Twitter brings a list of benefits to the table to any business, no matter what the size; it is one of the more useful ways of genuine communication that has been developed specifically for the internet. Maybe it is because of the short post format, or the ease with which use has developed through phones and smart devices, but ideas and messages can ripple through the Twitter world in a surprisingly short time.

Much of the power of Twitter is counterintuitive – listening to the community is as important as shooting Tweets out to them if not more important. It is not something that will be useful unless you put time and effort into though.

One of the hardest things seems to be getting people to follow you; it is not an easy process, and it takes imagination and work to build a following that is of any substantial size but there are several methods that work. The best thing you can do to get and retain followers is by not tweeting nonsense. Sometimes it is hard to separate this but think twice before sending out a Tweet. If you got the same one, would you be interested, and would you want to retweet it?

If the answer to both of those questions is no, then don’t send it.

Only a small minority of Tweets should be directly about yourself or your company. Some people say one in ten or one in twenty; somewhere in that range is sensible. If people get the idea that you are spamming them they will simply quit listening.

That is why listening to the people you follow and their retweets is so important. When you see someone who needs something, respond to the Tweet with information or advice; the best local tire store, the best hosting company, a better way to make gravy or keep tools organized. It could be anything, but when you respond to Tweets like this people like it, and they are more likely to become a follower if they see you reaching out.

Completely fill out your bio, full name and pick a good username (there is a difference – don’t pick the first thing that comes in your head). Also, be sure to put a picture on your profile; many people, for many reasons, will not follow anyone who does not have a picture.

Put your Twitter ID out there – include it in your email signature line, put links to it on your blog, your Facebook account and your web page, put it on your business card or on any advertising you do. This will make it easier for people to find you, and if they see something in a blog post or on Facebook they want to retweet, it makes it much easier when your Twitter username is right there in front of them.

Another thing you can do to fill out your profile information is to create a custom ‘About me’ page on your blog or website and link that to your Twitter account. This will take people to a place that they know was made to give them more info on who you are and what your company does.

Reply to people publicly instead of privately; when one person asks a question or has a problem that you can help with, make sure to include a link to the resource you are guiding them to or the video they should watch. Be retweeting publicly, anyone else who has that same problem (and who is following the person you are replying to and you) will now have the answer also. This happens all the time.

Also, be sure to keep your tweets short enough to retweet; you will have to add the characters in your username and symbol, but if that comes to 20, you will want to keep your Tweets to less than 120 characters. This makes it so much easier to retweet; if people can’t fit it in there many times they just won’t bother with retweeting, and that is where most of the growth of your followers will come from.

Pick who you follow – you can even filter this by keyword and micro location. For instance, you can search for the word ‘cook’ and link it to a thirty mile radius of the city you live in. As you follow and respond to these people, you can build a powerful micro-location circle of followers.

Link and retweet other users – once again, Twitter has a vital difference than other web presences that people normally develop; with Facebook or a blog, or especially a website there is a chance at interaction, but the main purpose of all these tools is to put yourself out there. With Twitter, to use it effectively you must actively listen to the circle of people around you; retweet and link to them when you see something you like, and concentrate on being generous, happy and helpful.

When you do send out a promotional material, try to think of interesting ways to give some type of extra benefit. This is extremely valuable when you are communicating with the local circle you have built up; an ‘instant sale’ type of thing; mention Twitter and get free drinks with your meal, or a second pizza for free, or a free t-shirt or cap.

There are many low cost ways of doing this, but using this get something extra strategy works very well for building a local following. If you are an internet based business it is a bit trickier to design, but there are still things you can offer such as reduced shipping or some sort of accessory for free when they order product ‘x’.

There are ways to artificially build a following; reputable companies such as Twitterz.net guarantee 100% live accounts when you get a Twitter Follower Service Provider. This is a good way to build a critical mass quickly, but never forget – content is always king. If you shoot a bunch of spam messages out, no one is going to be listening.

If you approach Twitter with a bit of humor and a lot of goodwill, though, you can build a cohesive network of followers and people that you follow. The back and forth communication that is possible with this service is unrivaled for any business, if it is used properly.

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