Maximizing small business Twitter usage

For a format that only requires 140 characters per post, the proper usage of Twitter can seem complicated to a small business marketer who comes to social networking as a novice. While many private individuals use it as a casual tool and don't invest much time or energy into it, a company that has a clearly-defined commercial goal needs to think its tweets through carefully. Consider the following tips to make a Twitter account into a successful business tool.

Customize the feed
Many Twitter users are content to keep the default settings in place or are used to services such as Facebook that don't give the opportunity to customize a page. However, if the most expert tweeters are able to personalize their pages, companies should do the same. The most salient way to do this is by creating a simple but eye-catching background for the feed.

Don't spam
One reason that Twitter is a popular medium is that it's easy to avoid spam. The minute it begins, users will stop following a feed and wash their hands of it. The ability to send messages often may be tempting for companies, but it is important not to abuse the trust that comes from accepting a request to follow someone.

Make tweets real
Anything that sounds even vaguely like a form message or repeated tweet will be scorned by users,ac even if they're loyal customers. Make sure to personalize every broadcast so that it sounds like a real person wrote it. Avoid phrasing along the lines of "The week of the 23rd: 17 percent off all plastic bins!"

Careful with the retweets
There is a healthy and vibrant subculture surrounding Twitter, and one of the most popular forms of communication in this society is the retweet. This is when users pass along their favorite tweets from friends, celebrities, companies or strangers so that others can enjoy them. Companies can engage in this practice to show appreciation, solidarity or humor as regards another user, but abusing the practice is a fast way to have a Twitter feed ignored. Originality must still outweigh retweeting.

Go easy on the private messages
Like all social networking sites, Twitter gives the opportunity to go off the record and send messages to a single user. This is good news for businesses, who can give discreet offers of savings or invitations to company events. However, like retweeting and spamming, this should be done in moderation. It is a good idea to only engage in this practice with users who are clearly interested in a business and have shown curiosity about it in the past.  

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