A beginner’s guide to Twitter for business

It will pay for businesses both big and small to have a good understanding of Twitter - here's a guide to the ‘next big thing’.

If your business wants to share articles and blog posts, then there is the option to put in links into your tweets so that followers can click through to them. The same is true if you want to look at links put in from others.

Third-party applications

The internet is already chock-a-block full of different applications to make your Twitter experience easier as well as other tools which can allow you to use it on websites such as Facebook or handheld devices such as Apple's iPhone.

When it comes to ease of use, probably the best application is Tweetdeck. Once you've got your Twitter account to follow more than about 50, it gets very easy to get muddled with different contacts. For instance, some of the people you are following may be customers while others may be employees of your company. You may also be using it to message your non-work related friends.

With Tweetdeck, it is simple to separate the different people and companies that you are following into different groups. It is also much more modern interface based on the Adobe AIR platform, and is a lot smoother to use than anything on the website.

There is a range of applications which allow your handheld device to be used to send and receive Twitter messages on the go, as well as a huge list of fan created apps which will make your Twitter experience more productive.

A Twitter policy

It's all well and good learning the basics of Twitter, but to make your business use it properly will take organisation, time and a proper strategy.

If you want to use Twitter as a business account, you'll have to decide whether you want all your employees to use it as a group, or whether it would work better run by an individual. An ideal situation would be to have one person own the company Twitter account most likely the chief executive of the company.

One thing you have to make sure not to do is simply create a raw Twitter feed and spew links very quickly people will get bored of this so make sure you have at least one human behind it.

If you are the manager and you intend for your employees to use Twitter, then it is best to set out some firm ground rules.

Jason Preston, new media manager for the Parnassus Group, has three guidelines for managers trying to create a work Twitter policy, who are happy to let employees tweet on company time.

He says employees should be required to display the company logo on the background of their Twitter page, and that at least 20 per cent of their tweets should relate to work. As well, employees should be encouraged rather than required to @tweet the company-branded Twitter account at least once a week.

However, on a network such as Twitter, experimentation is the name of the game. In the end, it's up to both boss and employee to create their own rules which everybody will be happy with.

Marketing your business

Once you've got the basics right then its time to market and promote yourself on Twitter. It's important to register your Twitter name as quickly as possible so users can easily find you.

With the Twitter Search function you'll be able to find tweets about your product, which you can respond to as you see fit. If you know somebody who is using your product, then you can also follow up any of the responses you get.

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