How to Build a Twitter Brand For Your Small Business

Tweeting for business can be a huge waste of time, or it can be a brilliant marketing strategy -- if used wisely. Investing the time to build a Twitter brand can be a highly effective approach for a startup or an existing small business looking to spur growth. If you are trying to position yourself as a thought leader, Twitter is a great way to showcase your industry expertise. Here are my recommendations on how to build a Twitter brand for your small business.

Twitter accounts are free, but you pay with your time, so you want to be strategic about what you share. You can use Twitter to listen to potential customers and competitors and no one will know. Twitter is data-rich! You can test ideas, products and price points for market research. The real-time feedback you will receive will be invaluable target market data for your business. If you are preparing to launch a book or brand, you can never start marketing yourself too soon online, and Twitter is a great place to start. Here are the 12 advanced Twitter techniques to grow your small business.

  1. Schedule Tweets: You want to be efficient when using Twitter. Use a service such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Buffer to schedule your Twitter content every day. But do NOT make the mistake of just leaving your twitter stream on autopilot. You must check on your twitter stream several times a day to respond to followers with direct questions, retweet (RT) other content live and engage people who have shared your content. This is your most important daily activity on twitter.
  2. 120 is the New 140: Twitter allows you to use 140 characters to compose tweets, but if you want your useful information to be retweeted, your tweets need to be shorter. You must allow room for the RT and the person's twitter handle, which could add between 10-20 characters depending on their name. If you do not develop tweets that leave room for the RT, what is the point?
  3. Use the 4:1 Ratio: The best way to make friends on Twitter is to retweet other people's content. You should share other content at a 4:1 ratio of your own. If someone retweets your content, follow them and thank them for the RT, then return the favor, if you can. Your focus must be to add value to your followers at all times. You'll get reciprocity if you do this the right way.
  4. Use Twitter Lists: Once you've created a Twitter list, you can click on that list and see a stream of Tweets from only people on that list, which is really helpful when looking for content to RT. You should create lists that focus on keywords, or areas of expertise, or other thought leaders you admire. And remember, you can make that list public so others can follow your list, or private so only you are tracking that list.
  5. Engage VIPs with Intention: If you want to engage a high value target, follow them first. Then start sharing their content. Be sure to add additional comments about why their content was helpful. When they engage, be sure to follow-up quickly. Don't expect them to follow you back immediately, but engagement over time could turn your target into a friend. Keep in mind it takes at least 7 quality contacts to build a relationship online. Engagement is the first step.
  6. Share Original Content More Than Once: The more followers you have, the less likely it is that they all see everything you tweet. I suggest tweeting original articles from your personal blog at least three times a day, the first day they are published. You do this to make sure your followers have the best opportunity to read your most helpful content.
  7. Share Personal Content Too: While the majority of your tweets will be about business, be sure to show people that you have a personality, too. It's important to show your followers that you are about more than tweeting out statistics and business articles. My six-year-old son gives me great material to share online. Sometimes I will tweet while I'm watching award shows, and I will often share views about my faith. It's all about sharing another part of you.
  8. Add a Period Before Your Tweets: Twitter allows users to see a reply only if they are following both people who are communicating. If you add a period before each reply, the tweet will not start with a "@" but rather a "." and will not be considered a reply. If it is not a reply, then all your followers can see it.
  9. Brand a Hashtag: Build your content around a hashtag relevant to your industry and target audience. For example, I use #Smallbizchat for my content for small business owners. Hashtags are an excellent way to track conversations about a specific topic or industry. Using a hashtag makes it easier for you to find people who are interested in your subject area and expertise.
  10. Start Using the Tweet Old Posts Plugin: If you have been blogging for a while, chances are you have a lot of content. "TweetOldPosts" is a Wordpress plugin that will help you share old content that you wrote before you built a major following. This plugin attaches to your Twitter account and automatically shares older content on Twitter every 4 hours. You can even add a hashtag to the post, so your fans can more easily track what you publish. I use my #Smallbizchat hashtag with the plugin.
  11. Search for Yourself: Do daily searches for your company's name in Twitter search and for any @ replies. You want to stay on top of who's mentioning you on Twitter. You can also use Topsy, a website that lets users do real-time searches online. You can narrow the search results to just tweets to see who is talking about your brand or company. You can also save searches for some keyword terms and common uses of your nickname or company name. In my case, I search Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady, my book title, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months and my blog URL
  12. Create a Branded Tweetchat: One of the most powerful things Twitter allows us to do is convene followers around a specific subject area. You first need a branded hashtag, then you need to pick a day of the week and a time were you will conduct your conversation about a specific subject matter area. Since 2009, I have hosted #Smallbizchat every Wednesday from 8-9 pm ET, to bring together small business owners and answer their small business questions. You can use Tweetgrid or Tweetchat to conduct your chat. Some people do a chat once a month, a quarter or weekly - it all depends on your level of commitment because it's a lot of work. Here's information on how to participate in #Smallbizchat

Putting these tips to use will boost your Twitter cred. But, first do your homework to be sure your target audience uses Twitter or you'll find yourself in the dreaded abyss of fishing in an empty pond.

This was originally published under the title: 12 Advanced Twitter Techniques to Grow Your Small Business at

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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America's #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.