1. The Twitter Follow Basics for Small Businesses

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    Update (2/2/12): This article is completely out of date. Ignore most of the advice I give here, as it’s simply irrelevant and slightly stupid.

    With the way Twitter is designed, you are able to make hundreds and even thousands of new followers every-day. However, as a business, it is in your interest to make sure you are following the right people and that your follow-audience fits you.

    Twitter isn’t just about the direct ROI that you can create for each tweet that you send, it’s about the people that you can connect with. This principle should be the guiding rule in your Twitter experience. Many people suggest that you simply skip on up and follow everyone that you can up to about 2,000 people initially. The theory is that if you follow a group of this size, a majority of the people that you follow will reciprocate you, growing your amount of people who are listening to your tweets.

    For some people, like people marketing a wide-range of products or services that have a broader audience this might work. However, for the average small business, you are looking for niche or a special group of people who might be interested in your product or services. If this is the case then it is imperative that you don’t apply the popular shotgun approach to using Twitter.

    Avelient has been using twitter for some time now, and we started by following the “popular” advice of mass following. In the course of doing this, I took a lot of notes and made observations that have forced me to re-think this strategy:

    • Mass subscribe doesn’t connect you with people who are necessarily interested in you. The more you twitter, the more you appreciate the people who are actively involved with their Twitter-friends. They read the links you send out, respond with direct questions or comments. It’s a very personal connection that can be easily developed.
    • Link spammers galore – When you start mass subscribing to twitter accounts you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by the amount of crap that is sent out by some accounts. People have perfected their twitter feed to the point where they can schedule all of their tweets. Essentially taking all personal interaction with the Twitterverse and making it about as useful as junk – email. You can easily spot these people and un-follow them quickly.
    • The “ME” People – Twitter and Facebook have become a great platform for narcissistic people… and self promoters. Now, in some situations and the right audience this can be just fine, however for a small business this is the exact mentality you don’t want to have! Most of your Tweets should be sharing information, participating in the community, helping out others and maybe 1 out of 50 tweets shares information about your business!

    How to Gain a Relevant & Passionate Audience

    There are so many great new Twitter tools popping up every-day so I’m sure this list will quickly become out-dated, however there are a few basic principles and concepts that you can follow that should set you on the right path:

    • Follow your friends – Find friends, co-workers and business partners on Twitter. Become their friends, encourage them to share and be active in sharing with them! It’s easy to get the hang of Twitter when you are communicating with friends, it’s friendly and familiar! After a while you’ll make connections to their friends, colleagues and customers who are using Twitter.
    • Find Influential Twitterers – In some of the larger business fields, there are many smart, influential leaders. Follow these people, read their tweets, follow their example and respond to them! This is often a great shoe-in and like many say… you never know where an idea or connection will come from!
    • Find similar Tweeters! – Use the WeFollow (www.wefollow.com) Twitter listing directory to find people who are in your industry and follow them.
    • Promote your followers – A popular day on Twitter is Friday because it’s known as “followfriday”. Twitter users will blast out Tweets listing the names of their favorite Twitter friends. A tweet will start with “#followfriday” and then a list of names. Do this! People love to be recognized and it is very

    Trimming the Fat

    As you start to gain followers and begin to follow more and more people, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of updates that will blow through your twitter feed. In order to remain efficient, organize your Twitter time, and watch out for people who tend to waste twitter space with self promotional ads and irrelevant link spamming.

    If you are directly involved with your Twitter feed you will easily see this spam and be able to weed it out. The process for doing this is as follows:

    1. Identify the spammer
    2. Send them a direct message, letting them know that you’ve got to stop following them simply because of the “x problem”. Let them know that it’s nothing personal and you’ll understand if they need to stop following you.
    3. Go to the user’s account and click the “un-follow” button to stop recieving updates from them.
    4. Don’t make a big deal about it, or start trash talking these people, remember everything you say is public and you represent your company online!

    Follow these general guidelines and you should find yourself 10x more effective and productive on Twitter! In the next few weeks I’ll be writing several Twitter related articles focused on small businesses.

    In the mean-time, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

    * Picture Credit 1: Twitm