Learned-the-Hard-Way Best Twitter Tips

Do you love Twitter as much as I do?

The following is a list of ten best practices developed from small-business Twitter accounts that I manage or contribute to.  They’re based on several years of trial and error as well as advice from Twitter gurus like Mark Schaefer (@markschaefer), Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas), and others.

These are simple ways to maximize Twitter’s potential for a small business or just getting your message into the world.

1.  The heart of the matter is:  be generous.  Give away good content.  Ideally, much of it will come from your website or blog.  But maybe you don’t have a website or a blog.  Other sources are other people’s blogs, industry publications, news sources, retweets.  Think variety.  Think fun, interesting, useful.

2.  Write your profile carefully.  Tell readers the benefits of following you.  Rather than simply say what you do or what your business is, say why your tweets are important/useful or what your subject matter will be.

3.  To have a follower, be a follower.  Follow a lot of people and a certain number will come back to you.

4.  Where to find followers?  First, follow everyone who follows you (unless they’re spammers or otherwise offensive).  Check out the follower lists of your competitors (sshh).  Look at the Twitter accounts of relevant magazines.  Do a search on a relevant keyword.  Get creative.

5.  Purge non-followers every week or two.  There are many programs for doing this.  I use http//www.justunfollow.com.  Try to keep the list of people you follow slightly smaller than those who follow you.  This strategy makes your account look like a happening party.  Kind of high-school-ish, I know, but this is social media.

6.  Don’t spam–in other words, don’t make constant sales pitches.  A common rule of thumb is one pitch for every 8-12 tweets of good, solid content.  This builds trust and credibility, whereas spamming can lose you followers fast.

7.  Don’t clutter the tweet.  Make it nice to look at.  If you’re retweeting, put the “RT @user” text at the end of the tweet, not the front.  Don’t overdo it with hashtags, and put them at the end rather than in the middle of the tweet.

8.  Ask questions.  It’s amazing how many more people respond to a question tweet than a statement tweet.

9.  Show that you’re a person.  Say “thank you.”  Respond to questions.  Probably not everyone needs to know what you ate for lunch, but it’s nice to mention an insight you had or something that made you happy.

10.  Tweet enough, but not too much.  This is not Facebook.  Twitter moves fast, so if you only post once a day or week, you might get lost in the shuffle.  There are various schools of thought about how much is too much on Twitter, but I feel 5-10 tweets a day is a good balance.

11.  Remember the concept behind Twitter.  While it’s is a fantastic marketing tool, Twitter is social media…not broadcast media.  The point is the conversation.  Engage with people.  It makes a difference.

Okay, that was eleven best practices, not ten (refer to #1).

What about you?  Do you have some Twitter best practices?