Tips for using Twitter to grow your business

I’ve been helping small business owners find their feet in social media for a long time, and one question never fails to pop-up: “What can Twitter do for my business?”

Many people disregarded Twitter when it burst onto the social media scene in July 2006, but since then, the platform has exploded to more than 200 million accounts and 100 million active monthly users (that is users who log in at least one a month).

Twitter’s 140 character updates may seem restrictive, but once you become comfortable with the platform you’ll see how much it can do for your business.

Search: Twitter is built for searching. Keep an eye on your @username, and your brand and product names to know who is talking about your business. Reply to every mention (no matter how fleeting) to tell your audience you’re listening.

You can also search for people talking about products in your niche and get in on the conversation by offering useful information or answering a question. Sharing information, rather than just your marketing material, will make you a user to follow because you gain a following of people who want to know what you have to say.

Get in front of the right people: Twitter give you access to the right people by letting you reach out to them with the click of your keyboard. To get in front of high profile Twitter users in your niche respond to their tweets, share info and become a resource. Watch for mentions of real-time networking events you’ll be attending and Tweet to other who will be attending to find opportunities to take the conversation off-line.

Build traffic and leads: When Twitter users like what you have to say they’re going to want to know more, so make sure your Twitter bio links to your website. Use Twitter to get on the radar of prominent bloggers, and don’t forget that PR reps, media staff and others who can help your brand all use Twitter everyday.

Whether you’re entirely new to Twitter or still trying to figure out how to get the most out of it, the key to building a well-followed profile is sharing entertaining news that enlightens and to stay connectable by responding to those who reach out to you. Here are some great resources to help you stay in touch:

Hootsuite: Let’s you schedule tweets to post later, monitor Twitter and Facebook in one place and helps you keep on top of your social media accounts.

Twitterfox: This plug in for Firefox makes it easier than ever to Tweet on the fly by keeping your update bar right in your browser.

Ping.fm: Like Hootsuite, this site lets you monitor all of your social media accounts in one place, but adds in the ever useful LinkedIn.

I’d love to hear about your Twitter experience. Share your story in the comments below.

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