social media how toDo you want to get the most from Twitter?  Because Twitter is so quick and easy to use, it’s also easy to get lost in the conversations.

Here are four tips to help you focus your Twitter efforts to get the maximum benefits for your business.

#1: Define your business goals and objectives

Take something you want to accomplish in your business and break it down into action items that are measurable and specific.

You might have a business goal to increase your business visibility so potential customers can discover you. Your next step is to create several objectives to put this goal into action, for example:

  • Use Twitter to reach out to potential customers who live or work within 3 miles of your location.
  • Use Twitter to share your dinner special on Tuesday nights in June.
  • Use Twitter to talk with neighbors about an upcoming community event for 3 weeks before and 1 week after the event.
riviera ristorante

Here's an example of sharing about dinner specials.

An objective describes what you’ll do and how you’re going to measure your success toward meeting your goal. You may want to add in other numbers related to outcome of your activity. However, those numbers depend on factors outside your control.

For example:

  • You don’t know how many Twitter users live and work within 3 miles of your business.
  • You don’t know how many people will visit on Tuesday nights based on your tweets.
  • You don’t know how many people will be talking about the community event on Twitter.

When you’re starting out in social media, it’s best to focus your objectives on something you can control: your behavior. Create objectives that guide your online behavior and watch how your community responds. Over time, you can fine-tune your actions so you can get the best responses from your community.

Your business goals and objectives are the backbone for measuring your Twitter success. If you don’t already have Twitter goals and objectives, take a few minutes now to write down the practical ways that Twitter can help your business.

#2: Create your conversation strategy

It’s not enough to follow people. If you really want to build a Twitter community around your business, you need give people a reason to follow you back and engage in conversation with you.

People will follow you if you talk about things that interest them. Of course, you can talk about your business, offer discounts and exclusive specials, share practical tips and announce your business products and services. Be mindful that you need to talk about things that others find interesting if you want to build a community.

Choose your conversation topics carefully because it’s important that you really care about these topics. People can tell if you really have passion for a subject, or if you’re just showing up to sell them something.

If you were having a dinner party, you’d spend some time cleaning up your house. In the same way, take some time to think through your conversation strategy and put it in place before you invest time searching for new people to follow. This way, when people check your Twitter profile, they can see what you talk about, how much you promote your business and how often you talk about other things. It’s important that you create a good first impression when people look at your tweet stream.

#3: Organize your community with Twitter Lists

Before you expand your Twitter community, invest a little time to organize your existing community with Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists help you focus on conversation streams. If you haven’t used the lists feature, Twitter provides a great overview on how to create lists and manage the people on your lists.

how to use twitter

Twitter gives you a great overview on how to use Twitter Lists.

There are no rules about how to break up your community into lists. Do whatever seems smart to you. You could create a list that groups together people who tweet in your neighborhood, another list for customers and yet another for businesses in your industry. You might want to see how other businesses are organizing people into lists before you finalize your strategy.

twitter list

Here's an example of how a business broke out their local community into several Twitter Lists.

Twitter allows you to create public or private lists.

  • Private lists. You’re the only person who knows about your private lists and who is on them. You can edit your lists (add or remove people) without anyone seeing your actions. Many people create a private list for the people they talk with most on Twitter.
  • Public lists. Public lists are the most common and have many benefits. People love being on lists. Anyone can view and follow your public lists and you can follow public lists created by other people.

Create your lists and organize your current Twitter community. Add each new person you follow to the appropriate list when you follow them.

add new person to list

Use the list button to add each new person you follow to the appropriate list.

Many Twitter tool such as HootSuite or TweetDeck allow you to create separate columns for each list. This makes it easy to follow and join in conversation streams.

hootsuite lists

HootSuite allows you to create a conversation stream from a Twitter List.

#4: Keep expanding your Twitter community

Community management, the process of adding and removing people from your Twitter community, is an ongoing activity. Set aside some time each week to maintain your Twitter community.

Start small and build over time. For example, you might set an initial objective to find 10, 20, or 50 new people to follow each week depending on your business goals and your available time.

It’s important that you don’t follow too many new people at one time. Twitter spammers aggressively follow a large number of people in short bursts. If you act like a spammer, someone might report you as such and Twitter might suspend your account!

twitter following rules

Twitter monitors how aggressively users follow other users.

In your weekly community management, set aside a little time to review your new followers. Rather than sending an autoreply direct message (DM) to new followers, why not look over the profile and tweet stream of each new follower and write a customized, personal message? To be a good community member, connect with your community as a real person and build your relationships one at a time.

What’s your experience with Twitter? Do you have a community management strategy? Share your experience in the comments box below.

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  • Twitter is very complex and intimidating for the average person. So build a audience from there can been very time consuming but worth it.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • This is excellent advice, thanks so much for sharing!

  • Michael Trow

    Great piece with detailed “How-To” sections. One aspect often overlooked, that is maybe the most daunting, is defining the target market and how to find users on Twitter etc. Following/Being Followed by 1000 irrelevant people means you are going nowhere. 
    For new or experienced Twitter users, navigating the Social Media world can be difficult to find relevant users to interact with. 

  • Great tips Charlene.  I’m still working on tips 1 and 2, I didn’t even know about tip 3, and am starting to learn how to dedicate myself to tip 4.  Thanks for helping this social media newbie dive into the Twitter world a little more 🙂

  • Ben Comer

    Hey Black Seo Guy,

    I can certainly understand why you think Twitter is intimidating for the average person but it certainly doesn’t have to be. New technology allows users to update their accounts through e-mail, which essentially eliminates the intimidation factor. Receiving an e-mail reminder to update Twitter is also a great way to save time when building an audience. Just some food for thought!

  • I agree. Twitter takes a little time to understand and master, but the rewards are worth the effort.

  • You are welcome, Lisa. Best of luck to you!

  • Great point, Mike. I wrote an earlier article about finding local customers ( Twitter lists are a great tool for finding appropriate people, also. 

  • You are welcome, Dorothy. Twitter takes a little time to understand and master. If you keep working on new things, one at a time, you’ll get there faster than you expect.

  • Agree with Mike. It’s a challenge to locate relevant users to follow for brand pages. It’s a constant work-in-progress. Checking out your other post on finding local customers now, Charlene. Thanks!

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  • Excellent advice for using Twitter! I wrote a similar post this week, but yours is even more detailed! Very helpful stuff! I think what you said about organizing your community via lists and using tools like hootsuite are really key to finding and growing your target audience.

    ~James Maston @compete_now

  • Thanks for jumping in, Tom. So may people get distracted by follower numbers and building a big count that they completely miss the quality issue. A small but mighty engaged Twitter community is a great business asset and is worth the time investment.

  • Thanks, Jenn. There are so many Twitter tools out there that getting a scoop can be really helpful. But for business users, they are not looking for people with similar interests, they are looking for people who can be potential customers. They are often looking for people with specific interests, but those interests may not match the business. For people using Twitter for fun, your pitch is good. Does your tool help businesses find potential customers?

  • Great minds thinking alike, eh? Twitter community building takes some effort, but with a good strategy and a little time consistently each week, a business can build a strong follower community. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Ben Comer


    Thanks for a wonderful article! I’ll definitely be using these strategies from now on. This is certainly an interesting dialogue about using Twitter tools to find customers. Hootsuite is an excellent tool though it can be quite expensive for the small business owner. Fortunately there are more affordable tools out there that help owners maximize their relationships with existing clients. By using these tools to build better relationships, small businesses can probably benefit from word-of-mouth over time. They wouldn’t necessarily deliver results like hootsuite but they can definitely help build a loyal customer base at a fraction of the cost.

  • Excellent article, as a web developer I see a lot of businesses who wants to do something in social media, but not sure where to start. Will keep this article bookmarked to recommend for them to read.

  • Really excellent advice!  Especially like the ‘find Twitter users within a 3 mile radius” – great stuff!  Sharing it with me network.

  • Great post!

  • Great article, could use some proof-reading…

  • We have heard that before as well. Most of the intimidation comes from the fact that Twitter is like public broadcast, and we know no one likes spammy broadcast. You have to sound interesting and add value to your audience – THAT is hard, but I think everyone has something valuable to say and everyone can find an audience. If you’re a business and you have customers, they might just be interested in what you have to say and offer!

    Thanks Charlene for a great post!

  • Thanks Charlene for the excellent post.  You make it easy for a social-media newb like me to understand.
    One thing I struggle with is the effective use of hash tagging.  I have read a lot of conflicting advice on hash tagging and I wonder what your take is on optimizing hashtags usage for a new business.

  • Susan Newman

    My biggest problem with Twitter right now is it will not let me follow anyone new until the followers equals the people I follow, so each week now I have to unfollow some, in order to follow new… quite a pain really.

  • You are welcome. I agree that businesses have a lot of things to say that would interest customers and potential customers. I feel that they often miss rich conversation topics because it is information they constantly live with, and it’s not that interesting to them any more.

  • I feel what is most important is having a Twitter strategy. With a solid strategy, you can use and get great results. 

    I see a lot of business people who think social media is a short cut to business success. It takes time and work to build relationships no matter where you have the conversations (in person or through social media).

  • Thanks, Andrei. 

  • Glad you like it, Barbara. I wrote last month about how to find local customers with Twitter. Here’s the link ( Twitter is really great for finding local people.

    Try this link:

  • Thanks, Erika. I recommend that you use Twitter lists to start identifying and collecting people in locations where you will do book signings. Very excited about your upcoming publication!

  • Thanks for the no-holds-barred feedback. I always appreciate honesty.

  • I would recommend that you limit your use of hashtags.With my own business, I only use them when I’m part of a tweet chat or tweeting from an event with a hashtag. In those situations, people are looking for specific conversations.

    Many people, especially newbies, get confused with they see a tweet with a hashtag. If you are just adding them to help people who are searching by topic, they can search without using the hashtag. It seems to me that adding the hashtag requires the audience to have an even deeper understanding of Twitter. I recommend keeping it simple.

    Others may not agree and may jump in here to share their opinions with you.

  • I understand your pain. I’m at the point myself. For those of you who don’t know, when you reach 2,000 people you are following, Twitter kicks in a new rule that you can only follow 10% more than follow you. So that means if you have 2,000 followers, you can be following up to 2,200 people.

    Here are a few things I did to cope:
    1) Unfollow people who have stopped tweeting. I use UnTweeps, and 60 days.
    2) Shift some of the people you follow to lists. You can have up to 20 lists with up to 500 people. You don’t have to follow someone to put them on a list.
    3) Try imposing the 10% rule now. I mean, don’t let your following be larger than your followers by 200.

    I’d recommend that you focus on a small number of audience segments for now, the ones that add the most value to your business today. Keep them, and really engage them in conversations. Build your community around them. Reach out to other audience segments over time as your 10% grows.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for the detailed tips, Charlene. Are there any advantages of using Hootsuite over TweetDeck? 

  • I have used them both. It’s been over a year since I’ve used TweetDeck, so my knowledge is not the most current on that tool. I thought a year ago that they were similar enough that they were almost interchangeable. However, HootSuite was web-based, which meant I could use it on my desktop or laptop interchangeably. TweetDeck is a program you download and install on your computer. But I believe TweetDeck now has a web-based option.

    Twitter just purchased TweetDeck, so it will be interesting to see how that product changes and evolves.

    Maybe someone else will jump in here and offer a more experienced opinion for you.

  • Hey I’ve been following this blog for a short bit but, I always find great stuff to read like this. I’m an artist and I couldn’t be happier to find great articles like this! Thank you

  • Thomas Cheng

    Excellent articles !! Hope I can start now.

  • So glad you like the post. I’m one of many writers who contribute to Social Media Examiner. I believe it’s the best source for social media information for business people. That’s why I contribute here. 

    Stay tuned. If you can do just one new thing each week, you’ll keep growing and will get the results you expect from social media.

  • Take it slow, Thomas. Try something. See how it works. The try something else. It gets easier, and it’s usually a lot of fun, too.

  • Great advice thank you so much

  • Charlene, is there any tool to find “Use Twitter to reach out to potential customers who live or work within 3 miles of your location.” ?

  • One more thing i forget to let you know I’m already using Twellow.

  • René Power

    Big Twitter advocate…but I rarely use the Twitter platform itself! The four points in the original post are excellent reminders and should help ensure that you don’t can spend too much time setting it up and making it work for you.

  • propagandahouse

    great tips Charlene! Something I try and do is maintain a consistent balance between my own tweets and sharing other peoples stuff – there’s no exact numbers involved but I always try to do a certain amount of RT’s or @ mentions each day to make sure I’m engaging and not just broadcasting

  • Nice write up!!! Thanks for sharing would make a practical use of all the points mentioned…

    webmaster at

  • This is a great article and loved the new apps shared here. I am going to give it a try.

  • Nina Borgersen

    Yes, it can be hard for an “insider” to put himself in the mind of a general audience. We will be experimenting with customer personas to motivate a selected number of staff to engage in social media, and start thinking about their vocabulary, topics etc. They have a lot of technical knowledge, but they are not used to thinking in terms of market communication.   

  • Bogdan Wegrzynek

    Great social media  Marketing !
    Bogdan Wegrzynek MBA

  • I hadn’t seen the value of lists until reading this article. Thanks for the tips – all good advice and well written. 

  • Getting used to Twitter takes time. It is about developing relationships, not the hard sell.

  • Getting used to Twitter takes time. It is about developing relationships, not the hard sell.

  • A lot of good stuff here, I think that time spent in developing a strategy is time spent wisely and having clear objectives to your twitter activities will reap rewards

  • I love that you mentioned having the insider outlook. That’s exactly how I talk about this with my clients. It’s about being able to stand in an outsider’s shoes and look in. When a business finds that viewpoint, they unlock the door to understanding their customer.

  • You are welcome, Martin. Keep coming back. There are fresh articles here every day.

  • Yes, there are several tools. I wrote about it last month ( has the Twellowhood. This article only mentions a couple ways, and there are many more tools. But the basic strategy is the same no matter which tool you use. Good luck with your community building.

  • Thank you, Rene. I spend most of my time in Hootsuite, but I also keep a tab open into I find some things are easier inside Twitter, and it keeps me current on Twitter changes. And there have been many small changes lately. 

  • That’s a really smart strategy. I think it’s about finding a balance over time. Each day, actually each hour is different. Some days, I spend most of my time replying and answering questions. Other days, no one seems to have questions so I do other tasks like community management.

  • Thank you. And good luck with your Twitter strategy. Be willing to try new things and see how they work. 

  • Good luck to you!

  • Thank you, Bogdan.

  • Thanks, Jennie. I’m glad I helped you understand lists. Many times, seeing someone use a tool gives us insights into how we can use it. Keep an eye on businesses doing smart things on social media. You can learn a lot from their examples.

  • There are a lot of people using Twitter with a one-way communication strategy. Twitter doesn’t stop them, but it’s not effective. Good luck with your Twitter adventure.

  • I agree with that, Les. I believe every venture performs better when people take even a few minutes to set goals and think through the strategy. With each project, you learn a little more and get better. It’s really a journey and not a destination.

  • Ann Ehnert

    Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or another social media
    outlet, these sites should not be treated any different than other marketing
    avenues. It’s important to first build a foundation, a strategy that outlines
    your goals, action plan and analysis. In fact, so many components make up
    social media sites, like Twitter, that without a strategy, a business could get
    lost in trying to figure out what everything means, what should or shouldn’t be
    tracked and how often the site should be watched/updated/etc.

    Great reminder that businesses, no matter what size, should
    have steps in order to manage social media success.


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  • How does Twitter best benefit a business?

  • People will talk to you when you talk sense and those talks are really helpful. once that comfort level is gained i guess then ur engagement index will go ahead. great tip and i so agree to ur conversational strategy. over the time even i have learnt this. 

  • share to grow. u build ur own community and then they do things for you. just don’t be an online salesman other wise people are very smart to unfollow 🙂 it requires time and patience too 😀

  • Thomas Cheng

    When I rely back to you consider is tweeter already? What else should I do beside that to start.

  • Well said @twitter-246373019:disqus .Share to Sell 

  • Thank you for sharing another great article i will use your given tips to increase influence.

  • I really recommend just using Twitter until you master all of its features. Twitter has location features if you want to explore that. The most important thing about Twitter is conversation. Focus on talking with your followers first for long term success.

  • Good points, Ann.

  • Strictly speaking, Twitter doesn’t benefit a business. Customer conversations benefit a business, and many of those conversations can take place on Twitter. Twitter offers a completely different type of conversation experience from other tools. It’s more immediate. You can reach out to strangers. You can build a community based on location. What type of communication best benefits your business depends entirely on your business and your goals. Always start from your business goals, Tim. Social media isn’t about tools but is about conversation. What do you have to talk about? Where are your customers and potential customers? Start there and then decide if Twitter is a smart place to have some of your business conversation.

  • It sounds like you are doing a lot of good work, Prasant. It always helps if you really understand your target community, what challenges they face, and what information they need. It helps you to laser focus on their problems with your solutions. I recommend a wide range of conversation topics for variety and to help many people.

  • Very true Charlene the WHY creates the diff rather than WHAT and HOW. Stronger the WHY is the more you can reach out. Cause then you are giving people an option to be interested in your talks or what you share. I agree to your point that conversation topics should be wide range :). Yes Twitter is a lovely place and people like u and @smexaminer:twitter are my dope to work 🙂

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  • Great tips, Chalene. That’s interesting about public lists. Will have to use that tip. Working on a conversation strategy, but have found that anything that surrounds what my ideal customer profile person does works the best. Thanks for your tips on Twitter.  

  • You’ve found the core of your conversation strategy, Gabrielle. Many businesses struggle to find topics that interest their community. I believe every business has many great conversation topics, but because its information the business takes for granted, they don’t think the topics are that interesting. It’s sometimes tricky to put yourself into the shoes of your community and view your business as an outsider. But it’s a great way to figure out what your community finds interesting to talk about. 

  • Chock-full of great ideas! I love the tips on creating a conversation strategy specially skipping the auto-DM and “thanks for the follow message” replacing it with a personal and authentic voice just work better.

  • Hi charlene, that link is broken because it adds the ). on the end – for the URL novice they may just get stuck… btw, great advice!

  • Thanks for letting me know. I’m going to try posting that link again.

    If that doesn’t work, find my author bio (end of the article before the comments) and they have a link to my articles. The article is 5 Ways To Use Twitter To Connect With Local Customers.

  • Thanks, Aaron. It takes a little more time to create a personal message, but if you want to build relationships, they require conversation. They are worth investing a little more time. 

  • J Lagos

    Charlene, do you have any tips for Twitter Measurement? Tools for instance, but also what types of things should we be paying attention to?

  • Twitter is becoming a type of email list.  We can organize them by category.  Only now we see results in real time.

  • Hi Charlene, I’m glad that I found your site. What you have shared here is really helpful to me. As a blogger, I know I should maximize my market in my blog site and Twitter will help me. I should create account soon in Twitter so that there will be raised in traffic in my site. Thanks a lot for sharing this information.

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  • That’s a great question. Here’s what I’m currently monitoring with my own business Twitter use.

    – Klout score. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good indicator of my general connectedness. I look for improvement every other week or monthly.
    – Number of mentions per week. I watch for trends. I also make note of what people comment on the most so I can talk more about those topics.
    – Number of  at replies vs broadcast messages I write. I keep an eye on the balance. It changes week to week. I make sure I’m having lots of conversations.
    – Within Hootsuite, I check the click throughs on shortened URLs to see which topics people like the best. I write more about those topics.
    – Listed number. I learn a lot about how others see me by the names of the lists I’m added to.

    You may have noticed that I don’t monitor follower or following counts. I let those things work themselves out.

  • The beauty of Twitter is that it is many things to different people. It’s effective as a broadcast channel. Just make sure that your audience expects and wants broadcasts. If they want conversation, you will wear out the channel and have high follower churn.

  • Social Media Examiner is a great resource. There’s a new article every day from a different featured blogger. You can learn a lot here. Twitter will let you send out notices when you have new blog connect. But it will also let your readers have a quick way to talk with you about your content and about things that are on their minds.

    Best of luck to you and your business efforts.

  • Nice one! Thank you!

  • You are most welcome, Gero. 

  • Mike Pascale

    Excellent and helpful article.

    I must disagree about “having a conversation” on Twitter. It’s not really about that because there’s no easy way to have or follow a true conversation. That’s what Facebook is for, and is much, much better for that purpose. You make your post and everyone’s comments show up underneath it, as a REAL conversation.

    A message board is better.

    Even a blog is better for that because of the comments function, where people can follow.

    And seriously, a real conversation between two human beings limited to 140 characters? Try that on your phone or at a restaurant. LOL

    But o/w, thank you for the helpful info.


  • I appreciate your opinion, Mike. It’s always helpful to the people who read a post to hear divergent points of view. 

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  • I’m newbie in internet and I wan’t to promote my site in twitter but don’t how. I got a great idea in this article and hope I can gain more followers 🙂

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  • I am fairly new with Twitter, but I have always believed that the best way to understand anything and get good at it, is to wade in and start using it (like Twitter) – you learn along the way and the answers will come. Nike said it best: “Just do it.”

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  • Very nice Guide! Thanks alot!

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