How to Use Twitter for Business: A Beginner's Guide

Twitter is clearly the hot topic for anyone interested in innovative communications, social media, or simply reaching out to a broad audience.  For the uninitiated, however, joining and using Twitter for business use can feel a bit daunting. This guide explains the Twitter world, how to use Twitter for business, and practical ways it can benefit you and your business.

What is Twitter?

The CEO of Zappos.com (and avid Twitter devotee), Tony Hsieh (@zappos), compares Twitter to a CB radio for text messaging. You basically answer the question "What are you doing right now?" in a 140-character-or-less format, anytime you like. Don’t worry about going over your limit—Twitter provides a character counter.

What is a tweet?

Any message you send via Twitter is called a “tweet,” and it is sent to anyone who “follows” you on Twitter, as well as the whole Twitter universe unless you set your profile to private. As a business using twitter, you can send an SMS text message from your mobile phone to Twitter, or directly through your online Twitter account. If you are worried about publicly broadcasting your thoughts—fear not. You can control your Twitter account and who follows you by using privacy settings. In fact, you can have more than one Twitter account, in the event that you want to separate your personal account from your small business Twitter account.

Here are some examples of BizFilings’ tweets (@bizfilings) and the format in which they are displayed:

@MarkBizFilings
BizFilings Not all Registered Agent services are the same! Be sure you know what you’re getting for the best value: http://bit.ly/41mkkl
BizFilings 2 minutes ago

Or:

@DebbieBizFilings
The key to successful business is meticulous planning.
BizFilings 45 minutes ago  

Why should I use Twitter for business?

At first, tweeting may seem an unnatural way to share your thoughts and ideas, but there are practical applications for a business using Twitter. Twitter offers a unique platform for reaching a broad and welcoming audience― it’s a completely open forum for broadcasting your original ideas, such as:

  • Demonstrating your expertise in a particular field
  • Joining like-minded business communities
  • Sharing links to your blog, website or article
  • Announcing your availability for work
  • Promoting your special products and services

How to create a Twitter account for your business

  1. Go to www.twitter.com and click “Sign up now”
  2. Follow the instructions on how to set up your profile: name, username, password, etc.
  3. Click "Skip" at the bottom of the next page—you can sign up your friends later.
  4. Click “Skip” at the bottom of the next page—or if you see someone you’d like to follow—click the box beside them and click “Finish.” 
  5. Click "Settings" at the top of the next page
  6. Update your name, time zone, and location and click Save. You can fill out the rest later. Don’t select "Protect my updates" unless you have special privacy concerns.  Since the primary goal of any business using Twitter is to promote the business online, you’ll want to keep your tweets public.
  7. Type a message into the ''What are you doing?’’ box. Tweets are public by default but you can block people and communicate in private if you choose. Relationships on Twitter are not reciprocal: people you follow do not have to follow you or give you permission to follow them.
  8. To find your friends or people of interest, click Find People. To follow someone, click the button next to their profile. This will change to say “following.” Their tweets then appear on your Twitter stream automatically.
  9. Customize your small business Twitter page by uploading your photo and creating your profile using the links at the top to the page.

You are now tweeting!  Remember that you can send and receive tweets directly from your mobile phone. Exact instructions for doing so vary according to the device you use, but the US phone number for Twitter is 40404.

Twitter Glossary

Here are some commonly used expressions you’ll encounter once you start tweeting:

@: At reply. A direct tweet sent to another Twitter user.

DM: Direct Message. This is a way of sending a message to someone so that only they can see it—like sending a text message. You can only direct message people who follow you.

RT: Re-tweet. A tweet that you like so much, you are resending it to your followers. Usually preceded by "RT" and "@[username]," to give credit to the original poster.

#: Hashtag. Allows Twitter users to group tweets by topic, making it easier to search particular conversations using Twitter Search such as #FreeIncFriday.

Nudge. A feature that lets you send a note to a Twitterer encouraging them to tweet more frequently. You can only nudge people who are tweeting from a mobile phone.

Link. Including a URL in your tweet.

TwinkedIn. Inviting friends made on Twitter to connect on LinkedIn.

Tweeps. Your "tweeps" are the people on Twitter that you and your business are connected to.