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10 Things to Know about Twitter

Many companies now have a Twitter account and presence. Some huge brands use the micro-blogging platform to manage their reputations and spread awareness. Other smaller firms use it to build relationships. Some brands are still scared, or at least cautious about taking that first step onto Twitter.

1. Using Twitter is simple; Using it Well is a challenge

Twitter is essentially a simple platform. You can write 140-character updates that will be seen by your followers and also watch a news stream of comments left by people you follow. To direct a comment at a specific follower, simply prefix their Twitter name with "@" - for example, "@rboconsulting + your message."

Send a direct message (one that can't be seen by anyone other than the recipient) by prefixing a name with a "d" - for example: "d rboconsulting + your message."

Twitter has also created new grammar - the hashtag. This allows people to conduct simple searches and see what people are saying about a topic - for example, #leadersdebate during the recent UK election.

2. Twitter needs a strategy

Before you begin investing time and energy in Twitter, sit down and work out what you want to use it for. Using Twitter only because everyone else is using it won't win you success. Do you want to build small scale relationships or market a major brand? Do you intend to actually drive business using your Twitter account or simply drive people to your website? Unless you know your goals, you won't be able to measure your success.

3. Your account must look professional

Before you start using your Twitter account, make sure it looks professional. Update your bio, add the company logo as an avatar, and customise your page. Some people's first interaction with your brand will be via Twitter, so make sure it's as professional as your website.

4. You should search for mentions

Monitor Twitter for mentions of your brand, products, well-known staff. Any terms that people might conceivably use in reference to you. Twitter will present you with any specific mentions of your account name but you can also run searches. Using software like TweetDeck allows you to set up permanent searches and be presented with relevant tweets as they happen.

5. Reply

You're using Twitter in order to have conversations with people. If there's a positive mention of your brand, thank the person who made it. If it's negative, then address the problem. Often a positive resolution can turn a critic into a fan. If someone asks a question then answer it. Be as polite on Twitter as you would dealing with people in person.

6. Spamming harms brands

Several brands have fallen down on Twitter because they don't really understand how people use it. The platform is social and has to be used socially. If you're intrusive, you'll alienate the people you want to win over. Tweet links to blog posts, comments, thoughts, questions, etc. But don't simply pour out sales pitches. People won't follow you and anyone encountering your tweets won't leave with a good impression of your brand.

7. Automated actions are useless

Twitter needs to be hand fed because it's all about quality, not quantity. You can't automate personable, social tweeting.

8. Your followers want value

Why should people follow you on Twitter? What will they get out of it? Whether it's humorous tweets, inspired analysis and tips, links to fascinating articles or blog posts, industry breaking news, or discount vouchers, you must add value to their Twitter experience.

9. Make your Tweets retweetable

You want your followers to retweet your posts to their followers, spreading the word about your brand. If your tweets are valuable enough, then that shouldn't be a problem. Make it easy for people to retweet. Keep your comment as short as possible because, when people retweet it, they will have to add "RT username" at the start. If you've used all 140 characters, then people will have to edit your words or chop off the link.

10. Twitter magnifies mistakes

Get it wrong on Twitter and you risk a storm of mockery, especially if your brand is well known. Or, if a disgruntled employee tweets something abusive from your corporate account, it could be retweeted hundreds of times before the company even knows it's happened.

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