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Success on Twitter: A How-To for Small Businesses

ImageSuccess on Twitter can be measured in a variety of ways, depending on your goals. If your goals are to increase awareness, buzz, and feedback, then you should be paying a lot of attention to your follower and interaction count, as well as what people are saying about you. If your goals are more focused around driving traffic to your website or blog, you should also pay attention to the click-through rates on the links you Tweet. However, in order to start out, your first priority should be polishing your profile, gaining a voice, and building a community.

Let’s get started.

The Bio:

In order to gain followers, you must first find a way to describe your small business in a short and compelling way. You have 160 characters for your Twitter Bio, and within those few lines there must be a good reason for people to follow you. You can choose to have your business’ catch phrase or motto, or you can choose to be witty. Whatever the case, you should think of your Twitter bio as a 160-character elevator pitch. Here are some pointers:

  • Be concise; describe yourself without being wordy
  • Clarify who you are and what you offer
  • Point out what makes you different
  • Legitimate awards or claims-to-fame are fair play
  • Hashtags are allowed, but do not fill your bio with them
  • Make sure to specify your location in the location box and add your website link

Choosing an @handle

More and more people join Twitter each day, so there's a chance that the @handle you want is already taken. If you are lucky and it isn’t already taken, you can just use the name of your business as your username. If the @name you want is already taken, you will have to work your way around it by adding numbers or other symbols (like an underscore, for example) to your username, or using a different one altogether. Here at Leaf, for example, our Twitter handle is @LeafYourLife. You can choose to be like us and use your catch phrase or motto (provided it fits into 15 characters), or here are other ideas:

  • Use an abbreviated version of your business name
  • Add an underscore (‘_’) between words in your name or after an article like ‘The’ (e.g., @The_smallbiz in lieu of @Thesmallbiz)
  • Use a witty combination of words (e.g., @coffeepeople for a coffee shop)

Tweeting and building your community

People on Twitter love to digest content. The only way to create a community on Twitter is to provide some sort of value to the audience you intend on reaching. Remember that social networks weren’t made as a place to advertise to people, but rather as a place for people to socialize on the Internet. In other words, it’s not all about you. This means posting relevant, interesting, and most importantly, share-worthy content. Share-worthy content can be anything from an image to a quote to a link; anything that makes you think Wow, other people should see this.

If you are serious about getting a large audience on Twitter, you should spend at least an hour every week day just searching for content you can share on Twitter, Tweeting that content (or scheduling it using a service like Hootsuite or Buffer), and participating in your community. If you are not willing to put in that much time onto Twitter each day, spend at least 15-30 minutes taking care of social interactions (i.e., replying to messages or Tweets, thanking people for any compliments, etc.) and publishing content each day.

In order to increase your exposure on Twitter, make sure to hashtag correctly (i.e., relevantly) because you already know what can happen if you’re careless. Two or three hashtags at the end of your Tweet should be enough, so choose the most popular out of your options. (Check out our small business guide to hashtags here.)

Twitter is alive and breathing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so there is no wrong time to tweet. However, you should use your best judgment and knowledge of your target audience to decide what the best times are to Tweet for the greatest potential for exposure. In other words, don’t Tweet out a special offer on Twitter at 2am, unless you know your audience is active at that time. Fortunately for all of us, there are free services like SocialBro and CrowdBooster that give you reports on the best times to Tweet to your followers.

The objective here is to increase your audience and begin gaining exposure. The more time and effort you put into Twitter, the more you will get back in return. There is no ‘formula for success’ on Twitter, so the most important resource you can use to build a Twitter community is your knowledge of your target market and how to reach them. There are no rules; you’re entirely free to be yourself and be unique in choosing your social strategy. In fact, we encourage you to be creative and use your imagination – everyone loves individuality, and the more original you are, the more you’ll stand out.

Measuring success

As we proposed above, success on Twitter can be measured in a variety of ways, depending on your goals. The most common –and perhaps most important– variable of measurement is number of followers. It’s easy to keep track of follower growth, so we won’t touch much on that. However, there are other ways to measure your success, here are a few:

  • Amount of quality interactions: Interactions are ReTweets, favorites, @mentions, and lists. ReTweets and favorites are when people click the ReTweet or Favorite button directly, and you get a notification on your @Connect page saying “X person Retweeted/Favorited Y Tweet”. Mentions are when someone else @mentions you in a Tweet, and lists are whenever someone adds you to a public list on a certain topic. Quality interactions are when your interactions come from people in your target audience or that qualify as leads. Spam accounts and sketchy replies with links do not count. Quality interactions are signs that you’re doing something right, so whatever it is, keep it up.

  • Amount of clicks: Whether you’re Tweeting out your own content (e.g., your blog posts), or sharing other people’s content, amount of clicks is an important measurement tool. If people aren’t clicking your links, then you’re doing something wrong. You’re either not writing engaging or captivating Tweets, not Tweeting them at the right time, or not using hashtags well. If no one is clicking the Tweet links to your own blog content, then you might want to work on your titles for posts. Conversely, if people are clicking your links, they’re listening to you, and taking action. (Don’t know how to track clicks? Check out Bit.ly.)

  • Tracking your #hashtag(s): Take note of both how much your hashtags are being used and what people are saying through them, you may learn a lot about the way people perceive your business. (Note: take criticism well and act upon it, don’t retaliate against negative feedback because it will make things worse.) If your hashtags aren’t being used at all, then you’re probably not promoting them enough. The rest depends on what people are saying about your business.

  • Demographics: Yes, there is a way to break down the demographics of your Twitter followers. The services we stated above, SocialBro and CrowdBooster, both give you reports on the demographics of your community. It’s free, so check them out to see if you’re reaching the right audience.


This post was originally published on Leaf's SMB Blog, and is part of their upcoming Ebook 'A Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses". Check the Leaf Blog weekly for the latest chapters.

Join The Conversation

  • Cate Costa's picture
    Apr 21 Posted 4 years ago Cate Costa

    Thanks for the tips, Alvaro! Let me just suggest one tip before getting started on Twitter - make sure that your target market/ideal customers actually use Twitter. As Alvaro mentioned, Twitter can be a bit time consuming if you want to use it correctly to promote your business and entrepreneurs have limited time on their hands, so before you jump in and start budgeting a significant part of your day to Twitter, do a little research to make sure that the people you want to reach are actually active on Twitter. If not, you may be better served spending that time on a different social network or a different activity completely rather than on Twitter. 

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