I see this all the time: someone makes a half-hearted attempt to try Twitter and gives up after a day or so because they fail to see the point. While Twitter isn’t for everyone (or every business), I’d bet that 9 times out of 10, that person isn’t seeing the value because they’re not giving it a proper chance and don’t know what to do with it. Twitter isn’t a ride – you can’t just climb in and wait to be wowed. It’s a tool, and you do have to learn how to use it.
Here are some tips for getting ramped up on Twitter, so you can start to see the business value and have a little fun with it too.

Ever have the feeling that you just don’t get Twitter?

  1. Use a Twitter client
    I firmly believe that you need a client to get the most value from Twitter. Most of us on the marketing team at WordStream use TweetDeck, which has a number of advantages over Twitter’s standard Web interface. (Other options include Seesmic and HootSuite.)
    For one, it refreshes automatically, with (modifiable) notifications so you can read tweets as they happen. This is important because Twitter’s real value is in real-time use. Reading everything you missed over the weekend is mostly pointless. When you use Twitter in real time, you can interact with people, spot trends as they’re happening and respond to questions and problems before it’s too late. (Likewise, you can get help with questions that aren’t easily answered through search.)
    Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to be on Twitter all the time. Like any other social application, Twitter can be a distraction from work. But devoting a little active time to Twitter every day will make its strengths (both for marketing and making connections) much more apparent.
  2. Be generous with follows at first
    You’ll get a lot more value out of Twitter if you have more followers. The larger your audience, the more business contacts you can make, the more traffic you can send to your site, and the more influence and trust you can potentially wield. One of the easiest ways to build up your follower list is to follow others. Start with well-known influencers in your industry and pay attention to who they follow and interact with. Many will follow you back – if not, try sending a relevant @ reply to one of their tweets, which will help get you on their radar.
    It takes time to gain a large number of followers, so have patience. Also, remember that you can always unfollow later if someone’s tweets aren’t adding anything to your stream.
  3. Create lists or groups
    Twitter now has a native list feature, which is a great improvement; however, the Web interface only allows you to see one column at a time. With a Twitter client, you can set up columns and view multiple groups side by side.
    There are a number of ways you can use columns to your advantage. You can separate those you actively engage with on a regular basis from those you follow more tangentially. You can separate by specialty (for example, if you work in search marketing, you can set up columns for PPC marketing specialists, SEO specialists, social media specialists and so on). You’ll find this organizational ability especially helpful as you expand the number of people and brands you follow.
  4. Create columns for mentions of you and your company
    This step is absolutely key to getting the most out of Twitter. If you don’t pay attention to who’s talking to and about you, you’ll never experience Twitter as a conversation – it will just seem like a million people talking to themselves.
    In both the Web interface and Twitter clients, you can save searches of your Twitter name and other terms you might want to follow (such as the names of your products), but a client makes it easier to track those mentions in real time. (You’ll get a notification when a new tweet appears in these columns.)
  5. Follow up on as many mentions as possible
    Knowing what people are saying about you is great, but it’s not enough to monitor mentions. Respond to them! This is especially important for reputation management – if someone asks you a question or has an issue with your company’s product or service, you should respond in as timely a manner as possible. (It should go without saying, but don’t just acknowledge them; offer to help.) It’s not worth getting involved in social media at all if your business is going to seem faceless and unresponsive to existing and potential customers.

But Twitter isn’t just a tool for protecting your brand. You can follow up on positive mentions too. If someone retweets your tweet or recommends your product, thank them! If it’s someone you don’t know, follow them. This is a great way to build goodwill and grow your follower base.

If you haven’t tried the above tactics, you haven’t really tried Twitter. So get back on the horse and I guarantee you’ll at least see what all the fuss is about.

Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream, a provider of advanced SEO Tools and pay per click software for search engine marketing efforts. To get in touch with Elisa, send a note to egabbert at wordstream dot com, follow her on Twitter, or check out the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog, where she’s a regular contributor.

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