How to use Twitter to grow your online business


In a couple of my recent posts about Twitter I've received comments from a lot of people who say they still don't "get" Twitter and certainly don't see how it can be a tool to drive customers to your site and indeed grow your business. So I thought I would share a few techniques and real-life examples here that have worked for me. The following guide presumes you know how Twitter works, if you don't read here first. 1. The Basics - tell people who you are It never ceases to amaze me how many people still fail miserably at this first hurdle. When you are setting up your Twitter profile you can set up an avatar/photo, your name, your Twitter username and a 160 character bio. This is so when people visit your Twitter page they can instantly see who you are and what you're all about. The first thing I do when I'm "followed" by someone on Twitter is look at their profile page to see who they are, what they do and if I think they're worth following in return. Bizarrely, some people don't fill there's in, so all you have to make a decision on whether to follow them or not is something like this: Twitter fail This is the profile of someone who recently followed me. As you can see this person is helpfully called "Creator111" which is of no use whatsoever, and tells me nothing about him/her. Likewise their profile is blank. So will I be following them? Of course not. Remember that people will use the Twitter search function to find you, so if you have a personal Twitter account it's a really good idea for your Twitter name to be the same as your real name. I.e. my personal Twitter account name is @kierondonoghue so anyone trying to find me via Twitter searching for "Kieron Donoghue" will find me. Simple eh? So you may think it's cool to be called @sexyeyes007 or something but that really won't help anyone find you or identify who you are. Now, compare the above Twitter profile with the one I created for my site ShareMyPlaylists.com. ShareMyPlaylists.com As you can see my Twitter account name is the same as the name of my site. I also have a link to my site within the profile along with a concise description of what the site does. I've also carried along the visual theme of the site by incorporating the logo as my Twitter avatar. I've then taken the branding one step further by customising the background of my Twitter profile page to match the colour scheme and look and feel of ShareMyPlaylists.com. ShareMyPlaylists.com Twitter profile page Hopefully, anybody visiting the ShareMyPlaylists.com Twitter profile page can now instantly see what we're all about. For anyone interested the perfect size for a Twitter background seems to be 2048 x 1707. Bizarrely Twitter don't tell you this in their FAQ's. Although all of the above may seem obvious it never ceases to amaze me how many people just don't do it. Your Twitter profile page is your own personal ad and you should use everything at your disposal to engage anybody visiting it and sell yourself and your site/services etc. 2. Publicise your Twitter URL wherever you can Again this may sound obvious but the best thing you can do is to feature your Twitter account on your website. So, using ShareMyPlaylists.com as an example again, if you visit the site you will see this: Follow us on Twitter As pointed out by the helpful giant blue arrow I have a "Follow us on Twitter" link that goes straight to my Twitter profile page. This has helped me get over 1000 followers in just over 7 weeks, not bad. You can also have a Twitter widget embedded on your blog or site. If you look to the right of this page you can see I have one on this very page, it's really easy to grab these from within your Twitter account and simply cut and paste the code into the site you want to display it on. There is also a great WordPress plugin called TweetMeMe that enables you to put a little widget onto your blog posts so that if readers enjoy your post then can "Tweet" it to their users and thus spread the love. I'll be installing this on my blog soon. You can also put your Twitter details in email signatures, press releases, business cards, pretty much anywhere really. Just think of it in the same way as you do your email address or phone number. 3. Don't be vain Don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's cool to follow as few people as possible but still expect to have hundreds of followers yourself. Twiter is all about conversation and in order to "hear" what other Twitter users are saying then you must follow them. Occassionally you will see people (mainly celebrities) who only have a very small number of people they follow (usually a small amount of other celebrities) yet have hundreds if not thousands of followers themselves. This is just bad manners, rude and gives the impression that you think you're too good to follow "Joe Public". Unfortunately some business users are like this too. Take for example, the woefully bad Twitter account from affiliate network Zanox: how not to tweet As you can see they (rather amazingly I think) have 440 followers but selfishly only follow 8 people. And guess who those 8 people are? Other Zanoz Twitter accounts. Not cool guys. 4. The juicy bits - join the conversation Following on from my Twitter guide to affiliate networks where I talk about the sort of tone and approach you should adopt when using Twitter as a marketing channel, I've given some real life examples below of what's worked for me. I've already said that your Twitter account to promote your site should be a mix between conversation, announcements and chat about industry topics but how do you do that in practice? Once again using ShareMyPlaylist.com as an example I used Twitter search to find people who are talking about Spotify (my site is a Spotify community site). Straight away, I found Tweets like these: Spotify Spotify Spotify Spotify Seeing as all of the above Tweets are positive towards Spotify I immediately follow the authors of these Tweets. My logic is that if they love Spotify then hopefully they will also love my Spotify community site. So my first step is to seek out people who I think will like my service and simply follow them. I don't Tweet or message them, I simply follow them. The hope is that they will see I have followed them, visit my profile page - which is full of info about my site as per step 1 - and they will like what they see and follow me. Job done. You can then get a bit more specific with your Twitter search and this time I searched for Spotify playlist. So know I'm really drilling down the search results to find Twitter users who I think will really have a use for my site. Here are some results: Spotify Spotify Spotify Spotify As you can see, the above people are pretty much my core target audience for my site. So what I do in these instances is follow them and then send them a Tweet. I'm always careful to make the Tweets personal so they don't think I'm a bot. Also, I don't do this often, as I don't want to flood my Twitter page with lots of the same types of posts. So using the example above, this is what I'd Tweet: Spotify Spotify There you go, a nice personalised message that pretty much always receives a positive reaction. A lot of users really like the fact that you have taken the time to seek them out and reply to them in a non spammy way. Below are a few examples of responses I've received using this approach: tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet As you can see my Tweets have been met with positive responses and people have already started to send the message out to other Twitter users about my site. I think the key to this approach is (a) keep the messages personalised to the individual and (b) don't overdo it and Tweet the same kind of message to lots of people, especially not within a short period of time. If you do this then there's a chance when people view your profile page they'll think you're a spammer if they see you tweeted the same type of message to 50 people in the last hour. 5. Network As well as the approach outlined above I also use Twitter to network and meet "influencers" in the shape of Twitter users who represent large media outlets, websites, press, journalists, pr agencies etc. I then reach out to these people and let them know a bit about me and my site and ask if they would be interested in writing about it. I recently came across Web User magazine on Twitter so thought it would be a good idea to follow them and see if I could drum up some publicity. Here's my Tweet to them: webuser This was their reply: webuser2 So I sent them a DM (Direct Message) saying who I was and what the site was about, then I got this back: webuser3 So with 1 Tweet and 1 Direct Message I had managed to get my site reviewed in the most popular Internet magazine in the UK. Thankyou Twitter! (Thanks to @webusermagazine too!) This just goes to illustrate that Twitter is a great medium for having conversations with all sorts of people that you wouldn't normally have access to. There are lots and lots of opportunities out there just like what I've described above. One really good method of finding new followers and contacts that you normally wouldn't have access to is by viewing the people who your contact follow. While I was looking around Twitter for music journalists I happened to find 1 using Twitter search. I then viewed the people he follows and "Bob's your Uncle" I immediately found 500 or so other music journalists and music PR company contacts. Sweet. It was using this method that I happened to stumble upon the Twitter account for the editor of NME.com. He was listed in the contacts (or "followers" in Twitter speak) of a journalist who I was following. So I simply followed him, and tbh didn't even get round to contacting him, before I received this DM from him: NME How awesome is that?! One of the biggest and most influential music sites in the UK and had written this fantastic article about my site! And I didn't even ask them to!! What's even more fantastic is that they called my site "Genius". Did you hear that? I'll repeat it in case you didn't. Genius. Am I going to dine out on that quote for as long as I can? Am I going to put up a "press" page on the site for no other reason than to display that quote? You bet! When browsing through other people's PR and music contacts I also came across Polydor Records, so I followed them and a day or two later I got an email from then saying that one of their new priority artists for 2009, Gary Go, is a big fan of Spotify and has created some playlists, can they feature them on my site? Of course! I said, but would you mind linking back to my site from Gary's? They were happy to oblige and I now have a link here. Sweet. Not only that but seeing as I was now in a dialogue with the record company I asked if Gary would like to write a blog post to feature on ShareMyPlaylists.com. "Yes" was the answer and here's the post. Brilliant. BTW it's entirely possible that you haven't heard of Gary Go yet but you will. He's a huge priority for Polydor this year and he's supporting Take That in their stadium tour. Watch this space, as they say. So basically the result of all my activity above is that I've gotten my site featured on NME.com, it will be reviewed in Web User, it was awarded "site of the week" by New Media Age (forgot to mention that above) and I'm starting to forge some relationships with record labels. All thanks to Twitter. 6. The ReTweet A ReTweet is when somebody else copies your tweet and broadcasts is to their followers. Think of it in the same way as if you forwarded a funny email to a bunch of your friends. The bigger the base of followers you acquire and the more loyal your "fan base" becomes then the more chance you have of being ReTweeted. When I announced that I was running a competition then none other than Spotify themselves decided to ReTweet me: spotify As Spotify have thousands of followers it meant that not only did my traffic reach 5 times what it normally does that day but I also gained over 100 new followers in just over an hour. All in all a great way to build users and traffic. 7. Search for yourself It's also worth using the Twitter search function to search for your company name, Twitter name etc. from time to time too. As your reputation and awareness of your site grows you may find that more and more people are talking about you on Twitter. So use the Twitter search function to search for variations and mis-spellings of your company name. It may well be that you find that people are praising you, if so then thank them. This goes a long way to building trust and relationships and proves that you're not just another faceless Twitter robot that just churns out boring press releases and doesn't enagage people. Likewise, you may find people are complaining about you/your service. If this is the case then politely ask them if you can help them. Once again, you will be surprised at how well people take to this and you can usually turn a negative experince into a positive one, just by entering into a discussion. Th Twitter search tool is absolutely brilliant, I can't think of any other example of finding out what people are saying about you, right now. So there you have it, my thoughts on how Twitter can really help grow your online business both in terms of traffic and users but also in terms of reaching out into the online community and making new connections. The examples given above are of course specific to my site but the approach and methods I use can be adapted to any site in any sector. Please let me know your thoughts on Twitter, particularly if you have any other ways of using it to market your business. What I'm listening to right now: Old School Rap

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66 Responses to How to use Twitter to grow your online business

  1. Mark Boyd says:

    you forget to mention targeted twitter marketing running automatically ;)

  2. Great article! I just had a question about on my Virtual Coach forums – I’ll a link back to this post today. Thanks!

  3. Graham says:

    Great post Kieron, a great example of to use Twitter to it’s full potential

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  5. Pete says:

    Nice post Kieron. I personally hate it when I’m being constantly promoted to on twitter but I think it’s a line you walk very well mixing up your promotional posts with personal opinion and musings. I can see there is a real person tweeting, not a faceless organisation and to me thats really important.
    I’d also add that it’s sometimes ok to use your online handle for your @name if a lot of people already know you by it. You can always add your real name too if you’re in this boat just to re-confirm who you are tho.

  6. Rob says:

    Great post with some inspiring examples. Thanks.

  7. Great post – very comprehensive and a useful resource to send curious colleagues to…

    My only question is about followers vs following. Two things really,

    1. Companies like LoveFilm are getting mixed feedback from following lots of people – it seems some people think it’s a bit Orwellian. What are your thoughts?

    2. Surely twitter ceases to become useful for someone once you follow over a few hundred others? I can’t imagine how someone follow over 1,000 people can keep track or get any meaning from the hundreds of tweets that must come through every minute?

    I only tend to follow people who I think are useful – so far that’s given me a pretty even balance of followers vs following but eventually people might think I’m being rude…

  8. Kieron says:

    Hi Pete, yes I agree if you’re known as some other name online then it makes sense to use it. My point was don’t just make up a randon name on the spot, that won’t help at all :)

  9. Kieron says:

    Hi Chris, thanks for your feedback and questions.

    1. I’m rather bemused that LoveFilm are being called “Orwellian”, I can’t see any negative aspects whatsoever to following a lot of people. It shows your friendly and are opening up to the Twitter community and willing to engage in conversations.

    2. Yes I think it becomes more difficult to follow every conversation going on but certainly not impossible. For me, the benefit of Twitter is having a lot of followers myself, so in other words a large audience to speak to.

    I agree with your other point though. My philosophy is that I will only seek out people that I think will be of interest to follow. I won’t just go and follow random people :)

    However if people have the courtesy to follow me then I always try to follow them back. Unless of course they are obviously a spam bot or if they don’t give me any info in their bio.

  10. sally says:

    Another simple to follow informative piece, thanks.

  11. BLOGERCISE says:

    I liked the point about big companies with lots of followers but not following anyone themselves. It kind of says that they are more interested in using the tool for marketing rather than interactivity. In which case surely you are just better off using a newsletter or an RSS feed!

  12. Brilliant article on Twitter, Kieron… now, just need some more hours in the day to put everything in place!

  13. Hi Kieron great post – very practical and inspiring. You’re preaching to the converted and I concur with much of what you say. The point of ‘followers’ surely has to come down to quality rather than quantity however. I’d rather have 100 people that are listening to me and I am ‘conversing’ with and sharing rather than 10,000 followers who don’t hear my tweets. There’s a great blog post by Dosh.dosh.com – Why it’s not necessary to mass follower users which provides a really excellent take – I think you’d like it…

  14. Kieron says:

    Hi Michelle, thanks for your comments. I hear what you are saying, however due to the very nature of Twitter surely you only follow people who you have an interest in? So I would like to think that any followers I have, are following me because they want to converse. Otherwise, then why follow someone? Just a thought.

  15. Kieron says:

    Very good point. Twitter is all about 2-way conversation. If you just want to broadcast stuff then as you say, use RSS or Emails.

  16. Nicola says:

    Great article – I’ve never really seen the point of Twitter, but have just signed up on the strength of this. Can you tell me how to get the ‘follow us on twitter’ badge – can I find it on Twitter or do I need to create it myself? Thanks.

  17. Kieron says:

    Hi Nicola, you need to create your own. However there are quite a few sites out there that offer free Twitter icons. This is a good one: http://www.drweb.de/magazin/20-twitter-icons-websites/

  18. Jason Dale says:

    Very good article… really good!

    Few q’s though :o ) how much time do you spend doing twitter marketing (now twarketing probably?). Also, with spotify, twitter and your own site you’re in a “perfect storm” to take advantage of the current excitement – how much harder do you think your approach would be for another subject? Have you tried the approach for say UKOffer?

    Do you think that perhaps for say an offers site (which is trying to grab commission) vs a site like sharemylist (where you’re building community and have a longer term strategy – i guess) that differing approaches may be need towards getting new users and/or business contacts?

  19. Kieron – more on that ‘Orwellian’ following of LoveFIlm – http://chrisdalrymple.com/2009/03/6-golden-rules-for-corporate-twittering.php

    Admitedly, I think mainly that reaction is because LoveFilm are following anyone who mentions them, rather than follows, but it does illustrate that there’s a fine line:

    “:-o lovefilm are following me now.should I be freaked out? Are they like da Mafia? lol Quick where`s the block button”

  20. Tom Rowlands says:

    Fantastic post, just retweeted it. 1 thing I noticed though…your website is ‘sharemyplaylists’ (plural) and your account is sharemyplaylist (singular). Is this because it’s using the max number of characters for a twitter username? As I would have thought it’s better to have them the same.

  21. svox says:

    Thanks for sharing these great advices. You just opened my eyes on how effective Twitter can be. I never considered reaching directly influental people using it. The only problem that twitter requires a time to be in it, but being rewarded with a magazine review certnainly worth it.

  22. Kieron says:

    Hi Tom, you are indeed correct. I couldn’t have the plural on Twitter due to character limitations :(

  23. Tom Rowlands says:

    As I suspected! Not that it’s a biggie, but was interested. Tried a couple of your tactics out today for our work account @OffersUK, and will be trying a bit harder with the Twitter account in future thanks to this post. Read your post on the ‘content for links’ stuff, too – all good stuff

  24. Kieron says:

    Hi Jason, thanks for that :)

    In answer to your questions I spend about 20 to 30 minutes a day on Twitter marketing. No more. I also agree what you;re saying that I am in a bit of a “perfect storm” because there is a lot of buzz about Spotify. However the techniques above, combined with Twitter have certanly helped me gain an audience and network.

    The approaches I outlined above can most definitely be used for any site in any sector. The offers/discount codes sector is ripe for use by Twitter I think. Have you seen the @HotUKDeals tweet stream? Not bad. Although deal/offer sites do work on a CPA basis I also think it’s really important to build a brand and gain a loyal following. Again, Twitter is perfect for this. You could also use Twitter to your advantage by saying that offers are only open for a limited time, or to the next 100 people etc. Therefore creating a bit of momentum and urgency.

    I haven’t launched a Twitter stream for any of my other sites at this time, For now, ShareMyPlaylists.com is my priority.

  25. SEO Agency says:

    This is the best damn advice I have read about how to use Twitter effectively. I will be Retweeting this article for sure and taking on board the techniques and advice used.

  26. Used Tires says:

    Kieron you really did a phenomenal job at explaining how twitter can help. I know in the past I have personally always been negligent of twitter, but with your post here, and the details of how it is you help your business grow with twitter, I can now finally see the power of twitter that I had not seen in the past!

    Till then,

    Jean

  27. Ben says:

    I think Twitter just clicked for me having read this – so thanks!

    The problem is that the famous bloggers and celebs etc who acquire the massive audiences shout about it loudest – so it just looks like a tool to stroke their egos at first.

    However, if people do take an interest in who is following them and use the search to find interesting converstaions, it really could be useful for the common man like me!

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  29. purple says:

    I agree twitter can possibly work in all fields. The best way is to actually interact with your followers.
    I dont think the @HotUKDeals is a good example of a twit account as it is just a twitter rss feed from what i could tell.

    Although I guess as long as people accept this is what they are going to get they will be happy with it. The feed method works better if you already have an established brand, and they are using twitter as a easy way to read ur latest offers etc

  30. Kieron says:

    The HotUKDeals Twitter feed could do with some more interaction with users, I agree there. But for those guys (and indeed all offer based sites) Twitter is an ideal medium for announcing “hot off the press” consumer offers. Especially for time limited deals.

  31. You need to be sure you can withstand the pressure. I mean once you get into twitting it’s hard to stop – at my worst days I’ve spent easily 4-5 hour on twitter. And this is the time I won’t get back.

  32. Wardy says:

    Brilliant write up mate. Going to have to set asside about half an hour to really read it all and digest it properly! :)

  33. Alexandra says:

    Great article K Dogg. Peace x

  34. No love for Tweetdeck?

    Twitter is a data structure, and their own website doesn’t make best use of it. Get into Tweetdeck and you’ll really see the benefits (especially once you get past about 50/50 following/followers).

  35. Jason says:

    Great post Kieron, thanks for putting that together. A lot of posts will tell you about Twitter etiquette or jargon, but this is the first tactical post I’ve read about how to use it effectively for business by “finding the right twitter voice” (without being spammy).

    I’ll be sending the URL out to a few friends who have told me they “don’t get it” but have businesses that would benefit from a targeted twitter following.

    In my short interaction with twitter so far, I’ve had success in meeting relevant professional contacts. Also, someone who followed our company’s twitter account landed a lunch catering contract with our company; good food too :)

  36. It will be interesting if Twitter can maintain its grow with so many 1 time users.

  37. gadget says:

    I must admit that when I first saw this post I thought, oh no, here goes K on about twitter again. Yes, I’m one of those who has still never been on the twitter site or any of the other social networking sites. But I have to say hats off for the hugely beneficial post. If I ever do get round to tweeting (!) then I know where to come for a great article. Cheers.

  38. Great post that definately answered some questions like ‘what is the point of being a twit’ and following big people who themselves only follow very few and are far too important to even bother responding to twits from nobodies like myself. So thank you. And I am now following you also :)

  39. Kieron says:

    Thanks for that mate. And I wouldn’t call you a “nobody” either, certainly not in the North East music scene anyway :)

  40. Kieron says:

    “here goes K on about twitter again” lol :)

  41. That was a very comprehensive post, and as a result I immediately uploaded a profile pic and and a 160 character bio. Now people will know who I am and what I look like….

  42. seo says:

    I have the opposite problem. I forget to go on Twitter. Sometimes I don’t login for weeks. I guess I should move Twitter marketing up the priority ladder.

  43. Really appreciate the whole process Keiron. I was looking for this guide to twitter.

  44. Cheap DVDs says:

    Thanks for the update Kieron! I’ve been doing a few of those already, but there are quite a few I either haven’t or else need to work on more so the list is really useful.

    I do have a number of followers now, but a large proportion are obviously from people trying to market things that you know have no intention of reading any of my tweets. E.g. I regularly get a new follower that I then find is somebody or organisation in the US that’s following thousands of people. Getting real people as followers is the more difficult and time consuming part!

  45. I certainly feel that twitter is one of the best online tools to drive customers to your business. All the seven steps are explained brilliantly here. I am compelled to bookmark this page.

  46. There are more great strategies to grow your online business with Twitter. In addition to Twitter, you can easily grow your business with numerous other Social Networking sites. One way to find out about these strategies and more is through a Portal Feeder membership which includes training and the most powerful set of tools, resources and support to get you started making money online in 30 days.

  47. nice points there , i hate the people which follow me to make me follow them back so they gain followers not to update or tweets . so i don’t follow people i don’t know because after i follow them , they dis-follow me as i told you , they searching for more followers .

  48. It will be interesting if Twitter can maintain its grow with so many 1 time users.

  49. accounts says:

    Twitter keeps improving by the day, it’s also making online users more aware of the benefits it adds to businesses.

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