This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
So you’re running a small business and you’ve got the basics of social networking mastered: You tweet often, you’ve created a venue on Foursquare and your Facebook Page is beautiful. How do you move to the next level of social marketing mastery?
Devin Desjarlais, social media manager at Max Borges Agency, has five can’t-miss tips for upping your Twitter game.
1. Don’t Schedule and SplitScheduling tweets with a platform such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck can be a great way to spread out your business’ social sharing throughout the day. However, Desjarlais says that it’s important to pay attention to any responses your scheduled tweets may elicit — the follow-up conversation is just as important as the initial tweet, if not more.
“The key to attracting a following on Twitter is to engage with users,” Desjarlais says. “Hootsuite is a free platform that allows companies to schedule tweets for all accounts in one place. That means that you won’t have to spend all day planning the next 140 characters to publish. However, check back hourly to see who has tweeted back at you. Twitter users have a short attention span, so it’s important to respond as quickly as possible.”
2. Sit in the StreamGet familiar with platforms that let you build streams around phrases or hashtags relevant to your company. That way, you’ve always got your ear to the social ground.
“Hashtags are an excellent way to track conversation about a specific topic,” Desjarlais says. “With Hootsuite, companies can create streams that track a specific hashtag, giving the account manager an easy way to find content and engage with other tweeters. For example, if your company makes custom guitars, you might want to follow a stream dedicated to the #music hashtag.”
3. Don’t Rely on Your Handle
It’s the mark of a successful social company to have plenty of customers tweeting at you or about you using your Twitter handle, but you can’t rely on all users to do that. If you’re only listening for tweets mentioning @BobsBurgerShack, for example, you’ll miss out on a tweet such as, “Man, I wish Bob’s Burger Shack had relish!”
The solution? Enhanced listening techniques.
“Topsy.com is a little-known website that lets users do real-time searches in the social web,” Desjarlais explains. “Do daily searches for your company’s name and narrow the search results to just tweets to see who is talking about your company but not @-mentioning you.” Or you can save searches for some key terms and common permutations of your company name, such as “Bobs burger” and “Bobs cheeseburger.”
4. Don’t Be a Social EgomaniacWhile the majority of your tweets will probably be about your business, it’s important to develop a personality beyond tweeting out discounts or new menu options. It’s all about building a human personality.
“The last thing a company wants to do is spam their followers with tweets,” she says. “Twitter is about sharing ideas, information and occasionally inspirational quotes in order to build a community around what the business offers. Try to tweet at least five times per day and dedicate one or two of those tweets to sending users back to your company’s website. Schedule those posts between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. EST on the weekdays for the most engagement.”
5. Stay on TrackDetermining the return on investment of social networking can be a real challenge, especially for smaller businesses that don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to complex analytics. Desjarlais says free tools are available to make that task just a bit easier.
“The URL shortener Bitly lets users create shortened links for any URL available online,” says Desjarlais. “Sign up for a free Bitly account and create custom Bitly links or ‘bitmarks’ that can be used whenever you send users back to your company’s website. To see how many people have clicked the link, simply paste the URL with a ‘+’ at the end into your Internet browser to see up-to-date metrics.”
Keep on Being SocialWhat other advanced Twitter tips have you learned for running a small business? Share them in the comments below.
More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:
- Why Social Learning Benefits Your BusinessImage courtesy of iStockphoto, matspersson0
- 9 Steps for Getting Kickstarter Dollars
- Choosing the Best Social Media