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    Twitter tips and tricks: a beginner’s guide for small business

    With millions of users, all potential customers, Twitter shouldn’t be ignored. Here’s how to get started, from hashtags to management tools

    There are 316 million active monthy users on Twitter – but you need to do more than fire out blind tweets to engage them.

    “I don’t get Twitter” is a common statement among small business owners. Typically lone rangers traversing the terrain of social media with little guidance, they cite limited resources as the main obstacle between them and an explosive Twitter feed.

    In truth, success on Twitter is dependent on little more than social media savviness. And with more than 316 million active monthly users engaging in instant conversations, the social platform shouldn’t be ignored.

    Here are some tips to turn your Twitter trepidation into a fantastic tool for winning customers.

    1 Make connections
    Twitter offers the opportunity to find people who are interested in your industry and turn them into customers. But it isn’t enough to blindly fire out tweets each day.

    Get creative. A quick search using Twitter’s free search bar will give you an idea of the kind of topics your target audience is engaging with.

    Think laterally. Are you a bed company? Perhaps you want to target those complaining about a bad back or a sleepless night. A removal service? Look for someone excitedly tweeting about their impending move.

    Active Twitter users will tweet about most aspects of their lives, making Twitter a huge database buzzing with real-time information. Searching keywords such as “bad sleep” and “house move” will pull up a stream of tweets. You can then do an advanced search on location and actively identify your ideal customer.

    Twitter allows you to interact with anyone with a public account, an opportunity not afforded by any other social platform. Avoid becoming spam by offering useful content and tips to your followers, based on your business expertise, or even reply to their tweets – generic responses won’t cut it.

    2 Develop a personality
    There are a range of successful business accounts on Twitter, some with hundreds of thousands of followers. No matter what their industry, they have one thing in common – they develop a unique personality rather than a stream of self-promotion.

    Your Twitter feed should be a combination of useful content, such as “how to choose the right mattress for you”, and tweets that demonstrate your personality.

    Innocent Smoothies used Twitter to catapult their brand. Their Twitter account is chock-full of witty repartees and quirky stories that don’t always relate to their product, but ooze with brand personality. They are just about the best example of a business doing Twitter well.

    Use images to create more of an impact – Tweets with images get on average 35% more engagement than those without. The ideal image size for Twitter is 506 pixels by 253 pixels.

    3 Have a content strategy
    Twitter is fast-paced. With thousands of tweets on any one topic being fired out every minute, messages get lost easily and it can get overwhelming.

    Having a clear content strategy with an editorial calendar is a good way of keeping on top of the day-to-day feed, leaving you free to interact with customers. Your editorial calendar should include events, blogs, brand messaging, sales and products or services you wish to promote throughout the month.

    This is a good opportunity to offer discounts exclusively to Twitter, or run competitions to create engagement – one tactic that works surprisingly well is asking people to follow you and retweet your tweet for the chance to win a prize.

    When The Salt Room launched in Brighton, they used Twitter to organise a city-wide treasure hunt under the hashtag #SaltSearch. This generated publicity for the restaurant before it had even opened. This hashtag spread across the world, with thousands of retweets and competition entries.

    4 #Newsjack
    If something big is happening, it’s happening on Twitter and the chances are, it has its own hashtag.

    Hashtags are used to centralise a conversation. Searching a specific hashtag in the search bar will bring up a stream of any tweet that contains it. Hijack the hashtag, get involved in the conversation, and watch your engagement levels grow.

    Hashtags can also be a more general link to a topic, person or interest – so if Twitter users are searching for tweets on a certain subject, a hashtag can alert them to your tweet.

    You can also get involved with, or even facilitate, #hours. These are conversations that happen on Twitter at specific times around a specific subject. There are Twitter chats for cities, industries, hobbies, sports – #UKrunchat is a great example of a sports chat that grew from nothing to over 20,000 followers in just two years.

    To find relevant hashtags, look at the trending stream to the left of your profile, or check out what your competitors are doing – are they interacting with a specific topic? If they’re doing it, you should too.

    5 Stay organised
    Twitter can be a lot of work. Make things simpler by streamlining your processes. Use the list functionality to organise individuals into helpful lists. Having a list for customers, influencers, prospects and even competitors will make monitoring and targeting easier and much more effective. If you don’t want the person to know you’ve added them to a list, make the list private.