If you’re not familiar with Twitter, and what it can do for your small business marketing, then this guide is for you. One of the most popular social networks, Twitter boasts 316 million active users sending half a billion tweets per day.
Yet, with its quirky 140 character message limit, hashtags, and complex interactions, many businesspeople don’t understand it well. Our guide changes all that by introducing small businesses to Twitter in four sections: tweet content, interactions, Twitter analytics, and integrating Twitter into your small business marketing.
The first time you ever saw a tweet, it probably looked a little strange. Characters like @ and #, odd abbreviations, and short choppy writing—most tweets wouldn’t make it past a high school English teacher.
By definition, tweets are limited to 140 characters period. Any content you want included with the tweet (links, pictures, etc.) has to fit within that limit. This has spawned some creative techniques to make the most of the limit. We’ll look at some specific examples of those, and with use, you’ll become familiar with common Twitter abbreviations.
Another word for your Twitter username is your “handle”; like the term from the CB radio revolution of the past. To ask Twitter to interpret text as a handle, you preface the username with the “@” character. In fact, when you are typing a tweet directly into Twitter and enter the “@” character, you will see that Twitter recognizes you are entering a handle and, as you type, shows handles matching your input (much like Google and other search tools).
Twitter handles are used in three cases, the first two are similar. In direct messages and replies, the Twitter handle begins the Tweet. When you include a handle anywhere else in a tweet, it is referred to as a mention.
Like handles, hashtags are a special feature of Twitter (and some other social networks) that allow you to identify the content as relating to a specific subject. Hashtags begin with the “#” character; some examples are #socialmedia, #pizza, and #hillaryclinton.
It is important to note that the hashtag #hillaryclinton is NOT the same as @HillaryClinton the handle/username. The hashtag refers to content containing #hillaryclinton; that is, tweets about Hillary Clinton. The handle @HillaryClinton refers to the Twitter account of Senator Clinton.
Hashtags help Twitter users search for content they are interested in, much like keywords in traditional search engines like Google and Bing
If you click on a hashtag in a tweet, you are taken to a feed of content that contains that hashtag. So, when composing a tweet, you use hashtags so that the content can be found.
Abbreviations on Twitter
There are many abbreviations commonly used on Twitter because of the limitations on the length of content. If you are used to on-line chatter, or perhaps if you have teenagers, you may already know some of them like: IMO for in my opinion, IDK for I don’t know, as well as LOL and its variants.
However, there is one abbreviation very common in Twitter, “RT”. It stands for retweet, one of the most powerful forms of engagement possible on Twitter. It is often used in the context of asking your followers to retweet your content; that is, asking them to share your content with their followers.
Interactions/Engagements on Twitter
Like other content you produce to support your small business marketing, you want prospects interacting with your content. In the case of your blog, people who find it useful often repost it (you hope with some attribution) or cite it in their own content. There are more types of interaction in Twitter; and, much like when web users link to your blog content, interactions on Twitter lend social authority to you, and that is a key ranking signal for search engines.
Some interactions on Twitter are more valuable than others. Following we’ve outlined each type of Twitter interaction to help you understand what they are, and of what value they are to your small business.
Many people writing about Twitter use interaction and engagement interchangeably, and truthfully we are not sure there is a difference. You can find expert content using both. We tend to use interaction in our writing.
Followers and Favorites
When a Twitter user sees your content and finds it useful, two of the easiest things for them to do is to follow you, or to mark your post as a favorite. Each action takes only a single click of a button and is visible only to you, thus these interactions are viewed as having as much less value than, for example, a retweet.
Once a Twitter user is following you, content you post is shown on their feed. Put another way, all your followers are shown all your posts. You can often tell the overall influence of a Twitter user by the number of followers they have in terms of an absolute number, and the relatively small number of users they follow, in comparison to those who follow them.
Favorites are very similar to bookmarks in a web browser. When you click on the little ‘star’ icon to favorite a tweet, Twitter places it into a list of content you can easily access for reference later. You simply go to your Twitter home page and click on Favorites.
Mentions and Retweets
Mentions and retweets are far more valuable types of Twitter interactions, because content where you get a mention, or your content that is retweeted, is seen by the followers of others. This greatly expands the reach of your content, and is the basis of the social media phenomenon called “going viral”.
When you compose a tweet with a Twitter handle anywhere BUT at the beginning, that is a mention for that user and is seen by both your followers as well as the followers of the user you mentioned. Depending on the relative number of followers each user has, you can see how a simple mention can expand the number of people who see your tweet by many times.
The most valuable Twitter interaction is a retweet. In the Twitter world, a retweet is an endorsement of content.
A user sees your post as valuable enough to share (with or without comment) with their followers; you could even consider it a testimonial for your content.
Less common, but potentially very useful Twitter interactions are profile clicks, link clicks, and hashtag clicks. Each of these interactions is a user searching for additional information. That’s the key: they aren’t endorsing your content, not necessarily even liking it, but something in there did generate interest. And if you’ve been in marketing as long as we have, you know that interest has value all by itself.
A profile click displays your Twitter page (sample above) including some basic statistics, a quick description of you (or your company), potentially a location, and a link to your website. Clearly if you got the prospect this far and can feed them into your website, then this is a valuable interaction indeed (even though no one else knows).
Depending on the content you are sharing, a link click can be just as valuable, potentially directing the visitor to your blog, a landing page, or other marketing content.
Least useful for your business is the hashtag click. It heads the visitor off to a feed of content that includes that hashtag. There’s no real benefit for you.
The Value Of Interactions
As we’ve noted, some types of interactions are more valuable to your marketing efforts than others. Anything that exposes your content to a wider audience than your followers is a good thing. Both mentions and retweets are great for that. And, while it’s considered kind of bad form to ask for retweets, that doesn’t stop lots of Twitter users from doing it and it doesn’t make the ones you earn any less valuable.
Profile clicks that drive traffic to your site are great too.
Marketing is a field that is notoriously difficult to measure; however, in digital marketing, analytics have improved greatly. And, of all the social networks, we find that Twitter has the finest suite of analytics—yet they don’t cost a dime. The insight you can gain into the performance of your content and the type of people interested in your content is truly amazing.
Access the Twitter analytics by clicking on your user icon in the upper right of your home page, between the search field and the tweet button. About two-thirds of the way down the menu is Analytics. That will display the summary dashboard.
Analytics Summary Dashboard
By default the dashboard displays summary statistics for the last 28 days, showing change over the previous period in tweets posts, impressions (the number of times your tweets were shown to Twitter users), profile clicks, mentions, followers, and links earned.
Below that is data for the last two calendar months summarizing your top tweets, mentions, top follower, etc. (Note that dashboard information is for the last 28 days running, the summary information is organized by month.) To the right of that is a numerical summary of the month to date.
By clicking on Followers at the top of the page, you can see your acquisition of followers graphically, but more importantly a large amount of demographic information about your followers including their gender, interests, and what type of computing platform they use.
This can either help you develop content to better connect with your followers, or point you to developing content that attracts the kind of followers you want.
In determining what kinds of content resonate most with your followers, analyze the results of your tweets by selecting Tweets at the top of the page.
The top of the tweet analytics page shows a bar graph of tweets and impressions, by default the last 28 days, although you can select a different date range. Below that is a list of tweets from newest to oldest, with the number of interactions each has had. To the right of that is a series of graphs showing engagement rate and numbers of each type of interaction.
Use the tweet analytics to determine what type of content resonates best with your followers and is most likely to get an interaction.
While fairly technical, following is a link to the best guide we’ve seen the analytics available in Twitter:
Integrating Twitter Into Your Small Business Marketing
Integrating Twitter, or any other social media network, into your marketing requires planning, content development, measurement, analysis, and revision. And, for Twitter, perhaps most important is a consistent presence. Once you’ve built a following on Twitter, they expect to see content from you.
We can’t tell you exactly what will work best for you, but here are some suggestions:
- Curate good content like you would to support your blog
- Balance your posts with a mix of industry news, curated content, and original, branded content
- Use relevant hashtags to get your content found
- Regularly engage with your followers to earn mentions and retweets
Twitter is an enormously powerful tool for small business marketing, we wish you success using it.