Saturday, December 19, 2009

Your Twitter Account - The 7 Most Important Steps to Be Effective

Your Twitter Account - The 7 Most Important Steps to Be Effective

By Sally Witzky

I recently completed three back-to-back social networking presentations for small business owners and one of the most burning questions coming from the audience always surrounds how to set up an effective Twitter account.

This blog post isn't designed to give you step-by-step instructions - you can get that from a number of places - including the Twitter 101 Guide for businesses. But we wanted to share our "traction tips" on what we believe to be the most critical things to think about when setting up a Twitter account for your personal brand or your small business.

Listed below are the 7 most important steps to gain social traction for your Twitter account:

1. TWITTER HANDLE. Be sure that the Twitter handle you choose is both memorable, it serves you well and is as short as possible. Keep in mind that people connect with people which means ideally we like to see Twitter handles in the name of the person. Often that becomes a challenge because your name may already be taken, it's too long or you'd prefer to use your company name which we'll address in a moment. While we don't recommend using all caps for sure, we do recommend using initial caps where it makes obvious sense. For example, @guykawasaki can be (and is) @GuyKawasaki.

2. MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS: For those of you who have personal brands as well as businesses, you can (and should) set up two accounts: one in your personal name and one in your business name. That way, you get the benefit of both. Your personal account should be bringing your listeners value based on your own knowledge and building of one-on-one relationships with others, and can and should include some of your own personality and humor. Your business or company account can be more focused on helping people strictly as it relates to the company and what value the company brings and shares to others. You don't need both necessarily; take a look at your own situation and figure out which is best. You certainly can have an account that has your business name as your handle with your photo and name. Or vice-versa. Weigh the pros and cons and figure out what is best for your individual situation.

3. PHOTO CRITICAL. For your personal brand account, your photo or avatar should be a photo of yourself. For goodness sakes, don't use a photo of your dog or kid, or a photo of you as a kid - unless you really are a kid (and then perhaps Twitter should be used only with some adult supervision). And it's probably not a good idea to put up just any photo of yourself. Your photo - whether on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook - is a reflection of you and your personal brand. Make it count. Invest in a decent photographer, pay attention to your wardrobe - even hire an image consultant if you feel it necessary. People will see your Twitter photo each and every time you send a tweet or post - adding up to thousands of times. Think of tweets as your own branding campaign - like your target audience seeing mini TV spots of you over and over again. If this is your business account, then your company logo - or a very memorable graphic representation of it - should be used. Traction tip: remember that Twitter (as well as LinkedIn) only allows for a square photo less than 700kb in size. Make it bold and impactful in that small space.

4. FILL THE BIO. Many people don't take the time to write a good bio and so they get in a hurry and just write something lame. Irrelevant. Meaningless. Your Twitter bio, while short, says a lot about you. In fact, it says everything about you. Aside from your avatar, it is your image to the world. Pay attention. It's like your resume only short. Very short. But just like a tweet, you'd be surprised what you can say in a few words. Or what your bio says about you. One of my favorite lines is one from Mark Twain or perhaps attributed to T.S. Eliot, who said "If I had more time, I'd write a shorter letter." The point is, take the time. Write pithy. Edit. Review. Edit again. Get not only to the heart of who you are but, most importantly, who you serve. To whom do you bring value to? Be sure they are mentioned. Business owners? Moms? Kids? Runners? When people read your bio, your "story," they need to see a bit of themselves in it. They need to relate to you. While you don't have to take up the entire character space, we don't want you to sell yourself short - but we also don't want you to sell in this space. Just keep it simple and don't try to do too much: simply get the person to the next step and the next step is to follow you or, if they're already following you, to connect or converse or contact you.

5. LOCATION. So we have some pet peeves about this. People don't realize how important it is to not only use the location field but also to use it correctly if you expect people to find you and follow you. If someone leaves this field blank, then it says they were either lazy or don't want anyone to know where they're from. I'd rather see something in this field, than nothing. Geez, at least let us know what country or state you're from. But some people use UberTwitter and then have their UberTwitter code in the field, which is meaningless if I'm looking for location to be a connection with the person. What's worse, is that their Twitter handle won't be picked up in Twitter directories such as Twitterholic or Twellow. Which means, if I'm looking to find people close to me, I won't find that person. So adding the proper location is important if you want more people to find you - and particularly important for local businesses, sales professionals or freelancers. Traction tip: use the main metropolitan area closest to you. For example, I live in Chesterfield, VA but in the Richmond, VA area so I use Richmond VA. Most people won't be looking through all the suburbs to find people. And best to use that City, ST format as well.

6. FILL IN THE URL. Sometimes people leave the URL field blank but don't do that. If you don't have a website you can find a URL to put there. You can use the link to your LinkedIn or your multi-media VisualCV profile, particularly if you're looking for a job or building your personal brand. Or you can set up a PeoplePond page with your social profile and use that. Or a simple Google personal profile. Even your YouTube channel if you work with a lot of video. Traction tip: we want this URL is an active, engaging place - either a blog or a site that not only has further contact information for you but also has further content - content that is relevant to what you do, who you are and, most importantly, who you help.

7. TWITTER BACKGROUND. Ideally, you want to design a custom background for you or your business that is branded to you. Not a designer? That's fine. You can use the Twitter backgrounds and colors to at least match your brand temporarily, until you get started. There are also a number of free Twitter backgound services you can use. But, just like your photo, your Twitter page is a reflection of who you are and your company so don't leave it to chance. Just like anything else, sometimes you only have one chance to make a great impression. So find a designer who will create a Twitter background page for you - budget of $100-$200 will usually more than suffice, depending on how much graphics you need created. If you can't find someone, call us and we'll create one for you.

So those are what we believe are the 7 most important set-up steps to creating an impressive and effective Twitter account - one that will get you the most traction from a branding standpoint. If you still need help, no worries. Just contact the Traction Group, the social marketing agency for small business owners, and we'll be glad to answer any questions you may have. Remember, WHAT YOU TWEET is just as important, if not even much more so. We'll share some traction tips for that as well - in a future article.

Sally Witzky is owner, chief strategist and "tractioneer" of Traction Group LLC, a Richmond VA based social media marketing agency. She helps small business owners and speakers develop an online brand strategy through social media and she coaches people who want to develop their personal brand. For more than fifteen years, she has led advertising, direct marketing and brand development initiatives for Fortune 1000 companies including Citizens Bank/RBS, Champion Mortgage, Saab, FMC and Mercedes-Benz. She can be found on Twitter as @SallyWitzky and @TractionGroup and blogs at http://TractionGroup.com.

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