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Getting Started with Twitter: Setting Up Twitter for Business

20 Aug

How tweet it is!

Of all of the social media platforms, Twitter is the most unintuitive for business owners. Its 140-character limit, fast pace and motto “What Are You Doing?” seem to relegate it to rather meaningless updates like “Stuck in traffic! Ugh!” However, if used correctly, Twitter can be an unusually effective way for businesses to communicate with potential customers. I’ll go into the ways you can use Twitter to promote your business in a later post.

Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s how to set up your Twitter account:

  1. First, go to Twitter and sign up for an account. When you choose your login name, or “handle,” choose carefully as this will be your identifier when you tell other people to connect with you. It should be either your company identity or a keyword combination (ex. @creditrepairhelp). My Twitter handle is @buzzoomba because I use it to drive people to my blog, Buzzoomba. The URL for my Twitter page is http://twitter.com/buzzoomba, but most people use the @ handle to designate their Twitter addresses.
  2. If you want to get an overview, you can read through the Twitter help guide.
  3. Create an avatar. An avatar is a small square image that appears next to your tweets as an identifier. If you are tweeting as an individual, you can upload a photo, but for business, I suggest creating an image that is a version of your logo. Because of its small size, you may not be able to fit your entire logo and if you upload it, it will chop it off. If it looks fine, keep it, otherwise you may want to pare it down to a smaller element.
  4. If you want to brand your Twitter site, you can upload a custom background, rather than using one of the default backgrounds provided by Twitter. Here is a good post on how to do that.
  5. Now that you are set up, the next step is to find people to follow. Twitter is the most open of the social media networks. Unlike LinkedIn, where you have to know a person before inviting them into your network and you need to actually specify how you know him, and Facebook, where your invitation must be accepted by the other person, in Twitter, you are free to follow just about anybody. Many people on Twitter will follow you back if you follow them, so in an attempt to build their list, many people simply do a search on a topic related to their business using Twitter Search and follow the people who come up in the search results. You can also search on people you know by typing in their email addresses.
  6. Start tweeting away! Twitter is a very fast platform because the more people you are following and the more they tweet, the quicker each tweet drops down from the top, so it can be challenging to stand out in the crowd. Plan to tweet your message five times a day, so that it is seen by the most people. You can mix it up by tweeting two different messages so it doesn’t get boring for people who have been on and seen one of your earlier tweets. Be conscious of how you use your words because of the short length you have to work with. Most people who include links in their tweets use a site that shortens the URL for Twitter. The most popular ones are  http://bit.ly and http://tinyurl.com, although if you use a social feed aggregator like HootSuite and you bring in your blog feed, it will automatically give you a shortened URL that you can tweet.
  7. Understand the lingo. Because of the limited space, Twitter users (Twits for short) use abbreviations similar to the text messages you might see a teenager use and they also use special Twitter phrases. Here are a few:
  • Retweet (RT) – This is like forwarding on someone else’s tweet to all of your followers. When you see something useful that someone has retweeted, if you mouse over the tweet, at the bottom, you will see a link that says “Retweet,” and that’s all there is to it.
  • Reply – When you want to reply back to a particular one of your followers, follow the same procedure as above, and click “Reply,” then type your reply.
  • Hashtags – Hashtags are the # symbol and are used before a phrase that you want other people to be able to search on. For example, if you sell sports equipment and your tweet is about that, you may want to include #sportsequipment at the end of your tweet. People interested in sports equipment can then go to Twitter search and type in that phrase, and your tweet will appear in the results.
  • Direct Messages (DM) – You may want to talk directly to a follower without replying to something she has already said. In that case, you would use a direct message. Click on the person’s avatar or handle to go to her profile page. On the right side, under actions, click message and then type your message.

Twitter takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will soon find yourself tweeting along with the rest of the flock.

Are You Contagious? Starting a Viral Campaign About Your Product

11 Aug

Psst! Pass it on!

Psst! Pass it on!

Everyone has heard about how the Internet, and social media in particular can help your product or brand go viral, with people passing it along to their communities like a summer cold. But with so many marketing messages out there, how can you spark enough interest to get people to post or retweet your message?

1. Be outrageous – When you do something shocking, people want to share it. An example would be Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series on YouTube. Blendtec makes high powered kitchen blenders, and put out a series of YouTube videos where they put all sorts of things into the blender, including a golf ball, marbles, and an iPad.

2. Be funny – People love to share a good joke, and if you can use humor to spread your brand name or features, that much the better. Check out the Heinken Walk in Fridge Commerical on YouTube as an example.

3. Present astounding facts about something everyone is already interested in, but don’t know much about – Everyone loves to look like the smartest guy in the room, so if you can provide people facts they can casually drop into cocktail conversation, they will pass it along. In order to really be viral, though, it must be packaged in a cool way. A great example of this is the Socialnomics video on YouTube.

4. Be controversial – When you aren’t politically correct, tongues are sure to wag. An online t-shirt site, T-Shirt Hell carries this to the extreme, with hundreds of humorous, but offensive, prejudiced and racist t-shirts. Their twist, of course, is humor, and they started a viral avalanche when they announced that they were closing the site down because they were tired of all the people giving them a hard time. Everyone got to talking, and on the day they were scheduled to close, they announced that it was all a joke and they weren’t closing after all. Sales went up from around 3,000 t-shirts a week to 100,000 a week for the next few weeks.

OK, so now you have a great video or campaign put together. How do you get it out there?

1. Make sure your content is easily accessible from your web page, on your social media networks and in your email signature. This will reach into your community, and maybe beyond if it is compelling enough.

2. In order to turn your viral campaign into an epidemic, you need to get it into the hands of the major influencers: the top bloggers, analysts and mainsteam media folks. Send them an email with a link to download your content (don’t attach it unless asked).

3. Seed it on social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg. Provide links on your website next to your viral content that make it easy for people to recommend it on these sites.

4. Don’t give up – Your viral campaign may not become catching right away. Keep promoting it, and you may accumulate enough eyeballs to really start something. If it doesn’t catch on, try something else; not every campaign will go viral.

Now, go out and start your “word of mouse” campaign!

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