twitter…

    Regards
    Ekawaaz

  • August 13, 2009

    Good tips for beginners to learn how to start promoting products/business using Twitter.

  • August 14, 2009

    Those are great tips for anyone using Twitter, Mark.

    I especially agree with #18. Spam is a growing problem on Twitter and it is one people have to be weary of.

    Small business owners using Twitter should see it as a way of finding new customers and building a communication channel with existing customers. There’s a fine line between coming off as spammy and simply promoting your company. If you can find that balance, then Twitter can be a very effective marketing tool.

    Wesley Craig Green
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  • August 14, 2009

    Very thoughtful post! After 3-4 months, I have still have a small number of followers, but I must say that I have learned a great deal from the wonderful people I choose to follow! Twitter has proven to be a great resource and a nice way to connect with people all over the world.

    I will soon be creating a separate account for my business and this information in this post will be a resource – I want to avoid some of the initial hiccups I experienced when I first signed up for Twitter. I agree that creating and pursuing connections is key!

    Thanks for the insights!

  • September 5, 2009

    Good tips, it’s a shame a lot of beginners wont take the time to read things like this though. It is annoying when people claim to have used Twitter for a month and had no success, when in reality all they have done is post a link to their website every day. To really benefit from using Twitter, you have to commit to it and put the much needed time and effort in.

  • September 13, 2009

    GREAT collection of common sense advice!

    However, #2, in Twitter, like in business, is broken: “IF you have a plan”?

    No plan means no chance of success.

    Says me.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Virtual VIP Computer Care, Business Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

  • September 14, 2009

    Great article – it’s so important for small business owners to incorporate twitter as a way of communicating with their customers and clients on so many levels. I love teaching this whole new way of doing business and really appreciate your breakdown of tips.

    Cheers
    Jodie

  • November 24, 2009

    Great Post – Twitter does take time and commitment but once you do this it will pay off with many benefits.

  • December 19, 2009
    Gurvinder Singh Dhillon
    @gurvinderd

    Really helpful

  • February 6, 2010

    Great article!

    I especially liked #18 “Hi my name is Bob and I replace window screens and have great prices.” Why cant 90% of all Twitter users see that this just don’t work?

    Magnus

  • February 27, 2010

    Great points on learning and listening, as well as- think of it as a newspaper headline. No one will hang out in a space very long if they are just being shouted at all day long. Think about your Tweet volume.
    Lori Stang
    Brand It Marketing

  • March 19, 2010

    Thanks Mark, i’m new here and stumbled across this article. It really makes alot of sense and i have learned how to use twitter in a more responsible way.

  • March 23, 2010

    great tip 4 beginners like ne

  • September 12, 2010

    Excellent article, this is stuff I find myself repeating to people who just don’t get twitter

  • November 11, 2010

    thanks for writing this post. There are some interesting things to learn from it. I’ve tweeted it to my business network.

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