Twitter for business: If you don’t know these 4 things, your business will never succeed on Twitter.

 

1. Twitter is a real live back and forth conversation, not a radio broadcast from 1937.

Too many businesses use their Twitter stream like a one-way pipe, pumping out dreck best left for an in-house corporate newsletter. (“Our new product launch is just 16 months away!”)

Full of puffery, selling too hard, self-absorbed, trivial, using ‘we’ language. (“We’re all going to the conference today. The cab stinks!”)

Don’t link to your own stuff all the time. The web is a big place full of things that are of interest to your potential customers. Link to those things from your Twitter stream and folks will be more likely to follow you. And less likely to unfollow you.

Twitter is your forum to engage customers, both current and prospective: some happy, some bored, some angry. Use the Twitter search bar on your home page to save searches about your own company.

If you’re not big enough to generate third-party tweets, at least pay attention to what people are saying on relevant business topics you know something about. Then get into the conversation.

Talk to people. Listen to what they say. Then talk some more. You can do it. You never know where it might lead.

Whole Foods engages customers on Twitter better than anyone.

JetBlue Airways, too.

And here’s Frank Eliason, the man behind Comcast Cares.

 

2. You can’t succeed on Twitter wearing a paper bag over your head.

Don’t use the plain vanilla Twitter page background that came with your sign-up. It’s a sure sign that you don’t care. Upload your own background to make your page inviting, engaging, professional. Even the free ones are nice.

Add your company logo, or your own photo, in your profile area in the top right corner of your page.

Then link to your website or blog. Okay, there’s room for only one live link, not much space for text—and none for pictures—in your profile area. But that shouldn’t stop you.

Customize your look. Use the left sidebar to display pictures of your people, email addresses, what your company does, and more.

Bring your page to life. Looking good matters, just like it did in high school.

Look at what Verizon has done with Twitter.

Here’s Darren Rowse, problogger.

And Shaquille O’Neal.

And BrainRider.

3. Twitter is not the bulletin board in your company lunchroom.

Don’t fill your Twitter stream with stuff that no one outside your company cares about. It’s a public space, and people are free to come and go as they please.

Twitter is more like a hotel lobby. It’s your reception area, it’s your storefront, it’s a handshake, a business lunch, a non-stop around the clock business convention where every encounter holds the promise of a referral, or even a sale.

But that doesn’t mean you should be pushy. Be polite. Relax. Smile. Shine your shoes and make a good impression. Make your mother proud of you.

Be interesting. Be topical. Be controversial. Be informed, inquisitive, smart, funny, and even though you’re on Twitter for business, don’t be impersonal. Be human.

Like Chris Brogan.

Or Scott Monty, for Ford.

Or Tim Walker, for Hoovers.

4. People don’t suddenly become more gullible just because they’re on Twitter.

Don’t push a system guaranteed to get a million Twitter followers in a week. Don’t spam. Don’t use exclamation points!!! DON’T USE ALL CAPS!!!

Don’t troll for Retweets by sending out automated pre-loaded Tweets quoting Abraham Lincoln every two minutes: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”

Don’t link to your own website all the time. (Even though you’re linking with tiny URLs, Twitter knows. You’ll look like a spammer.)

Don’t send out automated Direct Message thank you notes to new followers: “Hi, [your name goes here], thanks for following! Your website is amazing! Visit mine [link] to buy my stuff TODAY!!!”

Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.

Like Starbucks.

Or Kodak.

Or Lance Armstrong.

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