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Understanding Social Media: Twitter

In 140 characters, describe your day. Share an article. Create a funny anecdote. Spread informative news.  But you may not, under any circumstances, exceed those 140 characters.  Sound difficult? Not really.  Not when you get used to using the microblogging platform Twitter.

With more than 500 million users, Twitter is the second most commonly used social media platform.  In it, you have 140 characters to share your content with your followers, who can in turn retweet your news, reply, or message you directly.  You also have the functionality of using hashtags (#) to make key terms in your tweets searchable.  When certain keywords are used frequently, they can be found as trending topics.

The key to Twitter is to share interesting content, the kind of content that people want to share over and over again.  For me, I find as a marketing professional that I retweet articles that are the most engaging, the most useful, and the best “something” that I not only found useful but that I think my other followers will find useful.  Many of the most successful Twitter users reach out to the Twitterverse and ask for responses.  They follow many of the best practices that are applicable to all social media: creating a specific call to action, creating useful and informative content, and creating a network of people that is willing to share your content.

Here are some best practices for optimizing your Twitter profile:

  • Keep tweets in the 120-130 character range so it allows for retweets (RT) and replies.
  • Respond to questions and negative comments (but do it politely).  You don’t have to respond to every “Thank you for following” that you receive.
  • Schedule and monitor your tweets to see what types of posts and at what times you receive the most engagement.
  • Don’t tweet constantly.  I don’t know who really has time for this and I know that it can be tempting, given how short the shelf life of a tweet is, but you don’t need to be doing it all day.  Hubspot ran a study and found that 15-25 times a day is optimal for growing a following.  Now, most small businesses won’t have time for that, but starting at 1-3 times a day is a good goal.
  • Use hashtags carefully.  Don’t #every keyword.  Focus on the most important and the most searchable.  Also, use this in crafting your bio.

Twitter isn’t a great fit for every business, but if you work in an industry with high volumes of information (news, technology, financials), very visual or promotional based industries (restaurant, retail), or highly conversational environments (publishing, blogging/opinion), then this might be an environment in which you can thrive and really reach your customers.

Note: this blog was current as of its time of writing in 2012. Character limits, best practices, and usage have all changed dramatically over the last several years, so statistics may no longer be current.