Published on June 28, 2009
The Local Business Owner’s Guide to Twitter 1.1 What is Twitter? ________________________________________________________ 2 1.2 Setting up your Twitter account____________________________________________ 4 1.3 Configuring Your Twitter Account _________________________________________ 7 1.4 Sending Messages ______________________________________________________ 11 1.5 Followers And Following ________________________________________________ 12 1.6 Finding Interesting Twitterers To Follow ___________________________________ 14 1.7 Using Hashtags to Add your Tweets to Breaking News ________________________ 17 1.8 How to use Twitter Guide for Local Businesses ______________________________ 18 1.9 Twitter Marketing Strategies and Tactics, part 1 ____________________________ 22 Patrick Kitano Kevin Boer Pat@domusconsultinggroup.com Kevin@domusconsultinggroup.com
1.1 What is Twitter? Twitter is, simply, a popular and very rapidly growing social media site on which participants communicate with each other by sending short messages — called Tweets – to each other. The most common first reaction to Twitter is even shorter than the average Tweet: Huh? This reaction is common for at least two reasons: 1. The tag line at the top of Twitter asks, “What are you doing?” Answering that question literally and constantly — as many Twitter users seem to — seems like an exercise in narcissism (at worst) or futility (at best). Reading thousands of such Tweets, on the other hand, seems like an exercise in voyeurism. 2. It’s easy to be skeptical about the efficacy of something as simple as Twitter. Shouldn’t a social media site be full of blinking lights, scantily clad teenagers, and tributes to today’s pop stars? (You must be thinking of MySpace.) Or at least have videos, more pictures, and perhaps some games involving throwing virtual puppies at each other? (That would be Facebook.) Trust us — there’s much more to Twitter than what first meets the eye. We aim to show you precisely that during this course. Page 2
Here are some different ways to think about Twitter … 1. Twitter is an extremely effective hyper-local advertising platform for local merchants. With its uncanny ability to connect you with your local community, and specifically with those in your local community who want to hear what you have to say. Twitter is increasingly being used by merchants across the country to advertise deals of the day, daily menus, and local commentary. 2. Twitter is the simplest but arguably the most powerful social networking platform. Like other social media platforms (Facebook, for instance), it’s a way for you to connect with a network of people who share common business interests, or a common geography — or both — with you. Like other social media, Twitter doesn’t exist in an online vacuum; it’s simply an adjunct to the traditional offline interactions that people have always had with each other. 3. Twitter is a serendipity force multiplier. Serendipity, of course, refers simply to those unexpected events that happen in our lives that lead to good outcomes. You’re at an industry conference, for instance, and the person standing in the registration line ahead of you turns out to be exactly the right person you need to talk to in order to consummate a big deal with a prospective client company. By the very nature of Twitter, with the seemingly random connections that are created between seemingly unrelated people, you’ll find that serendipitous events happen not only more frequently, but also with more impact. 4. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. Blogging, of course, is simply a way of easily publishing your content on the Internet. Twitter simplifies blogging by forcing messages to be 140 characters or less, an artifact of its origin as a cell phone text messaging-based communication platform. The strict size limit forces your content to be pithy and prevents you from over-engineering your content. 5. Twitter is a hyper-local real-time citizen journalism platform. Twitter is increasingly turned to as the source of news for events in which time is absolutely of the essence — often natural or man-made disasters. Twitter proved its value facilitating Iranian voices challenging the June 2009 Iranian election, the US Airways Hudson River crash in January 2009, and earthquakes from California to China. 6. Finally, Twitter is a (nearly) spam-proof permission-based marketing system. Because the only people who get your messages are those who choose to “follow” you, spam doesn’t get very far on Twitter. If somebody follows you, and you abuse that trust by spamming your Twitter network, pretty soon your followers will simply stop following you and no longer receive your messages! Page 3
1.2 Setting up your Twitter account To use Twitter, you must, of course, have a Twitter account! Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do; follow along! 1) Start by opening up your browser and going to Twitter.com The home page of Twitter.com (if you don’t already have an account) looks like this: 2) Click on the big green link towards the bottom of the screen that says Get Started — Join! Page 4
3) Put in your name (e.g. John Smith), your desired user name (e.g. johnsmith), the password you want, and your email address. Note that if you have a common name, you may need to try several different permutations before you find a unique user name to use. We recommend, at least for now, using your own name. Type in the squiggly-looking words (designed to frustrate auto-account-creation software “bots.”) Finally, click the big green Create My Account button. 4) Twitter will now bring you to a screen where you’re asked to See if your friends are on Twitter. If you have a web-based email address (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL) and you put in your email address and password, Twitter will look in your address book and invite people there to join you on Twitter. For now, we recommend skipping this step. (We’ll show you later how to add people to your Twitter network.) Click on Skip this step at the bottom of the screen. Page 5
5) The next screen recommends some prominent Twitter users for you to add to your network. The screen says “Look who else is here. Start following them!” Again, for now, click on Skip this step. 6) Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your Twitter account! Page 6
1.3 Configuring Your Twitter Account Now that you’ve set up your Twitter account, it’s time to configure it. Follow along… 1) Go to Twitter.com and log in (if you haven’t done so already). 2) Click on Settings in the upper right corner. 3) You’ll see a number of tabs, including Account, Password, Devices, Notices, Picture, and Design. 4) Click on Account. Your name, user name, and email address will already be filled in. You’ll want to let Twitter know your time zone (so that your Tweets will have the correct time stamp). If you have a web site that gives more information about you, put that into the More info URL box. In the One Line Bio box, put in some quick background information about you. It’s common for Twitterers to put something pithy and/or witty in this box; if your little bio is neither pithy nor witty, that’s fine for now — just put something quick there. Simply keep your eyes open for good ideas on how to improve your bio. Under Location, be fairly specific with your town and state or province; this will make it easier for other Twitterers to find you. Finally, we recommend you do not click Protect my updates. Doing so will require you to give permission individually to each person who wants to follow you. Remember, if somebody follows you, that simply means that they will get your updates, not that you will get their updates. There’s generally no downside to letting other people follow you. Finally, click on Save. Page 7
5) If you need to change your password, you can do so on the Password tab. 6) For now, you can ignore the Devices tab, which is where you can configure Twitter to work via SMS on your cell phone. We’ll talk about how to do this in a later session. 7) Next, click on Notices. The Auto Nudge option isn’t relevant for now. Enable New Follower Emails if you want an email when a new person starts following you. Note that you will receive a lot of emails from enabling this feature, and you should Page 8
Enable Direct Text Emails if you want an email whenever somebody direct messages you. (You’ll find out shortly what a direct message is.) Enable Email Newsletter if you want regular email updates from Twitter about new features. Finally, click on Save. 8) Next, click on Picture. As you’ve no doubt guessed, this is where you can upload a picture of yourself. As you spend time on Twitter, you’ll notice that many pictures are in casual settings. It’s certainly fine, however, to upload a more formal shot of yourself. Unfortunately, Twitter’s picture upload feature isn’t terribly sophisticated, so you’ll need to do some things to get your picture ready. Take this picture, for instance: There are at least three things wrong with it (apart from the goofy grin and the overly formal attire!): It’s not square, it’s too big, and it’s not cropped around the face. Page 9
We recommend using a tool like Paintbrush (which is on most Windows-based computers) or Irfanview to fix these issues. Once you’ve done so, it will look something like this: Once you’ve cropped and saved your picture, go back to Twitter, click on Settings, then click on Picture. Click on Choose File, find the picture you edited, then click on Save. 9) Finally, click on Design. You’ll notice that you can choose from several different themes. Go ahead and pick one that suits you. When you’re done, click on Save Changes. For now, don’t worry about changing the background image or changing the design colors. Page 10
1.4 Sending Messages The basic thing people do on Twitter is, simply, to send out Tweets – Twitter messages. These Tweets are limited to 140 characters, a legacy of Twitter’s origins as a cell phone text-messaging-based communication platform. As you would expect, sending a message on Twitter is ridiculously easy. Follow along … 1) Go to Twitter.com and log in (if you haven’t done so already). 2) Right at the top of the screen, you’ll see a box underneath What are you doing? 3) This is a trick question. Although you can be mundane and say what you’re doing – having breakfast, just finished working out, etc., it will better to make a “tweet” that will be interesting to your followers. One of the best kinds of tweets is breaking news and topics you have special expertise in. For example, tweet “I’m following some Iranian revolutionaries reporting on their country’s turmoil on Twitter now” and then click the update button. 4) You can also add links to your tweet. Many Twitterers do that. For example, tweet “Interesting to follow Iranians reporting on their country’s turmoil… http://www.inquisitr.com/26438/iran-news-on-twitter-blogged-live-from-inside-iran- iranelection/”. In a later lesson, we’ll show you how to “shorten” long URL links so they fit into a 140 character tweet. Page 11
1.5 Followers And Following As you begin to explore around Twitter, one of the first things you’ll notice is that all Twitterers have connections with two types of people: following and followers. In the screenshot below, user kevinboer has 3147 following, and 3318 followers. Followers and following Understanding the difference between these two types of people is critical to understanding Twitter. Here’s what you need to know: First, if you follow somebody, you will get their updates. Second, if somebody follows you, they will get your updates. In the above diagram, user kevinboer is following 3147 people — ie. any time one of those 3147 people sends out a message, user kevinboer will get that message. Conversely, 3318 people are following kevinboer, so any time user kevinboer sends a message, those 3318 people will get it. Page 12
So how do you follow somebody? Simple: You simply click on follow on their Twitter page. For instance, here is the Twitter page for NBA star THE_REAL_SHAQ. You’ll notice the follow button. How to follow somebody If you click on the Follow button, the Follow button will disappear and be replaced with an indication that you are now following that person: Now any time THE_REAL-SHAQ sends a Tweet, his Tweet will appear on your page … because you are following him. And how do other people follow you? That’s the flip side of the same coin; they simply need to go to your Twitter home page and click on your Follow button. Then any time you send out a Tweet, they will get that message. Page 13
1.6 Finding Interesting Twitterers To Follow Now that you understand the difference between Followers and Following, the next logical question is: how do I find interesting people to follow? Here are some basic tips on getting started; further details on a comprehensive strategy to build a large network will come later. One way to start is by going to the Twitter page of somebody you know and following their followers. For local merchants, you want to follow and be followed by people in your community, the people you want to do business with. One efficient way is to find local Twitterers on the Breaking News site of your city and follow the followers of the Twitterer, assuming they are also local. Follow @5A5stk’s followers, who are also likely to be San Franciscans: Page 14
The best way to do research on local Twitter feeds by category is to use Google to search for, say, all pages on Twitter.com that mention San Francisco restaurants. To conduct such a search, go to Google.com and type in the following san francisco restaurants site:twitter.com Other resources you can use to find local Twitterers include: Page 15
Localtweeps.com ChirpCity.com WeFollow.com Wefollow.com. Search across city names. Page 16
1.7 Using Hashtags to Add your Tweets to Breaking News Twitter has numerous conventions for communication that you will soon discover. Although these conventions are simple, we’ll guide you through all of them in the next Twitter module. We want to introduce you to #hashtags. A #hashtag is simply an informal method to categorize a Tweet. A hashtag can be inserted anywhere in a Tweet, for example the hashtags #sf and #realestate may characterize a Tweet about a San Francisco home for sale, adding #lakers makes the Tweet a discussion about the NBA Los Angeles Lakers. For a Breaking News site, you can add hashtags to insert your Tweet into a Breaking News category. For example, if you add #sf #food, your Tweet will be added to the Breaking SF News Foodie section. Page 17
1.8 How to use Twitter Guide for Local Businesses We see Twitter positioning itself as a local advertising platform: it's simple to use, requires little time commitment to Tweet, and free. Here's a guide for local merchants on how to use Twitter to reach their local audience: 1) Services Walk in / appointment based services: Barbers, beauticians, spas, nail salons, auto maintenance / lube, Tweet schedule openings for the day. Offer daily special and coupons. Examples: @truemassage, @polishednails Articles: Putting Twitter's world to use Medical / health services: Optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, doctors Create a professional profile befitting your standing in the community. Discuss the tools and trends of your practice. Demystify. Examples: @scottgreenhalgh (Cosmetic dentistry), @evansclinic Page 18
Professional services: Accountants, attorneys, financial planners The problem with arcane professions like the law and accounting is the "boring" factor. Twitter should be used to connect with the community for branding purposes. Become a "business calendar"; accountants can broadcast changes in tax codes and alert important filing dates. Examples: @cordellparvin, @kanoisandeep (Tax guru) Articles: Attorney marketing on Twitter. Valuable or waste of time? Transaction based services: Real estate, mortgages, travel agencies, recruiters Transaction based service providers suffer from a spammy reputation because it's easy to incessantly tweet out home listings, job posts or travel deals. The focus should be on providing information and data relevant and interesting to, say a prospective home buyer, by talking about communities or market conditions. Interacting like a "real" person is paramount to establishing a welcome identity as a hub, not a spammer, in the community. Examples: @mortgagereports, @scottkato Arts and entertainment services: Night clubs, events organizers, symphonies Tweet schedule of events and shows, offer quizzes, advertise discounted tickets, create contests - give away two free tickets to a local follower Examples: @yoshisjazz @sanfransymphony Page 19
(note: arts groups should design great backgrounds!) Articles: Cultural groups tap social networking Hospitality: Restaurants, hotels, taco trucks, street food vendors Tweet the day's lunch menu @ 11am, and dinner menu @ 1 pm, 4pm. Link to recipes. Offer coupon code. Examples: @divinopiazza, @kogibbq, @nakedpizza Articles: Naked Pizza erects Twitter billboard, List of street food vendors using Twitter Retail Advertise your deals of the day, weekend sales, etc. Your Twitter feed's timeline chronicles what your store offers so consumers will use this as a consumer and comparison shopping resource. Consumers may use Twitter to ask questions in lieu of a phone call because it's more efficient. Be sure to intersperse deals tweets with interesting links. @ABC_Carpet twitpics its rugs! Examples: @brooksrunning, @ABC_Carpet, @wfm_oakland (most Whole Foods Market branches have their own Twitter feed) Page 20
Twitter marketing no-no: Abandoning a Twitter feed at @bestbuybayarea Articles: List of US retailers on Twitter, Retailer Twitter aggregation Page 21
1.9 Twitter Marketing Strategies and Tactics, part 1 How to Build a Local Follower Base • Follow the followers of other local Twitter feeds in your city. • Contests: Offer two free tickets to concert or lunch in a weekly drawing to a local follower. The locals will follow you. • Quizzes: Post picture of city landmark, or quiz about interesting local facts. • Give to the community: Support other local Twitterers by retweeting their local interest stories and events. • Provide links to interesting articles related to your business, market conditions or city. For example, link to reviews of cameras if you're a camera shop. • Position your Twitter account as your online point of contact by adding your feed info to business cards and storefront signs. Twitter names are much easier to remember than phone #s. Article: Twitter to replace 800 #s as point of corporate contact. • Tweet using hashtags at a Breaking News site for your city, and request placement of your feed into the City site. • Personalize: Of course, make sure you're not tweeting about business all the time or it may come across as spammy. It's best to create two accounts - a business account like @yoshisjazz that sticks to the subject, and a personal account to have conversations that reveal your personality. Surveying for Business Opportunities • Monitor Twitter search terms for your business. Many Twitterers ask for help to their follower base. If you're a tax accountant in Chicago, monitor the search terms "Chicago tax accountant" by creating an RSS feed at Search.Twitter.com and tracking it in your RSS reader. • Use the hashtag conventions #ihave and #yourcity occasionally (add them to a tweet once per week or so) to alert others who monitor this hashtag convention for services or goods you provide. • Register your Twitter feed at Jobaba, the social marketplace for local services. More of these localized service sites will appear. Page 22
Twitter Efficiency Tools • Use a Twitter scheduling application like Hootsuite or Tweetlater to schedule your tweets for the week. Especially useful for restaurants that know their menu offering for the week. • For larger companies or stores, use a collaborative Twitter application like CoTweet so your Twitter account can be monitored and updated by multiple employees. Example: @ocreggie has five monitors. Page 23
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