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Still think tweeting is about posting pictures of your breakfast? See how the Twitter effect can potentially grow your business

In just a few short years, Twitter has grown from the indulgent preserve of ego-maniacal celebrities into a core means of communication with customers and clients. Referencing articles, asking questions, sharing photos and tweeting special offers are only a few reasons why Twitter can benefit business. Twitter becomes the perfect tool to find out what consumers think of broadcasted content, leaving a second-by-second account of possible trends you could follow.

It allows interaction and feedback in a similar way to Facebook, with a more casual, free-flowing method, in an openly public way. This, in turn, will allow clients to feel like a part of the product process, being able to “like” and review various items.

Making it work for your business

Customisation

Although there will be limitations to the layout not found in html-based websites, the pictorial and textual elements will be fairly mouldable.

Once an account has been set up, you need to make it yours. Egg on an appropriate profile picture; the default icon for users is a great way to get ignored. If you already have a Facebook business page, then using the same profile picture will promote a unified brand identity. Otherwise, keep it clear and unique. Initials or simple logos are good choices - screenshots of your website homepage reduced to 73px square, less so. As the visual presentation of your company, choose it wisely.

Integrate Twitter

Integrating your account into other social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest, is an efficient way of cross-pollinating social feeds. This is a good way of expanding your client database. Don’t forget to tell your Twitter followers about your Facebook page and vice versa. Bear in mind, if these are linked, then how often you tweet becomes important. A new update every thirty minutes will clog up news feeds and get your fans “unliking’”and “unfollowing”you. It’s equally important to reach your followers with at least one tweet a day.

Tweet on the go

The rise of smartphones has meant updating Twitter has become much easier and more time efficient. On the bus, in a taxi or whilst having your lunch - all are easy places to type 140 characters. The real bonus is incorporating pictures. Finishing a project, construction, design, meal – anything with a visual element can be tweeted instantly. This will allow consumers to view new products, as well as follow or comment on your future plans. Even non-smartphones can tweet, via SMS. You can set it up by going to your Twitter account “settings” menu and selecting “mobile”.

The trouble with having both personal and professional accounts

Tweeting is a double-edged sword that could spell disaster if you tweet the wrong thing. Be wary of tweeting under the influence, especially if you have both personal and professional accounts. Not everyone has the American Red Cross gift for PR disaster recovery.

“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch beer...when we drink we do it it right #gettingslizzerd” This now infamous tweet had been made by one PR professional, who had stayed up for around an hour before Red Cross intervention:

“We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys.”

Fortunately, humour and understanding meant the damage was limited - brewery Dogfish Head even encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross using #gettingslizzered.

What to tweet?

Blending business, industry news and humour are key to gaining followers. Sign up to Google Alerts to keep up to speed with industry news based on your profession or geo-location. This will help you keep a ready supply of useful information for followers on quiet days. Work updates and images from your company are also worth remembering to add the human element. This is social media, so if something funny, interesting or beautiful has happened, then share it, and people will be more likely to follow your twitter feed. Just be sure it is one of the above and not the 17th photo of your lunch!

Interacting in the Twittersphere

Don’t just tweet into the void, start a conversation! While it’s good to tweet regularly, it can be better to try and speak to somebody rather than shouting into a torrent of updates or talking to yourself in the corner. Asking questions and replying to the tweets of others are likely to do more for you than just a statement on its own. This can be a particularly effective way of posting links to your main website and generating higher click-through rates. Don’t forget to check when people follow you and give them a follow back – like all social situations, good manners go a long way.

What you have you remember is, as a social platform, you could gain instant global recognition, not just locally.

Henry Lewington is the Managing Director of DIY website builder Webeden.

Next: Understanding reputation (and not ending up like BP)

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