social media how toAccording to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, Twitter is one of the social media tools most businesses want to learn more about.

If your business is not yet on Twitter, this article is for you. Creating a Twitter profile is quick and easy to do; however, you want to make sure you take the right steps when setting up your Twitter accounts.

This is the first of a two-part series of tips for creating Twitter profiles to both facilitate engagement with your Twitter audience and build a strong brand online.

#1: Set Up Your Twitter Account

You should always try to secure Twitter accounts for your real name and your company name to ensure no-one else grabs them.  And businesses should also consider getting Twitter names for any major brands they own. This choice of Twitter names raises some other questions when setting up your Twitter account.

Should you consider having multiple accounts? Twitter can be time-consuming. This is why it’s easier to have one main account. But if you have different conversations with different audiences, it makes sense to have different Twitter accounts.  Two common reasons for having multiple Twitter accounts are to:

Should you use a company account or a personal account? Or both? It depends on your company, how you intend to tweet and whom you want to interact with on Twitter. Watch this video to hear how Ann Handley tweets under @marketingprofs. And this one in which Scott Monty talks about how Ford uses Twitter.

Ann Handley tweets under the Twitter name @MarketingProfs for and openly associates her name to the Marketing Profs Twitter profile.

#2: Choose Your Twitter Name.

Here are some guidelines to help you choose your Twitter name:

  • Your Twitter name is limited to a maximum of 15 characters.
  • Although Twitter names are not case-sensitive, Twitter will save the name exactly as you enter it when you create your Twitter profile. So although you can create your profile with “JohnSmith” and be listed as @JohnSmith, your Twitter fans will be able to find you by using @johnsmith.
  • Avoid names with numbers, uncommon abbreviations and names that are difficult to remember. Keep mobile users in mind and avoid underscores, which require extra steps to type in on mobile phones.

Are you still wondering which Twitter name to choose?  Look for a name easy to relate to who you are and what you represent.

Use your real name or company name? Most people open up more to the Twitter names they recognize as a real person’s name or a company name they trust. If you’re using Twitter for brand management, you will probably want to use your website name (without the “.com”).  You can also use a pen name you use regularly.

Doreen Iannuzzi at Diversity Media Services combines both her name and the abbreviation of her company name. uses their name for their Twitter handle.

Keywords. A Twitter name with a keyword may work well for you if you make it obvious who you are. But for most people, a keyword Twitter name is also associated with spammers and those who push unwanted sales pitches.

Gabriella Sannino uses keywords to target her primary audience.

#3: Upload Your Picture

It’s important to change the default picture to show others you are a real person and not a spambot and you can get a little creative to show your personality.

As Denise Wakeman points out, you may want to use the same picture on all of your social media profiles. This creates stronger online branding as people will notice the same photo on different social media platforms.

Dan Waldschmidt’s photo matches the “outrageous vision” mentioned in his bio.

#4: Use Your Best Link

You only have one active link on your Twitter profile. And before choosing this link, you need to give some thought to your overall online web marketing strategy.  Why are you online?  Where do you want to lead your Twitter followers?  For most people, the link you have on your Twitter profile will go to your website or blog.  This link can easily be changed.

You should also give some thought to the exact page your Twitter visitors will land on when they click the link on your Twitter profile.

#5: Write an Interesting Twitter Bio

It’s important to tell your Twitter followers who you are and what you’ll be tweeting about.  Unfortunately you only have 160 characters to do this in your Twitter bio. It’s usually best to write short sentences to engage the people who read your bio.  But you should also weave in a few important keywords relevant to the people you want to meet on Twitter.  Keywords will help the right people find you.

Judy Dunn creates an engaging picture in her Twitter bio.

It’s easy to want to take up the offer Mike CJ makes in his Twitter bio.

Mari Smith suggests you mention the link to your Facebook Fan Page in your Twitter bio or on your Twitter background as mentioned below. Although this will not be an active link, it should be easy to remember if you have a vanity URL, and it will help grow your Facebook activity.

After completing these five steps, there’s one final step—creating a Twitter backdrop. In the second part of this series of tips covering your Twitter profile, you’ll find out how to use your Twitter background to create a more engaging Twitter presence.

Do you have any Twitter advice to add? Do you use your personal name or your company name to tweet for your business? Please share your tips below.

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  • Thanks for a great article.

    I’ve been trying to impart the importance of being on Twitter to folks I know and they are resistant and reluctant. No doubt, part of that is the fear of the unknown and this article lays it out nice and neat. A perfect introduction to Twitter.

    I will be forwarding this and indexing it wherever I find an empty space 🙂

  • Great tips, and nicely done picking @mikecj’s Twitter profile as an example of an interesting bio!

    Interesting bio will definitely go a long way after creating the first impression with the real photo (no logos!) and username. After these three, one can go and start playing with the background, not before.

  • A great simple guide for those new to Twitter.

    A suggestion for Step 6: Have some interesting things to Tweet about. Once your Twitter account is setup, it’s time to start tweeting! Have some content, thoughts, ideas and opinions ready to tweet about to give your Twitter presence a great start. This will help to build up some followers and become a recognised Tweeter.

  • Thanks for using my Twitter bio in the post! 🙂

    I help a number of businesses with their social media presence and I’ve come full circle in my thinking on using brand names versus personal names. I’m now certain that people much prefer to connect with “Jules” from Lanzarote Information, rather than with “Lanzarote Information” – they definitely would rather deal with a real person than with a company and a logo. As long as it’s explicit in the account (and the business names is searchable) that it’s a business account, it seems to work very well.

  • so much info! I am struggling with the whole idea, but as they say- jump in. I jumped in, got some followers? talking about strange stuff! LOL then I managed to delete my account (how???) , so I set it up again (twitter) the search function puzzles me though – I search for myself or other business’s/people in my area but ? so I will keep reading eventually I’ll figure this out 🙂
    Also got to figure out what to say to folks other than “pick me!” LOL


  • All great tips. people seem to make starting with Twitter more complicated then needed.. your tips really simplify what to do and what the most important things to do are.

  • Straight forward and to the point. Thanks. I’ll be sending newbies to this post!

  • Thank you Dino! As always you are much appreciated!

    It’s interesting how so many people can be reticent about using Twitter, and yet the Social Media Marketing Industry Report shows how many businesses find Twitter valuable.

  • Antii, great to meet another @mickcj fan!

  • Great point Simon! An empty Twitter feed turns people away.

  • As always, Cindy, you create a clear path to follow. What a great set of tips…

  • Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m with you on this. I think it’s because I feel as if I’ve been through 3 spam wars on Twitter and this is the best way to keep a “clean” Twitter account.

  • And how so anecdotal that I just changed that picture recently to a new “semi sophisticated” one…

  • I follow a lot of people who tweet in more than one language from the same account. Many of them are freelance translators and I think managing more than one account would be a burden.

  • A good start to adding content, step 6, is to feed RSS content from the business blog, YouTube channel, etc.

  • When I reply to someone, I incorporate the original tweets meaning in my reply, so if someone looks at my profile, there will not be a bunch of replies that are meaningless.

  • Hey Cindy, thanks you for using me as one of your examples…Good thing I had a professional Gravatar & not Simpson’s Marg. I feel like Molly Shannon in “Superstar”. All kidding aside though I do have another Twitter account @level343 where It’s all about our company & I have noticed the difference. Even though I will admit my personality does come through. People ask what is the magic “bullet” of using your Twitter or establishing a brand with your Twitter account. My response is you are the magic bullet.

  • Great stepping stones to starting on Twitter. I’d always recommend that people have a clear idea of a tone of tweets, or “voice” that they want to use. Many companies are far too formal, and dull. Successful tweeps seem genuine because their tweets sound “real”.

  • We recently started receiving the daily social media examiner updates and continue to learn new things! We started using twitter to broaden our social media base and after putting some time into it have seen some amazing results! For all of the reluctant twitter users, the results do not happen overnight (at least not for us) but after taking the time to learn what to do and what not to do we have seen improvement and have even been exposed to companies we might not have noticed just by a simple web search. We love the simplicity of updating our clients/potential clients by easily linking our Facebook and WordPress content and the challenge of creating tweets that will be retweeted and generate buzz for our small company. So be yourself, keep it professional and have fun!

  • Very simple, but crucial tips explained in a clear manner. Good job.
    Wanted to mention the importance of a customized twitter background, but apparently that’s the 2nd post 🙂

    For brands it can be interesting to use the profile information (160ch) for info on who is engaging (e.g. if multiple people), and use the background for a bit more detailed info on the what & why of the account.
    Regarding the profile link, it would be a good idea to link to a landingpage where all social channels are gathered.

  • thanks for the great article cindy …. keep it up

  • I too find twitter to be my best tool for social marketing – and link everything else through it… Names are very important – to bad I didn’t know Social Media Examiner when I started,,,,, your information is by far my favorite!

  • Hi, Cindy — another useful SME article! It has me thinking about tip #5 .. hmmm …And thanks for picking me as an example. 🙂 Personally, I think real names are important and, yes, to tweet with a “voice”. (I’ve discovered that a number of people I know who, when they first try Twitter, feel they haven’t found their “Twitter voice” … but, almost every one of them have had an “ah-ha” eventually clicks (no pun intended). I look forward to reading more in the coming instalments.

  • Cindy,

    Wow. Thanks including me in this post! I struggled with the personal brand (Judy Dunn) and the business brand (Cat’s Eye Marketing) decision. In the end I went with Cat’sEyeWriter because I market my copywriting under the business name. That allowed me to keep the business identity and still have “writer” in my Twitter name.

    Interesting side note. The “loves oaky Merlot” thing in my profile connected me with @winecountrydog, a blogger and tweeter who I actually met last month when I went to WordCamp San Francisco. He (and his owner of course) treated Bob and I to an afternoon at a wine estate in the hills of Sonoma County. Another amazing Twitter story.

    Can’t wait to read your part 2. Already picked up a couple of new gems in this post.

  • Great guide. Even my father who is a technophobe could understand!

  • Hi Cindy,
    Great straight forward steps for getting onto Twitter and making the most out of your profile.
    Is there a couple of steps that come before Step 1, one: why do we want to be on Twitter and what do we want to get out of it and two: who is responsible for it….?


  • Great article, I have recently taken over my companys twitter account form my Predecessor and am finding it difficult to find my own twitter voice. Also, I would really like to findt he best ways to find and befriend people on twitter, is it all about following people or is there another way? Any tips would be hugely welcome! Also can you change your twitter name once it’s already setup?

  • For once, I have actually done all that you have suggested here for my business! I hope something great comes out of this exercise!

    Wonderful blog for all those who are truly interested in social media marketing!

  • Hi Laurie, it sounds like you’ve had a bit of a rough start. Maybe the best thing to do is just to sit back and follow a few people you like for a short while. What words best describe what you are most interested in? Use those in Twitter search and try to find a few people to follow interested in the same topics. I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon after that.

  • Hi John. I wonder if the people who make it more complicated are the ones with full time jobs outside of social media and who feel they need to “learn” this all at once.

  • Thank you Michael!

  • Hi Janine, I take my hat off to the people who do have several Twitter accounts. Although one personal account and one professional account might be fairly easy to manage.

  • Thanks for the tip gfriese!

  • Thank you for the tip, John. This makes it easy to jump into conversations too.

  • Hey Cindy!

    How are you?
    Thank you for sharing this fantastic tips!
    This could also help in my business. 🙂

    Oh, by the way, I made a blog about this at my hub site.


  • careymsd

    Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for this great post!
    I will be linking back often. I wish I had taken some of your steps earlier. But now that I have a following its hard to go back. But I will add a profile (personally picture) instead of a logo. And for some you can manage multiple accounts with something like Hootsuite. I usually set my tweets up in a hour or so and schedule them through out the week. I know that is not good for all. Thanks again.


  • This is a great overview.
    We’ll definitely keep these points in mind when talking to clients who are skeptical about Twitter.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • May

    Thanks for this article. It’s so important for all businesses to use twitter. The one issue I see a lot is that small business owners say that they don’t have time to use twitter and never know what to say. They need to get over that one hump to get results.

  • Clyde Poulin

    Thanks for bringing some clarity to what has been a rather intimidating concept to try out.

  • “a clear path to follow” I totaly agree with @ Dan Waldschmidt. We need clear explanations and tips to properly use social media sites for business purposes if we want to be successful by doing so. Besides, even when Twitter seems to be pretty simple to use and to understand, it is not the same if you use it to share tweets with personal contacts to use it in order to achieve a business goal, as business strategy. The article is worth reading because it clearly advises whoever is reading, how to approach Twitter and make it a useful and effective tool for their business strategies.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • The steps to start on twitter are simple, your steps are simple. Setting up twitter correctly is only half the battle.

    I think people get lost in the “building” “using” twitter. It really is the best social media site to build your brand, and drive traffic.. if people just learned to use it

  • susanredmon

    Hi Cindy,

    Thanks for the easy to follow Twitter set-up tips and the examples. I’ll be referring others to this post…it’s a great resource piece.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

    Have a great weekend,

  • Hi Cindy,It’s a nice informative post but other factor which really need to be consider is how to get business from Twitter. I have been struggling with Twitter since 18 months to find the secret of how to generate traffic to the website and finally I got the answer.Its not that much easy to generate traffic from Twitter. I have to spend a huge amount of time on Twitter when compare to other Networking sites which I use. Currently I get quite a decent amount of hits from Twitter.Amjad

  • Those are outstanding tips, Cindy! As a graphic artist and New Media “dude” as well, don’t forget the value of having someone help you come up with some of the graphics you’re referring to above. There are many things that can sink and effort. While the “value” (or lack thereof) of the message and quality of tweets is on the forefront, CRAPPY IMAGES can also showcase that you have no idea what you’re doing before anyone reads anything inside your twitter stream.

    Thanks for a great article and I look forward to participating more. Cheers!

  • Anne

    getting your business on twitter really is so important, and then the next step is the ability to protect your networks while allowing your business to flourish through social media, Palo Alto Networks is hosting a great webinar discussing how all of these different aspects tie together.

  • Great article – just what I was looking for to recommend to some Twitter newbies who are struggling to grasp the basics! Now to hunt for the second part of the article on creating Twitter backgrounds! Once again, thanks

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  • Claudia Barlow

     Actually, the reason for me not being too thrilled with twitter is that I am very verbose, and twitter doesn’t let me say all I want to say, and when it won’t post and I have to cut it down, I am not happy.

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  • Pat Leonard

    Just found this article. Still trying to decide if to set up a business account or use my personal one. I want my brand to be seen as me and the other way around. Starting a new business, so I want to make the right decisions from the beginning. Thank you for the info!