Twitter 101 for Small Businesses

Twitter is a growing outlet for small businesses.  Not only is it a short message communication tool that allows you to share information in real time, it is a searchable resource and a great way to build relationships.  But what do you need to know to get started?

What can Twitter do?


Twitter allows you connect directly to your customers, business partners, and peers in real time.  By sharing a tweet, you are showing what your business thinks is important, from a promotional sale to a satisfied customer.

First – you have to know that Twitter relies on the premise that you can only see the tweets of people you follow.  So – you only get the information that you “subscribe” to, and the same goes for your target market.  Don’t want to see what @KimKardashian is tweeting?  Don’t follow her.  But if you want your customers (and potential customers) to follow you, you need to share great content that they want to read.

Setting up Twitter for your business

Twitter, just like your website, is a place to showcase your brand.  First, choose an appropriate username.  If your @CompanySiteName is already taken, look for a suitable alternative.  If you sell childrens’ shoes at Jen’s Shoes, @JensShoes might be taken.  Other usernames that might work are:


And just like your username, your profile image, header and background need form a cohesive image that represents your brand.  Use your logo and associated colors to show that your Twitter page is owned by a professional organization.

Who to follow?

Now that you’ve got your foot in the water, you need to start floating.  The easiest way to learn how to use Twitter is to sit back and follow others for a while until you are more comfortable.  Make sure that you start by following people relevant to your industry.  Do you have a major competitor in the area?  Follow them to see what you’re up against.  Your supplier of cool shoelaces?  Follow them to see what designs they have coming up.  And you definitely want to follow some of your customers (or potential customers).  You can also scan your email for suggestions of who to follow.

Types of Tweets

As you read and follow people, you’ll notice that there are five types of tweets.  I’ve outlined them below and shared an example of each.

Tweet – Your standard message, typed in and sent.  Tweets can include a photo (now up to three!), a GIF , a video, or link.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 10.25.03

Tweet + #Hashtag – You can add a hashtag to any public tweet, and links your tweet to a larger conversation.  You may see tweets locally with #DecaturCityLimitless or #DecaturLimitless, a community economic development initiative.  Often events have their own hashtag, such as #CMAFest or #PrimaryDay.  And sometimes a hashtag can just be for fun like #TBT (Throwback Thursday).

Screenshot 2016-04-20 10.28.59

Reply – If you see a great tweet and want to respond, you can send a reply.  By clicking on the reply icon, your tweet will automatically start with @Username (the author of the original tweet).  Once you hit send, @Username will get a notification that you responded to their message.

Twitter Time

Mention – A mention is very similar to a reply – but you don’t have to respond to a tweet to use it.  By using the @Username, they will still receive a notification that you mentioned them in your tweet.  Sometimes this will get you retweeted!

Screenshot 2016-04-20 10.33.30

Retweet – This is a tweet from someone else that you liked so much that you want to share it with your followers.  Think of a great mention from a satisfied customer that you want the community to see!

Screenshot 2016-04-20 10.35.08

Direct message – A direct message is the only type of communication on Twitter that is private. These messages go directly between two users, and can be found in your inbox.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 10.36.18

Next steps

Now that you know the basics of Twitter, I encourage you to hop on and start following people!  Make sure that once you feel confident enough to start tweeting you are creating and sharing content that your audience wants and needs to see.  This will increase your credibility and trust, and drive customers to your website and business.

Happy tweeting!


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