In this post, I’m continuing on with the series looking at growing social media for your small business. We’re now halfway through, so by the end of the next post you should be posting and hashtagging like a pro and finding new audiences to help your small business expand in this increasingly online world. Here I will be giving you an introduction to Twitter, how it works and how it can work for you. Plus, a guide to growing Twitter for your small business.

Introduction to Twitter

In my last post, I gave you an introduction to Instagram – what it is and how it works. There are a number of similarities between the two platforms, so you’ll already know some of the terms. If you find yourself not understanding anything, I’d recommended looking again at my last post for a summary.

So, first things first: What is Twitter and what is it used for?

Scrabble tiles spelling the word Twitter

Twitter is a social media platform which allows users to express themselves in 280 character ‘Tweets’. While Instagram is focused on images, Twitter is all about the words. Again you have followers and people you are following. You can Tweet (write something yourself), retweet (share someone else’s Tweet with the people that follow you), and ‘Like’ posts. You can also comment on others’ posts and ‘retweet with comment’ (aka quote tweeting retweet and add some text of your own).

Getting started

1. Make your account

Create a username, display name, and profile picture. Your display name is what most people will use to recognise you or your business. Your username is the name people will use to find your account and to include you in their posts (called a ‘mention’). Set a profile picture for your account – this could be the logo for your small business, or you could use a picture of yourself. – Using a photo allows people to see the person behind your business, but it’s very much up to you. Just make sure that you have something as your photo, staying as the anonymous default egg is associated with fake accounts and trolls and will make people less likely to follow you.

Android phone background with the Twitter logo

2. Write your ‘bio’

This is a short summary to tell people who you are as a business, what do you do, and where are you based? Try to make this as engaging as you can as it’s the first thing anyone will see when they go onto your account profile. If you leave it blank either because you want to add an air of mystique or you can’t think what to write, then you’re likely to put people off reading any further!

3. Start following some accounts

Twitter will help you to do this when you first set up your account and this means that the Tweets that these accounts post will appear in your timeline. Don’t worry about this too much, to begin with, this is just so that you can make a start with your account. You can make a start by following some news outlets or celebrities that are vaguely related to your business. Remember, you can always unfollow people at any time.

4. Make your first Tweet

Twitter gives you a default Tweet with the hashtag #myfirstTweet. You can use this to introduce yourself to the world of Twitter and can personalise this to make a good start to your timeline. If you click the link on the hashtag above, you can see what other accounts have been saying as their first Tweet if you need some inspiration.

5. Find others to follow

Try to find people you know: Previous customers, or other people who you think might be interested in your small business. You can also search hashtags which may help you find people and accounts with similar interests. E.g. if you search on the #blogging hashtag you will find lots of other bloggers, the same with #florists or #engineering. The more people you follow, the more likely they are to follow back and then you can start on engaging with other people and building up your profile. To begin with this can be tough, other users make a judgement on your profile which is partly based on how many followers you have – too many and it may seem like you’re playing the numbers game (only on Twitter to seem popular and not actually engage), too few and you may seem like a dreaded Troll.

6. Start Tweeting and engaging with other accounts

Post some Tweets and comment on and like others’ posts. Try to make this as natural as possible and keep comments relevant to you and your business (but DON’T comment on posts just as an obvious advert for your business – it won’t make you any friends!). You might not get responses to many of your Tweets and it can often feel like you’re talking to yourself especially before you’ve managed to build up a following. But, if you…

7. Tweet consistently

… and try to make sure what you are saying is something others can engage with – ask questions (and respond to any answers), make statements and ask for responses. This can help to get a kind of dialogue going. To begin with, you’ll likely feel like you’re talking to yourself, but if you keep at it, you’ll slowly build up your following and get some engagement.

Growing Twitter for your small business

Once you follow the 7 steps above, you’ll then have a up-and-running Twitter account (hooray!). Now, I’m going to briefly cover some of the tips you might want to keep in mind so that you’re getting the most out of your account.

70% to 30% split

Try to use a 70-30% split between content you post which is interesting and engaging but not directly advertising your business and any direct (hopefully still interesting and engaging) advertising. This means that the majority of your Tweets will be stuff around the area of your business. Remember, people want to see the person behind your brand or otherwise they won’t bother following you. It’s up to you how personal you want to be online. If you’re not sure about how you can get a mix of personal and professional Tweets on your small business profile, check out Big Green Bookshop on Twitter. The owner Simon is amazing at engaging with his customers and you can very much tell that he’s a person, not just a faceless brand.

Hashtagging like a pro

Instagram lets you add 30 hashtags on each post (the more the better), but this is not the case on Twitter and the unsaid rules of Twitter seem to be that it’s frowned upon to have more than 2/3 hashtags on each post. Instead, you’ll want to try and find the most appropriate tags to use. You can use hashtagify again to try and find some popular hashtags, and by researching other relevant accounts you will pick up on other hashtags that are used within your specific area. This might take some time and it’s worth keeping note of the tags that you spot others using so that you can make a list and add them to any scheduled Tweets.

Regular posting

Having any social media account is a time commitment and you’ll need the time to put together Tweets and share them. You can use apps, like Crowdfire, to help you schedule Tweets at the best time for your audience (which might be at a different time of day/time zone to your business hours). This can also help you to find content to retweet which is relevant to your business’ interests. Crowdfire also has the option where it works out what time most of your followers are online and can schedule your Tweets for this time. So you can Tweet while you’re having a little sleepy

It can be tough out there

Sometimes it feels like Twitter is a toxic wasteland and like you might need your HazMat suit before logging in. Something about the anonymity, the shortness of sentences and the difficulty in communicating online means that people can easily get the wrong end of the stick and then set fire to it. While you can’t do anything about the negativity in the wider community, you can make your own profile a positive place.

Check out the styles of successful small and larger businesses

Some accounts have a nice level of engagement, make you smile, or have built up a strong community and tribe of followers. You can check out a couple of examples of small (or big) businesses doing it right on Twitter: Yorkshire Tea, MoonPie. 

It takes time

Building up your social media profiles can feel that a lot of time is being invested without much reward, especially to begin with. It can take a while to find out where you and your business fit in and what the best hashtags are, or who to follow. If you keep at it, you’ll slowly build up a following and can use it as an easy way for your customers to approach you.

So there it is. My guide to growing Twitter for your small business. Next week, I’ll be doing an overall summary of growing social media for your small business and some extra tips on how to make the most out of it all.

Let me know in the comments below how the social media for your small business is shaping up. You can also follow me on Twitter and tweet me @wildingwriting or find me on Instagram.

Want to read more?

If you’re interested in why some of the tips I’ve listed work (or why some things don’t work), you can read the psychology behind social influence online, or the reasons that bias may be stopping people’s attention translating into clicks on your website.