Managing your social media presence is tricky enough when you're simultaneously keeping up with the challenges of starting your own small business or freelance operation.
These user-friendly tips will take the confusion out of Twitter, so you can make your tweets more attractive your followers.
1. Have (Real) Conversations
The Twitterverse (which, incidentally, is apparently the fifth most annoying word of 2012) offers lots of opportunities to make great connections. If you admire a fellow entrepreneur, designer or writer, don't be afraid to give them a shout -- and make sure it's a worthwhile shout.
Ask a question or start a conversation instead of simply saying "Cool pic!" or "Nice post!" If your cyber friend (well, maybe we aren't to the "friend" stage yet) posts her new graphic design project, tell her you like the use of color or ask where she found her inspiration. These higher-quality threads can draw attention from her followers as well as yours.
2. Don't Be Afraid of the Retweet
In lieu of services like delicious.com and Evernote, I use Twitter as a means of storing links I'm interested in coming back to read later in the day when things slow down. Most of the time, these links relate to my industry, and thus the interests of my followers, so I know that retweeting them will be valuable to my readers.
Don't worry about having original content 100 percent of the time, but don't lean too heavily on the RT, either. Make sure you're also generating plenty of your own unique information to keep your followers following.
3. Add Small Personal Touches
No fail, Twitter followers seem to be interested in the personal details of the people they follow -- even (or sometimes especially) the minutia. This could mean sharing a picture of your (organized) desk or latest lunch choice every once and awhile.
Yes, it may seem silly, but these little touches make you feel real and relatable and help your readers connect with you as a person.
4. Don't Overdo the "!" and the "#"
Too many Twitter accounts (and Facebook accounts, for that matter) are littered with exclamation marks and hashtags. Your user would much rather to see this...
Jolly Jam pairs great with cream cheese and crackers. Try the #recipe! bit.ly/23jf98
#JollyJam pairs #great with #creamcheese and #crackers! Try the #recipe!!! bit.ly/23jf98
Remember: you are promoting your product, service or self because you are inherently enthusiastic about it -- and readers approach business-based Twitter handles with that in mind. There is no need to go over the top with the hard sale. Use Twitter as a way to simply (and professionally) engage your customers in what you would consider like interests -- without all the overzealous punctuation.
5. Don't be Afraid to Plan Ahead
Lastly, services like HootSuite and TweetDeck allow you to schedule your updates ahead of time, which can do wonders for the small business owner who doesn't think he has the time to regularly update his social media accounts.
Also consider creating an editorial calendar. By planning your subject matter ahead of time, you won't have to enter panic mode every morning when you turn on the computer.
You may even want to consider whether it's time to add a social media manager to your team. This can be as low- or as high-commitment as you'd like. Some freelancers will manage your entire social media presence for you, preempting the need to hire another full-time staff member.
Regardless of which steps you take on Twitter this year, keep tweeting! If you're going to have a social media presence, it's best to actively participate, rather than have accounts simply for the sake of having them. Just like your product, you surely have some superb nuggets of information to share with (yes) the Twitterverse, so start sharing!
Grace Barkley is a freelance writer, social media manager and designer living in Savannah, Georgia. She currently helps small business owners with their social media and branding and is earning her M.F.A. in Professional Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work -- this isn't your parents' career-advice blog. Be Brazen.