There has been a significant shift in the way businesses view social media. Gone are the times when just having a website - a place to showcase a company's offerings and provide contact information - was enough. Today, consumers, be it in the B2B or B2C space, look for more - they spend time researching a company online, and check out its social media pages, from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter. So, while companies may have shied away from setting up social media profiles in the past, most now make the effort to do so. However, it is important to realize that just having a page means very little. Interaction, content and optimizing the opportunity is paramount. Let's take the case of Twitter, which is the second most popular social network around, after Facebook, with half a million users, and growing. Tweet, retweet, trending and hashtag are now part of our vocabulary.
Maximizing within the limit
Tweeting isn't just about posting updates or links to interesting information. There has to be some thought and organization to it all. There are ways to maximize the 140 characters available. First, use hashtags - these are prefixes to your tweet, words that begin with #, which place your tweet in a particular topic. This way, anyone searching on that topic, will get all tweets using that hashtag.
It is important to search for the hashtag you intend to use, and see the kinds of results that come up. If you want to create a new hashtag, make sure it is not already in use. Often, specific hashtags are coined for a conference or event. The first hashtag to create is your company name/profile, so any tweets mentioning the company will get counted in searches. The other advantage of hashtag searches is that it allows you to understand what topics of relevance your TA is discussing and you can tailor your own tweets accordingly. A point to note is not to go overboard with hashtags - a maximum of two per tweet is the recommendation.
You get only 140 characters, and it's hard enough to compose a message in that short span, much less add a link. Right? Wrong - there are link compression tools out there that will take the unwieldy URL and make it short and sweet. Bitly and Ow.ly are the most popular, and Google has goo.gl. You can expend just around a dozen or so characters on the link, and have at least 120 characters in which to get your own thoughts across.
Another good practice is mentioning people and places by name - reach out and build connections via Twitter. If you read something interesting, share it with your followers and also mention the author/site/company from where the story originated. It increases your reach and you might even get a response from the author or company! Follow the companies/people you find relevant to your organization and of course, the media outlets and portals pertinent to your industry.
Twitter chats are another connector in the Twitter world. Find a hashtag you're interested in and participate in the discussion around that topic. This is a fantastic way to network, promote your brand, build your Twitter following and reputation, and make your company a reckoner in its industry - when thought leaders and interested folk think you're valuable, you can become a
On the other hand, it is extremely important to know when to engage, and when to disengage. Don't get involved in any bitter disputes or arguments, don't expect acknowledgment or everyone to share your ideas and don't respond aggressively or defensively to negative tweets. Posing sincere questions or responses will result in one of two things - either the attackers will go their way when they don't get a rise out of you, or else you and the tweeter will begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
Don't be a spammer
Knowing the optimal times to tweet is important. People take a look at their twitter feed, more often than not, at lunch time. Post your tweets in the earlier part of the day, and know that the early afternoon will be the most crowded and busy time on Twitter.
Be cognizant of what you're re-tweeting - it should be something interesting, informative, entertaining for your audience. The worst thing one can do is tweet or retweet just for the sake of getting a certain number out each day or week. This will make you look like a spammer, and you will soon find yourself short of followers. Consistency and quality will take you a lot further - log into Twitter daily, connect with your followers, follow others, but do so within reason and never in excess.