Building an Effective Business Profile on Twitter

More and more businesses are looking to get onto Twitter – in this post Michael Gray shares some tips on how to get set up effectively.

As the popularity of micro-blogging continues to grow, it’s going to become a tool used by advertisers and marketers. In the same way that running a corporate or business blog is different from running a personal blog, running a corporate or business twitter profile is different from running a personal twitter profile.

Secure Your Name

Your username on twitter is limited to 15 characters, if your company name is 15 characters or less, or can be reasonably abbreviated to 15 characters or less secure it as soon as possible. Avoid using hyphens or underscores if possible, they almost always cause complications down the road. Even if you aren’t planning on using it right away, secure the name, as many people have had reported twitter is less than expeditious when addressing trademark issues.

If you have a large company and are going to have multiple people representing you, decide if you will be using one account also called a role account, or using multiple accounts. If you are using multiple accounts use a naming convention like IBMJoe or DellKathy. If you are using one account for multiple people don’t hide that fact. If it makes sense sign the tweet “@marysmith thanks for the tip ~john” or “@johnsmith thanks for letting us know ~ms”.

Avatars Backgrounds and Profile Links

Most people on twitter use and prefer to see an actual picture, for a corporate profile this is less important. A role account should almost always use either the official company logo or an appropriate logo derivations. You can feature an employee in a t-shirt or baseball cap with the logo if you want to give it a personal touch as long as the logo is identifiable.

While it’s not mandatory having a custom or professional looking twitter background is a huge plus. Keeping a consistent color palette and incorporating other recognizable visual elements from your main website or blog will help contribute to the the overall impression of the brand.

Most corporate brands link their twitter profile back to the main company website or company blog. An alternative would be to create a twitter landing page. Having a contact email or a contact phone number on your twitter profile page is another way to give your profile a more professional feel.

Replies, Tracking and Automation

Using the replies tab on twitter is IMHO one of the most important things everyone on twitter should be paying attention to. Check your replies tab to see who is talking to you or asking you a question. Try to answer them in a reasonable time-frame and as honestly as possible. Sometimes twitter users will talk about your company but not to your company, to keep on top of you’ll need to monitor keywords.Knowing what people are saying about your company or your high profile executives is a key facet of life on twitter. You can use the twitter search engine summize to search for your company name, product name, or any vanity terms. You can also subscribe to those searches via RSS. Sometimes summize isn’t up to the task, I also use tweetscan and tweetbeep. Unfortunately one service never seems to get me 100% coverage for the keywords I’m interested in monitoring. I get some overlap using all three but right now IMHO it’s a necessary evil.If you are on twitter for any length of time there will time when you wan to send a tweet at a specific time but unfortunately you wont be in front of your computer. I use the combination of Twittermail and LetterMeLater. Twitter mail allows you to set up a “secret” email address that will post to your twitter account. LetterMeLater allows you to send an email at a specified day and time. using the two together you can send a pre-written tweet at a specific time to your Twittermail secret email address. The 140 character limit is still in place and you should always test it before using it, as twitter functionality can sometimes be less than perfect.

Give a Little to Get a Little

Deciding to participate on twitter is more than tweeting links to your latest blog post or press release it’s about engaging with your community or customers. If there are generic industry questions, these are a great way to build some good karma for your profile. You can use any of the automated search functions mentioned above to look for keywords or phrases that are related to your industry that you can answer in a non self serving way. For example a travel company could monitor for phrases and questions about passports and reply with the appropriate links to government or state websites. If the majority of your contributions aren’t self interested people will be a lot more tolerant and accepting when you do drop a link about yourself.

Damage Control and Knowing When to Respond

If you are monitoring your company name eventually you will encounter a negative tweet from someone else. In many cases this represents an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by fixing a customers problem. However sometimes the best response is no response at all. Knowing when to say nothing is often more difficult part to learn. The US Air Force has a presence on twitter and in a recent interview they showed a blog assessment chart they used to decide when to respond and when not to respond, it’s worth taking a look at.

Be Professional

Twitter is a social medium and occasionally the people you follow will have conversations about sensitive topics such as politics, religion, relationships, or who was the best Star Trek Captain. Unless it’s part of your organizations mission statement and goal (ie someone like Cato Institute or PETA ), it’s best to remain out of the debate. Additionally, you should refrain from posting as many “cat tweets” about what you had for lunch as possible.

Have a Sense of Humor

Sometimes when you are monitoring your keywords you’ll come across the opportunity to show a little personality and have a slight sense of humor. As long as you can do it without insulting or hurting someones feelings, it’s OK to have a little fun every once in a while. Here’s an example of what one person tweeted

Scott Monty who runs the official Ford Twitter profile was monitoring the [ford explorer] keyword and responded:

Building an effective business profile on twitter isn’t hard, but you do have to take take it seriously. Here’s a quick wrap up to help keep you on track:

  • Claim your company, product, and appropriate brand names.
  • Keep the profile honest, and don’t resort to trickery with fake social media avatars.
  • Build a synergy between your twitter profile page and website.
  • Consider building a twitter landing page on your official website.
  • Answer people who directly ask you questions.
  • Monitor keywords related to your company and respond when appropriate.
  • Try to be a helpful member of the community by answering other people’s questions.

  • Keep it professional and avoid sensitive subjects and debates.
  • Take the opportunity to have fun and show some personality every now and again.

Lastly twitter is a free form social media platform, and ultimately there isn’t a right or wrong way to use it. There are things that help you meet your business objectives and things that don’t, and you shouldn’t obsess about “breaking the rules” now and then. Oh and for the record without a doubt Captain Kirk was the best Star Trek Captain.

Michael Gray has been a regular speaker at many SEO conferences including PubCon, SMX and Search Engine Strategies. With over 10 years in internet marketing and website development, Michael is able to help companies with increasing their presence on the web. Michael’s blog can be viewed at www.wolf-howl.com and companies looking to begin viral marketing campaigns should visit viralconversations.com

Comments

  • December 31, 2008

    For a company or business twitter is a boon. Its the best way to get your thoughts, ideas, products to the custumers or target audience. The best thing about it is that its a 2 way process

  • December 31, 2008

    For a Business or a Company , Twitter is a boon. The company can get its ideas , thoughts , products across to the customers or target audience very easily and the best thing is that its a two way process allowing interaction between the company and customers

  • December 31, 2008

    Great blog post Darren! I think the most important part of the whole profile is the “Bio:” and the Background without it don’t people should not even consider as serious twitter’s :)

    TTYL
    @LiveCrunch

  • December 31, 2008

    Darren, the flowchart in the mentioned blogpost of the USAF is very helpful; will probably use it in a modified version.

  • December 31, 2008

    Thanks, MICHAEL. This is an excellent and well-written guide for the business person who is new to Twitter. And thanks, Darren, for introducing me to Michael’s ideas… ;-)

  • December 31, 2008

    Very helpful once again. Thanks! I will now check on Mike’s blog and website. Maybe I can get more tips for my A MAUI BLOG there :)

  • December 31, 2008

    Thanks very much for this Darren! This is a great summary. Finding the right balance between business vs. personal tweeting is something I’ve been pondering lately. I don’t like the idea of going 100% business on my tweets because I want to reveal my personality. The Ford case you mentioned is a great example. Good to know I’m on the right track. :)

  • December 31, 2008

    Great tips, thanks.

    I would add that anyone who is using multiple Twitter accounts should use Brightkit (http://www.brightkit.com). If you are using multiple social network feeds use Ping.fm or Utterli.

  • December 31, 2008

    Michael,

    There are two programs that I am using in addition to some of the aforementioned twitter monitoring apps.

    My favorites at the moment are

    http://Splitweet.com – You can update two accounts at once and monitor key words

    and

    http://tweetmanager.com – This service will send out auto-replies and automatic following to new twitter followers.

    Both are free.

    Thanks,
    @track_stand

  • December 31, 2008

    Brilliant blog! Just wrong on one point – Jean Luc Picard NOT Kirk!!
    Happy New Year!
    H

  • December 31, 2008
    Robyn Durst

    Thanks for the informative post! As a newbie to Twitter, I’m grateful for the help! :)

  • December 31, 2008

    the post was by Michael Gray. There is a line between opening yourself and going to far like with politics and such. I’m dang passionate about capitalism and mans right to live as he sees fit within the government boundaries that create and environment of equal growth for those who decide to work. However, no going to be doing that on the blog that is about relationships and staying in marriages for life.
    Gona have to take a look at the AIR FORCE

  • December 31, 2008

    Michael, you know it’s not called Summize anymore, but Twitter Search?

    And thanks for further sharing the USAF’s feed and interview with David Meerman Scott. Great stuff!

    - @ariherzog

  • January 1, 2009

    Great article. I like the idea of automation. All the socializing takes so much time. Obviously if your business demands it then great.

    Yaro wrote a nice piece recently about focusing on what’s important for 2009.

    Someone else wrote about setting a schedule when using social networking sites but it slips my mind at the moment.

  • January 1, 2009

    Great pots i already secure my names and hoping day to day increase whit goo quality updates.

  • January 1, 2009

    Twitter is NOT your blog or website. You have no rights on someone else platform . The day will come when twitter will ban your account. Has it happened? A lot as I have seen. Twitter can change its policies towards business names and turn around and charge you money!

    Think twice before you go overboard with this idea.

  • January 3, 2009

    Twitter has completely changed how I think about, promote, and social network our business:

    http://x-equals.com/blog/?p=955

    The branding of your twitter name along with your business is crucial and it has paid back in spades for us!

  • January 3, 2009

    Darren, for the “Secure Your Name” part, what advice would you give for coming up with an alternative name if one’s “dot com” name was already taken on Twitter? For example, I have a dictionary word domain name that I registered years ago (though I haven’t built a site for it yet). I went to secure the name on Twitter and someone else beat me to it. Any advice for choosing a second choice that would still reflect the domain name? Perhaps you could write an article about this issue.
    Thanks

  • January 5, 2009
    Mayav Madon
    @toolazytoblog

    When does Twitter consider an account in-active/dormant ? I am trying to get my first name as my Twitter Username but someone opened an account with my first name in October 2007, made one post “checking out twitter” and has made no updates since.

    He/she has no followers and is only following one person. No website/blog address to fall back on. Doesn’t follow me so i cannot DM that person.

    Any suggestions on what i can do ?

  • January 9, 2009

    Michael:

    Thanks for a comprehensive summary of issues to consider. I particularly like the concepts of monitoring industry relevant keywords for responding to, and developing a Twitter landing page.

    Another dimension to this topic is distinguishing between business and personal tweeting per individual, in addition to corporate business IDs. For example, I have a private Twitter ID for personal tweets, and an open Twitter ID for professional tweets, but the latter is attached to me specifically, not as a corporate role account. This is where tools like BrightKit come in especially handy!

  • January 14, 2009

    There’s no doubt that Twitter can seriouly affect your profile (for good or bad) and there’s a good chance your customers will be following you – if they know you Twitter. So as you say it’s vital that you use keyword checkers to alert you to any feedback.

    And I agree with you the Airforce social media response policy is excellent – in fact I’ve downloaded the PDF and will be suggesting my own clients think about implementing it.

    And for those who’ve not had enough advice on business twittering my blog contains a guide on How To Use Twitter in Business.

    Jim

  • January 16, 2009

    Thanks for your wonderful info! I appreciate it!

  • March 11, 2009

    Excellent post. It can be tricky finding the right balance between doing goal-directed things on Twitter and being overly self-serving. My favourite people are always giving something back. Least favourite are always selling. Maybe I fall into that a bit myself…

  • July 1, 2009

    Great advice! We have had much success building business and client relationships with Twitter. As mentioned previously, you really do have to make sure that you balance your business promotion/personal tweets.

    The business relationships we have developed have helped us with marketing, creating videos as well as being contacted for TV and radio interviews. It’s been a win-win situation for us!

    http://twitter.com/SallyLeeCandles

  • August 7, 2009

    Great post! Twitter profile should also be cheesy and memorable, that part of optimizing the title tag which the username …

  • February 22, 2010

    Thanks for the advice, I needed some help setting up my business account.

  • August 9, 2010

    Great advice- i shall put it into practice for my new business.
    Thank you

  • December 15, 2010

    Thanks for the article – some great pointers there to keep my business Twitter account heading in the right direction! :)

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