Learning to use Twitter for a business - A summary of my 'expert' advice

This evening I was a guest expert at an event for business women wanting to improve their use of twitter. The event was hosted by More To Life Than Shoes, a networking group, and there were four guest twitter 'experts', me being one of them!

We gave general introductions, and then separated off to talk to each of the four tables in a round robbin fashion. Each table had a speaker leading them, and then each speaker swapped round.

There was a twitter fall (a display of all tweets with the hashtag #shoesrocks on the wall) so it was awesome to see some of my followers engaging with the event from afar.

I thought I would do a quick blog to summarise some of the things I got asked more than once, and to give my response to some of the hashtagged questions too.

I am very aware that there is no one-fix solution for all, but I can only give my advice based on my own experiences. Feel free to disagree!

I tended to use my time with each group to explain the basics of Hootsuite/Tweetdeck and the benefits of jumping straight in with a platform. I talked through each of my main ten streams, and why I had each one. Depending on the questions asked by each table I varied my input, some wanted more basic things addressed while others wanted more strategy type questions answered. I hope I helped in some small way!

1. Keeping a business life and a personal life separate on twitter. My personal response is that I use twitter primararily for business. Yes, I love it, and I make many friends from it, but twitter is still the main way people connect with me and my brand. I never forget that. My personal life is best kept for real in the flesh people.

2. How conversational can a business be on twitter? I think if you aren't conversational you are probably missing the point of twitter. Twitter is about engaging, and being social! But you can decide to focus on topics of conversation that support your business brand, and won't jeopardise it in any way. I used Mark Zuckerberg as a great example of this, although there are many I could have chosen! Mark set up a facebook account for his dog, and updates millions of fans with photos of what his dog is up to. It gives Mark's fans a way to feel connected to him, without Mark over-sharing. It also doesn't impact on how seriously we take him as a business man.

3. Is it ever acceptable to publically 'out' a company with bad customer service? I think this has two elements to it. Firstly, I would want to make sure I had given the company a fair chance to rectify the situation. I would hope for the same if I ever made a mistake. Secondly, does the tweet support my personal twitter brand? What do I get out of it, and what do my followers get out of it?

4. How can you sell yourself without sounding like a machine? I think Twitter works best when you are not focusing on your direct selling. It is a longer game than that. My advice would be focus on connecting first, and the selling bit can come a little later. 

5. How important is it to interact with followers on a personal level? Crucial, and that really is the heart of what makes twitter amazing. We get to connect with people in ways we never did before. From a business point of view, if you connect with someone personally they are pretty likely to remember you. They may want to recommend you to others, or may one day want to buy from you...or not. But they at least know who you are.

6. How do you find the right followers to allow your twitter voice to be heard? To start with, you need to go and speak to them! Find someone who shares a customer base (not necessarily your competition). If you sell wedding packages, you could start by looking at some hen party tweeters for example. 

7. Does anyone plan their tweets? Use spreadsheets? Or do you go with the flow? Personally I don't schedule any tweets, but I do know some people who do. My only word of caution would be to consider what outcome you want from a tweet - if its scheduled and you're not on twitter.....when will you be available to engage with any response? It can work well though, just think about it first!

8. Why do people follow mega corporations? What do they get out of it? Some offer a sneak behind the scenes, some offer discounts, some offer information before it is leaked to any other sources! They may be funny, or interesting. Or perhaps even useful. 

9. Are there any RT (retweet) rules? I suppose there is! I think on the whole twitter is against RTing every compliment you ever get, but many businesses do manage to and pull it off. I RT quite a lot of mine, as I know people find it helpful when buying a product unseen, but I may well reply in the RT, or add a link, to make it more useful to my followers. 

10. How do you introduce a new business on twitter without being annoying? Remembering that most people aren't as interested in your business as you are! My advice would be to focus on engaging first, joining conversations, and talking to people in the industry, without mentioning it too much at all! Twitter is a slow game, and you won't suddenly have an amazingly successful twitter account. Be patient!

I hope I managed to cover with the groups some discussions about personal branding, twitter basics, twitter content, expectations, and a general response to 'what, why and who'.