social media how toTwitter is a great tool for conversations, building community, finding brand advocates and reading the latest news. That’s why celebrities, athletes, your competitors—and hopefully you—are on Twitter.

The growth and usage of Twitter is not surprising. estimates approximately 21 million unique monthly visitors, and a quick search on Twitter yields a variety of conversations from music, sports, politics, events and products.

For business however, there’s an art to using Twitter, and the most successful at it follow an unwritten set of rules. The following are 5 important tips to follow on Twitter; all lessons that I have learned while working for companies like HP, Yahoo! and Intel.

#1: Do Some Research

Research is fundamental. I suggest that marketers or small business owners spend a few weeks understanding what types of conversations are happening on Twitter and then formulate a communications plan before actually engaging. This will help drive consistency in the messages shared on Twitter.

#2: Determine Your Goals

Not all businesses use Twitter the same way. Some, like @ComcastCares, use Twitter merely for customer support. Dell uses Twitter to sell products or share company-related information. Often, I see smaller, more local businesses use it to build relationships with their constituencies to drive customer loyalty programs.

Whatever your goals are, it’s important to think about what you want to achieve with Twitter before spending your valuable time and resources on it.

#3: Specify Your Twitter Profile

There are many options you can use when creating a Twitter profile. You can create a company-branded account, a personal account or a hybrid account.

Branded account:

5 tips branded

A branded account is simply where your Twitter name corresponds with the name of your company, and usually the avatar is your company logo.

Personal account:

5 tips personal

A personal account is a little more human and unites your own personal brand with that of the company you work for or own.

Hybrid account:

5 tips hybrid

A hybrid account usually takes different elements from both the branded and personal accounts.

Every business is different, so whichever option you choose, there has to be a level of balance. Branded profiles are great for certain content—for example, industry news, contests, investor relations, etc. Personal profiles are more beneficial if your organization wants to leverage the employee’s personal micro-community or wants to have a more human presence.

When I worked for Intel, I used two profiles to build community: my personal Twitter profile and one I created for Intel. I followed an 80/20 rule that seemed to work perfectly for the community that I engaged with.  On my personal account, 80% of what I shared was conversational (i.e., asking/answering questions, sharing industry-related news, etc.) and 20% was Intel-specific content. The branded account was the opposite—80% of the content shared was Intel-specific and 20% was personal.  This worked very well and click-through rates on links I shared were well above industry average.

#4: Build Social Equity

To be successful on Twitter, you have to build trust and credibility with your community. The end result is an increase in your social equity. That doesn’t always translate to the number of followers, tweets, or retweets you may have either. Rather, it’s more about developing a reputation as a trusted source of information or being seen as an expert in a particular subject.

You won’t succeed in building your equity by pushing out one way marketing messages about your business. Instead ask questions, be personal, and engage people naturally within the community. Otherwise, customers won’t listen to what you have to say and your equity may even decrease.

Buying Twitter followers is not recommended either. There are a lot of companies that will promise you thousands of followers for a very low price. The problem is that many of the followers will never read your content, click through to your links and they’re probably just bots spitting out a multitude of links. Besides, if it becomes public that you did purchase followers, you will be called out by the community and your reputation may be damaged.

It’s not worth buying followers just to increase your “perceived” equity and influence because that’s all it will be, perceived.

#5: Track, Measure and Iterate

Any small- or medium-sized business should invest in a paid tracking service like Radian6 or ScoutLabs to better track Twitter conversations, identify trends, measure sentiment and get a quantifiable snapshot of what’s going on in the social web.

If you want to measure sales, you can simply use a tracking code or coupon code specific for Twitter that will help measure conversions. If you want to measure how much money Twitter has saved your company, you can track how many issues you resolved, leads you gathered, and dollars you saved through Twitter engagement versus traditional channels. If your goal is to handle customer support issues via Twitter, it’s wise to check if there are any decreases in the call volume to your customer support center.

The great thing about using Twitter for your business is that it’s very easy to iterate your metrics and communications plan on the fly. It’s important, however, to remember that your plan should always map back to your goals and objectives so you don’t lose focus.

What Twitter tips would you add? Are you tracking your Twitter activity?  Got a question?  Please comment in the box below.

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  • Very interesting! Thanks for the great tips!

  • I like all 5 tips, especially the last one. In order for us to track down our efforts in Twitter or any social media platform, we must figure out our return on investment (ROI). Bottom line is….we are in business to make a profit.

  • All great tips, Michael. I’d like to give an extra nod to number 5 and say that it’s extremely important, yet overlooked. Once things start going smoothly people tend to stop trying to improve. There’s always room for improvement, so keep checking what’s working and what’s not and adjust accordingly.

  • I’m curious what the community thinks about FourSquare vs. Twitter. I can see 4Square being of great use to local businesses in particular. What do you think?

  • sallydanbury

    Thanks for this – I signed up for your updates recently and now actively look out for them. They are really straightforward and useful in helping you to think about why you are tweeting in the first place, to refocus on your goals and ensure your messages are well postioned, yet natural, and if not, how to overcome previous naive mistakes.

  • Just like getting good at something you’ve never done before takes some time, I would add to just be consistent and patient. You’ll soon find out that this is actually really fun, you’re meeting new people and have a chance to influence them.

  • I used FourSquare for the first time a couple of days ago to find a new local restaurant. I thought it was super easy to use and, if the business is paying attention, it can be great for them. I’m fairly new to tweeting also. Of course there will be overlapping users, but I think there will be a good number of people who use 4Square who will never use Twitter – there’s a bigger learning curve with Twitter. 4Square is very clear and easy to understand right off the bat. With Twitter, it takes a minute to understand the symbols and abbreviations.

  • Thanks for sharing your twitter insight Michael.

    I strongly agree with #4. Never buy followers. Genuine interest can’t be bought. All you’re purchasing is numbers. People luv people; they hate bots.

  • MikesPad

    Very cool article.

  • First of all: great blog as usual, love the work you guys deliver on SME!

    In step 1 i’d like to see an analysis of your current ‘network’. Customers, suppliers, your LinkedIn contacts and prospects you have stored some place or other. It’s of much importance to declare a strategy, tone of voice and direction before you start any of the following steps. Your existing ‘network’ is the best place to finetune your messages and get a feeling of Twitter before more followers will appear whom are truely new. It does wonder not to feel alienated in the start of our Twitter carreer and have a realistic expectancy of how man people might follow you and for what reasons.

    Somewhere in these steps i’d like to see an estimate of time (and thus resources) spent on Twitter. Just following these steps does not provide a business owner of the time and energy it’s going to cost to maintain a succesfull Twitter strategy. This has been the reason to quit Twitter for a lot of businesses, resulting in followers feeling left behind and a negative opinion of your company.

    In my humble opinion both suggestions are vital to a succesfull and happy life on Twitter 😉

  • Mary Fletcher Jones

    I like how you categorized the 3 types of Twitter profiles: branded, personal, and hybrid.

  • I think for small business owners the hybrid profile is best. People prefer following people. I think you need to be a well known brand to tweet behind a faceless logo. Building social equity, as you state in #4, requires engagement. Engagement is a human activity.

  • Thanks for the great feedback Matt!

  • Being new to Twitter, this article has been very helpful

  • jmsmoots

    Valuable and proven tips. The best approach is to define your audience and goals first and then pick the tool. Social media should not be tool-driven but business goal driven. So many jump right into Twitter before evaluating if this is the best place to ‘play’ on the social web. Twitter requires daily engagement so if the organization does not have manpower, content or budget to feed and monitor their Twitter channel every day, then a less frequent engagement tool, like blogging may be better. You also need to validate where your audience is on the social web.

  • Michael, great tips. I’d like to add to #2: tell your followers what your goal is. For example, if you’re only going to give me news, I won’t expect any more.

  • Very interesting points on twitter.Thanks.

  • Olivia

    Very good information and applicable to all business types. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

  • Inam Sheikh

    Very informative!

  • Whenever I find someone who hasn’t done much with Twitter they always mention that they don’t know what they would say. I usually tell them it’s not about talking, it’s about listening, sharing and connecting. Your 5 tips capture it nicely Michael.

    Hope all is well with you.


    PS. Thanks for that Radian6 shoutout. Always appreciated.

  • Wonderful advice. Goal setting is a must with all social media. It’s often looked over, but determining how best to attack a social network is essential to your success with it.

  • A tool I just learned about is It allows you to see when people stop following you on Twitter and around what Tweets they decided to stop following. Anyone else heard about this one?

  • Might also wants to mention the shortening of links included in tweets and the easy tracking of click-throughs generated by these links. , for example.

    @WLLK Are Twitter ads coming soon? The fine line between tweets & ads and the impact. Twitter COO walks the line:

  • I quite agree that research and goal-setting are important. Taking the time to do both will minimize wasteful meandering and save tweet-crafting time. As a small business owner, I decided on a hybrid profile (although I didn’t think of it in those terms at the time). It allows me to mix-up my tweets so it’s not always about business. If I read an interesting article or find a helpful/inspirational quote, I share gladly. So I guess my tweet tip is: aim for focus (for your business benefit) and fun (for broader community benefit).

  • Great tips! I think retweeting other information is a great way to build convos and spread news. I also think that thanking people and responding to messages is very important. You want to show followers that you are human.

  • jonnylucas

    Great approach Michael, thanks for sharing your expertise and tips! I see twitter as a great way to build a community around your business blog, make contacts and attend customers requests, doubts and critics.

    Join the conversations at for this and other related business topics

  • Swathi

    Very well written! For a novice like me, helps in assimilating the opportunity and the way to get there too…thank you!

  • Great Article!

  • Building trust is the cornerstone of any Social Media site, not just Twitter. I agree with the other points too, but can you tell me how you came up with the 80/20 split?

  • Thanks for the article – these are great, simple steps that anyone can follow. Your tip #4 is especially important — you need to build some equity by interacting with people. I recently conducted an experiment where I tested how companies engaged their customers using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. The twist was I looked at it from a customers perspective. One of the key findings was that many companies risk alienating their customers by being all ‘media’ and no ‘social’. (My web address links to a page describing the experiment where you can download the whitepaper for free if you are curious.) Great job!

  • scruffles4

    Hi there, Great tops. I especially like #4 it’s all about a community, building trust and sharing I would much rather to that with people who have some interest in what I have to say and visa versa not some faceless numbers that care little about the whole concept of these platforms or why they are even there.
    I am very interested to hear about people struggling with the time factor and the need to dedicate resourses and man power to your social networks. My Company Scruffles has just developed a new programme which is suddenly opening up a whole new avenue of applications which were not included in the original design process, one of these is the ability to upload a single message to numerous destinations and get statistical feedback of traffic volumes etc.
    So the user can upload one message to say Twitter, facebook and a blog + others all with one entry, this has got to make a difference with time management, while still remaining personal and involved with the bonus of statistical data. Sorry not trying the sales pitch here, just wondering as this is a new application we hadn’t originally thought of, would this be beneficial.

    Loved the article great tips thanks……

  • Being new to the Social Media world, I found this information to be very helpful. The additional feedback helps with the learning process.


  • Nate Ludens

    Another very useful post. CEOs everywhere should subscribe here! Keep up the great work!

  • Good post, with 5 tips well laid out and with clarity. A future topic area would be more detail on social media measurement. I’m certain many companies would be interested at how they are able to justify the investments they have poured into social media.

  • Elise Kjonnerod

    Great article. One thing that annoys me are Tweets that are always narcissistic and know-it-all. I like hearing from experts, but it’s best to sound humble and down-to-earth (human) at times.

  • Nice article,

    I strongly agree with point #4 about buying followers. I don’t understand why someone would want followers such as these anyway, they are pretty much robots that do not engage in any sort of conversation and usually just post RT’s and links.

    I use a pretty simple rule when it comes to following. If someone follows us, I check out their page and if I can’t find some semblance of a human there (i.e. nothing but RT’s, quotes, and links) they wont get a follow back from me. To me, this person is a robot, meaning they probably have all of their tweets auto-generated, and the likelihood of them engaging in a conversation with me is laughable since they most likely are in a “set it & forget it” mode when it comes to Twitter. These types of users are a waste of time, and not worth a follow. A page full of Gandhi quotes is not very enticing to someone looking to have real conversations with real people.

    While it’s nice to brag about having 300,000 followers, you have to ask yourself how many of those followers care, or even see the messages that you put out there? If the majority of them are “robot-users” who simply “feed instead of read”, your message is probably not being seen at all.

    Thanks again for the nice article and sorry about the rant 🙂


  • Great Article! I am about to start working with a Local Theatre on their social media presence and this really helped to re-focus my efforts. Thanks


  • This is an extremely practical presentation that gives great examples of how to engage people in executing the plan. I found this very insightful. Well done. Thank you

  • Good article.

  • This is a great article. I use twitter a lot so I have found this very useful. Thanks!

  • Robin Carlisle

    Great and simple Twitter tips! I can implement these immediately. Thanks.