Using Twitter and Twitter tools for your (very) small business

How do you start on Twitter if you have (are) a small business? Over the past year or so I’ve tried a couple of Twitter tools you may find useful. In this post I’ll run through a few ways to optimize your use of them based on what I’ve learned.

To get the most from Twitter tools for your business, start on Twitter

Twitter Birds - Twitter and Twitter tools for small business

Chickadees – 1908, American Birds. [Click to view image on Flickr]

Focus your approach from the moment you start on Twitter:

  • On business. Private contacts can warp the results that some Twitter tools give you because they dig through your tweets and followers.
  • On getting relevant, local followers. Seek out potential allies and customers in your region who are genuinely interested in your branche – and share useful content.

Focus on getting the right followers on Twitter

Don’t worry about your follower numbers (yet). Instead, aim for a solid basis of relevant followers:

  1. Make sure your tweets are on-topic 80% of the time. People should follow you (back) for the right reasons, or they’ll add no value at all for your business.
  2. Put in the time to find potential followers. Search for relevant topics and use hashtags: #contentmarketing . Research those topics on different (week) days to get a general idea of who’s tweeting when.
  3. Follow 20-30 accounts every day for a couple of weeks.
    1. Why not follow more? Following a lot of people at once is like shouting you’re not interested in what they have to say. You don’t want the followers you get like this – the kind that don’t listen.
    2. If you do follow more accounts per day, do 2 batches a day. One in the morning, another in the late afternoon. Why? See A.
  4. Scan new relevant followers’ streams for tweets you can retweet. People appreciate useful content even if you didn’t create it – and content creators will like you for sharing their content.

Suppose you get about 50 new followers every week, after two months you’ll have enough followers to look like you’re taking your Twitter activity serious – and to move on to your next step.

A small selection of useful Twitter tools

Before you try out any Twitter tools, check your Twitter settings. Notably your time zone. This should be accurate.

Now you can turn to a couple of Twitter tools to find more, relevant, followers.

Note: Twitter tools have a limited view of what makes other Twitter accounts relevant. They check bios and tweets for key words, number of tweets sent, and retweets. Twitter tools don’t cancel out the need to use your brain.

Tweriod

Tweriod will analyze your Twitter followers and come up with the times when most of your followers are active on Twitter.

  • To get the correct times, your Twitter settings must be correct. Tweriod doesn’t tell you which of your followers are just reading, tweeting their own content, or sharing other people’s content – just how many of them are online.
  • The free version will analyze a limited number of followers. For that reason, most of your followers should be relevant to your business.

Commun.it

Once you set a few key terms, and perhaps your website’s URL, Commun.it will give you a good sense of

  1. whether your followers are tweeting about the topics that you’re interested in
  2. if they’re tweeting about your business (website).
  3. who the main ‘influencers’ are among your Twitter followers.

You can use this knowledge to:

  1. retweet content that matches your followers’ interests;
  2. quickly check which followers you want to thank for retweeting your own content by mentioning them in a #FF or #FollowFriday tweet to all your followers. This may lead to some of your followers to start following these accounts. #FF tweets are generally appreciated for that reason.

Tweepi

Tweepi will help you:

  1. Unfollow. There are always Twitter accounts that you tolerate if they don’t annoy you on a daily basis. However, every once in a while you should muck out your Twitter stable. I’ve used Tweepi a few times and it works great.
  2. Follow Twitter users. I don’t use this option because I tweet about a broad range of topics. Having a good, relevant follower basis should help you get the right suggestions.
  3. Do a few more things I haven’t used it for because I don’t mind reporting Twitter accounts for spamming 😉

Tip: never resort to brainlessly (un)following every suggested account in the list.

IFTTT, Buffer and Hootsuite

  1. If you have plenty of content to share on a regular basis, but don’t want to spam followers with messages you mistakenly scheduled at the same time, try Buffer. Schedule to share messages a couple of times a day, and just fill up your Buffer whenever you get a mail saying it’s empty.
  2. If you want to share message X four days from now at 11.02 AM precisely, Hootsuite offers the ‘social media control room’ you need.
  3. For this blog, I use automated sharing by WordPress the moment I publish a new post. Plus an IFTTT-recipe which takes the change (my new post) on my blog and produces a new tweet ready in my Buffer.

Other Twitter tools

Don’t get me wrong, there are good paid tools out there that do a lot of things for you. But if you’re not ready to sign up for anything that will cost you the standard “Only 9 $ a month” these are a few money-free tools to get you started. This way, you can quickly get an idea of what you have, and where to take your (very) small business from here.

Read more:

What other tools have you found useful? Share your thoughts about Twitter tools & followers and social networks in general in a comment. Or find me on Twitter 😉

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Getting those sharing buttons sorted

If you love sharing other people’s content, making it easy for them to share your own content is an important step in setting up your blog. In fact it would have been #2 on my to-do list if I had bothered to make one – right after selecting a theme.

WordPress Content Sharing Buttons: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Press This, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr

Sharing buttons on my WordPress.com blog.

The standard sharing buttons on a WordPress(.com) blog have two issues I noticed in particular:

  • They mentioned WordPress but no author;
  • There was no “Add to Buffer” button.

In this post you’ll find out what happened when I ran into these issues; how I fixed them; and a few examples in case you’re haven’t had a chance to look into this for your own blog. But first let’s explore why I’m calling them issues and talking of fixing them.

Why is it a problem if your name is not automatically added?

Quite a number of blogs have a “via @twittername” part in their messages. I’m so used to this I often add the Twitter name of the blog author to my tweets if they are missing. This means that I need to look them up and paste their names in, which can be more work than it is worth. Sometimes I skip the whole exercise for that reason. In fact, once or twice I gave up on sharing an article altogether. That should not happen to sound content. For that reason, make sure your name is part of the message. Anyone is free to do some editing, but the main thought here is that you make sharing as quick and easy as possible.

Another reason for including your name is that finding out how often and by whom your content is shared can be difficult if:

  • The sharer changes the title of your post – possibly optimizing it for Twitter, or for a particular audience;
  • They share your content through a scheduling tool in stead of retweeting or reblogging.

If your Twitter name is part of the message they may simply leave it in – so long as it fits. That gives you an extra option to check for tweets that link to your content.

Also, having your Twitter name shared makes it easier for readers to find you, just in case they’re not ready to follow or subscribe to your blog.

Why is the absence of a Buffer button a problem?

The Buffer app is very useful if you:

  • Check the latest developments online at a time when a large number of potentially interested people are asleep;
  • Want to share the latest without swamping followers with a dozen messages at once, and
  • Prefer a simple solution since getting the hang of a more complicated tool seems a bit premature when viewing your present number of followers.

All of the above apply to me so even before publishing my first post I tried to fix the Buffer issue. Since I didn’t like the fact that the sharing buttons were only at the bottom of the page I started by pasting some code into the top menu. That worked. Sort of. I didn’t manage to get the title of the post into the message. I looked the Buffer issue up and found an old Q&A on WordPress.com. The answer read something like: “The Buffer button isn’t in html. Sorry.”

(I published my first post.)

Then I e-mailed the guys at Buffer. First of all, they were OK with my using the link without the button since I couldn’t paste that into the menu. Second, they suggested a way to fix the title issue. It didn’t work but even so, thanks guys. Third, they said they would contact WordPress.com to see if they could fix the absence of the Buffer button. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

(At this point I started to think about writing a post about the subject.)

Then I decided to check the sharing buttons again. Meanwhile though, I had completely forgotten where to find them. After I found them (nowhere near Appearance – Widgets but in the Settings section) I noticed the link “Add new service”. Since I’d already spent some time on the link in my top menu, I pasted my code in and it worked fine. Then I tried different options until I got as close to the messages I got from other websites as I could.

Creating personalized sharing buttons

Adding a new service, as WordPress calls it, has its own issues:

  1. You can’t just edit the new button, no, you can create it or delete it. Not DIY friendly for non-techies or perfectionists!
  2. WordPress gives you a few bits of code you can paste into the sharing button but I ended up adding bits from my earlier code to complete my message. Besides, you do need to know how to glue all those bits together to make your link work.
  3. You need to get a link to really tiny icon images.
  4. Did I mention you probably started up your blog because you wanted to spend time writing?

Just in case you have considered personalizing the sharing buttons on your own blog, here is what your code might look like (in Bold are the bits you would change to your own site or Twitter name):

http://bufferapp.com/add?text=%post_title%%20yoursitename.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername

Note: %20 is for adding a space as in add%20your%20sitename%20here

Once you get one button to work the way you want it to, you may be tempted to use similar codes to personalize other buttons. I sure was! So I changed the Twitter button next and set it to include my tags as hashtags:

https://twitter.com/share?text=%post_title%%20yoursite.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername&hashtags=%post_tags%

Now I’m planning to wait and see which I like best – the one which I end up changing the least when sharing. I think I’ll like the one without hashtags best since I’ve added as many as four tags to this post! But maybe time will prove me wrong.

Let me know which you like best: adding or deleting hashtags? Use the comments section below.

P.S.: You can find the tiny icons for the sharing buttons at:

Buffer: http://static.bufferapp.com/images/logo_icon_small.png

Twitter: https://dev.twitter.com/sites/default/files/images_documentation/bird_blue_16.png