Twitter, a microblogging service, only allows you to post 140 characters at a time, but many businesses and executives are stumped by what to say. Dan Zarrella’s “The Social Media Marketing Book” (O’Reilly Books, $19.95), has some Twitter traffic tips for businesses as part of a successful social media strategy. Here are some of his best Twitter tips:
* Pick a good name: Your Twitter ID can be 14 characters. But avoid numbers and underscores in your name, Zarrella says. His research has shown that Twitter handles with either of those characteristics have significantly fewer followers.
* Use a good avatar: Twitter tips for beginners mean not looking like a beginner. So don’t just go with the generic “egg” picture as your avatar. Instead, Zarrella recommends that individual accounts use a good head shot, and company Twitter handles a business logo. He says to stick with a good image, and don’t switch it around a lot.
* Figure out the best bio: You have 160 characters to write a biography to talk about yourself. One of the Twitter tips for beginners Zarrella talks about is his finding that certain words work in bios better than others. Twitter accounts with words like “marketer,” “entrepreneur,” “blogger,” and “CEO” get more followers than average. But accounts with “nerd,” “student,” “engineer,” and “developer” have fewer followers than average. Here are some more of Zarrella’s Twitter traffic tips: don’t use emoticons in your bio — those who do get fewer followers. And don’t describe yourself as a “boy” or “girl” — those also get fewer people following them.
* Get followers: One of the Twitter traffic tips Zarrella says recommends is for business accounts to follow everyone who follows them. And some software programs can even automate this procedure. Another of the best Twitter tips is using Search.Twitter.com to find people talking about your company, and follow them.
* Write tweets: You can communicate information — in those 140 characters — about your company. You can also post links. But one of the best Twitter tips is to use a link-shortening service like bit.ly or tiny.url to get the most out of your tweet space, Zarrella says.
* Use hashtags: Hashtags are those words which have a # sign in front of them. Use a word or phrase people are searching on, like #entrepreneur. When somebody clicks on that tag, they will come across other posts on the subject, including yours. Zarrella says that using hashtags help keep things “organized.” Using Twitter traffic tips like this will increase the chance your post will be read.
* Talk to others: You can have individual conversations with other Twitter accounts by typing a @sign in front of their Twitter name for a public conversation. Zarrella says that you should respond to everybody who writes you, to seem “approachable.” One of the best Twitter tips is to talk to others as a real conversation, not a monologue.
* Know about direct messaging: People can also send you direct messages, that only you can read. Zarrella says they will show up in your email box. One of the best Twitter tips is to avoid writing anything that might come off as spam. Some people have auto-messages set up whenever somebody follows their account, but the author does not recommend that technique.
* Retweet good posts: You can either type RT before a tweet you like, or use Twitter’s retweeting service, which automatically retweets the post. Zarrella says that the most likely posts to get retweeted are ones that contain links. He also cautions, “talking about yourself won’t get you retweeted very much.”
Read more from Dan Zarrella at DanZarrella.com.
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