It’s simple enough to get started on Twitter for your business or client. Using tools like Listorious and Mashable’s Twitter Lists you can find people to follow on Twitter according to topics they Tweet about. Using a client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic, you can set up search terms for your company and for keywords related to your industry.

But what about the less tangible, “human” elements of running a Twitter account? The words you say and how you interact with the people you talk to? Here are five tips to help:

1. Be Responsive

Be sure to set up a search term for your brand on Twitter as well as monitor your @mentions. If your company has just signed up, a perfect way to “stake your claim” on Twitter and define your presence is to start responding to those mentions. This means:

  • Answering questions and offering suggestions – You can also answer questions not just about your particular product, but about your industry. Think of Twitter as a cocktail party. Use a human voice and mingle.
  • Apologizing – This is the not-so-fun part. But, did you guys mess up? Respond to unhappy customers. You only have 140 characters, so there isn’t space for any of that “We apologize for theĀ inconvenience this may have caused you” garbage. A genuine, first person, “I’m sorry” is a better way to go. Plus, I’ve personally found that the people who take the time to complain are the people who take the time to advocate for your when you handle the situation well.

2. Be Gracious

Are you creating content to draw people to your blog? Do you see people sharing your ebooks, blog post or webinars? Engage them and say thank you. I think one company that does a fantastic job with this is social media monitoring company Radian6. If you share their blog post or ebook, you can expect a friendly Tweet back saying thank you with a little smile.

The nice thing is that the way Twitter is built, only your followers who follow the person you are thanking via @reply will see these Tweets. So you don’t have to worry about clogging people’s streams with tons of “Thank you!! šŸ™‚ ” Tweets. Figure out a way to work these aspect of engagement into your Tweeting in a way that scales for your team.

3. Be consistent

Once you start in social media, you have to keep it up and stay committed. If you build up an expectation of responsiveness and then you let it fall off the wayside, your community will look to you on Twitter with their questions and they will go ignored – which will only alienate them more than if you hadn’t engaged in the first place. How can you remain consistent?

  • Be on call – Is managing a community a 24/7 job? Well, it’s important to at least keep an eye on things. You’ll need a mobile app on your phone for when you’re away from your desk to at least monitor brand mentions. If anything major comes up, you should respond. On vacation? Make sure someone covers you.
  • Put “hours of operation” in your Twitter bio – This could be helpful, although I’m sure you still obviously get questions after 5pm. At least you are setting expectations properly at have a way to switch a conversation with a community member to email or phone if need be.
  • Scale your Tweeting – What is your goal? Are you promoting your blog posts and answering questions through your Twitter account? Maybe scheduling Tweets of your blog posts is a way to save you time. Being efficient will help you be consistent.

4. Use a Personal Tone

Some companies are not certain how to go about running a Twitter account and are afraid to allow their employees to Tweet on behalf of their brand – and with good reason! There have been a handful of well-documented “face/palm” moments in social media where an employee sent out a bad Tweet on a company Twitter account and didn’t represent the brand well. However, I think playing it safe with an overly corporate and cautious tone isn’t the always the right approach. Pick a tone that is consistent with your brand. Keep in mind: People like talking to people. Show human things with your words like personality and excitement and gratitude, just like you would on your own Twitter account – but be consistent and responsible and balance that with representing your brand.

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