Tweet Talk

The lowdown on the Twitter Phenomenon and how it can work wonders for your business.

I’m Janelle Mascarenas, the new kid at the School of Twitter. I’ve only been using this part of social media for a few months and I am not very well versed with the jargon yet. I’m still trying to find my way around and figure out what benefits there are for me, or for you, for that matter. Since I am a novice, I want you to hear about Twitter from my perspective first. Then America’s Best Companies’ Social Media expert, Kim Fenolio, will go ahead and tell us the real deal. In me, you might get to see a bit of yourself and hear a good number of the same questions that you may be thinking already.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

What is Twitter?

According to the homepage, this application with a 140 character limitation connects friends, family, and co-workers through the quick and frequent exchange of answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

“Social media is an easy way for small businesses to become part of the conversations taking place online,” Co-Founder and Creative Director of Twitter, Biz Stone, said.

The whole concept of sharing your status was not too strange because another social media application called Facebook has a similar feature. I initially started using the program asking: how can other people find my personal activities interesting? Later, I find out there was more to Twitter than just updating your status. Individuals on the network called Twitterers enjoy sharing entertaining and educational information. This material derives from their personal experience or something they viewed from other sources like the Internet or TV. Once I discovered this, whole new possibilities opened up in how I participated on my account.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

What is the benefit of using Twitter for small business?

I can see how Twitter, utilized in a proper manner can be an excellent tool for small businesses. Depending on the impact of a message posted on the site, a viral effect may occur where other Twitterers will spread the information to their friends and so on.

“I have seen a lot of people leverage social media in order to get a little bit of a marketing leg up on the competition just by going out in various social networks,” Social Media Strategist and President of Harbrooke Group, Howard Greenstein, said. The Harbrooke Group focuses on helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest social networking and web technologies.

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, this application helps management stay attuned to customer interests as well as their complaints about their facility. Twitter works as another tool or resource into the minds of their target audience. This program gives small businesses instant connection and gives immediate response to any question or concern from their customers.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

What do I do first?

When I started using Twitter, I had no clue on where to begin. I wandered the halls of Twitter lost and confused. Hitwise Manager of Media Relations, Matt Tatham, shares his observations where the Experian Company he works for specializes in monitoring and measuring millions of Internet users. Before getting involved in the social media community, a user should identify their intentions. “What is your goal: Is it brand awareness or make new friends?” Tatham said. “You want to establish this before hand.” Know how others should perceive your profile whether or not this application will be strictly used for business, personal or even mixing the two worlds. This will help establish your goals and the kinds of activities executed on the account.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

Who do I look for? Who are my target Twitterers?

As a newbie, I want to befriend anybody who asks even without checking their background. This leads into disaster when the person you follow is a spammer. Spammers just want to fulfill their personal agenda where they push others to buy their product or promote their event. Next thing you know, your whole Twitter page is littered with their propaganda. “Twitter is an interesting beast and place where people are using it for all sort of connections,” Greenstein said. Learn from my mistake, the individuals you add should carry some value. Twitter is a social domain where if you go in with pure intentions you will gain a credible and solid following. So choose your friends carefully. Small business owners should also know their target Twitters. What are some of the best ways to approach this?

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

And how do I find them?

There are numerous methods in finding fellow Twitterers. Tatham simply suggests following people who share similar interests and business alliances where Stone strongly recommends Twitter Search. I usually network within my own Twitter followers to connect with others outside my community.

What can I do to make tweeting more efficient?

From my experience, the 140 character limitation is both a blessing and a curse. Users must be very careful in their posts for usually it is public and can easily be confused. The concise messaging makes people have to think on what they say and keep it to the constraints.

According to Tatham, Twitter allows small business owners a cost effective and simple way to get control of their branding message. A Twitter user, as well as a small business owner, must be ready to tackle all sorts of comments head on or just have the message sit out there in cyber space. Remember, people can still find messages once posted.

“When you share information about yourself or your business on the web, it’s difficult to take it back so folks need to be comfortable sharing,” Stone said.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

How do I communicate with others properly?

I am not a real authority on deciding the proper procedures to communicate on Twitter. But, certain activities from Twitterers can cause me to lose interest with particular followers.

“Don’t show up to market to them and think you know everything,” Greenstein said. “People sniff that out and ignore it.”

When a fellow Twitterer acts detached and continues to be self centered, I don’t want to follow them anymore. These individuals do not offer anything unique except for their self promotion. You want to know you are tweeting a real person. I love learning about the Tweets that offer useful information whether trivial or applicable. The Twitterers feeding fun and entertaining insights from something they witnessed or found from a different source holds significance to me. This builds community and makes me want to find the Twitterers worth following.

Jump straight to the Expert Advice.

What is the effective way to communicate on Twitter?

Every time I log onto Twitter, I find out something new about my followers and myself. Social media tools like Twitter changes how we communicate and see the world. More and more information is being shared rapidly and frequently, and I look forward to seeing where this will take us next.

I think I’ve asked enough questions for now. It’s time to turn this all over to Kim Fenolio, our resident new media expert, to find out the answers to our questions. Don’t forget that after the bell has rung and class has ended, you should get out there and apply what you have learned.

Kim Fenolio gives Expert Advice on Twitter

First, my name is Kim Fenolio and let me begin by telling you a bit about why I’m qualified to give you expert advice on Twitter and social media. I’ve been involved in new and social media since before those terms were coined. I started in online social communities and interactive sites in the early to mid 90s. I organized and ran a community of 200 people. By 1997 I’d attended my first meet-up of people that I’d only previously talked to on the Internet. I’ve been stuck inside this snowball since then and I love every minute of it. I started on Twitter at the end of 2006 just a few months after it launched. I’ve been with it through its evolution and its growth. Since then I’ve consulted with and taught many business owners how to use Twitter. It’s time to share that with you now!

What is Twitter? is a micro-blogging platform that creates the way in which you can broadcast what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. You find people whose updates you want to follow and people will follow you as well. Having these little networks is the start of a community of people.

Originally, Twitter was intended as a way for you to release status messages in a public timeline made up of you and a network of people that you’ve created. As people began to use the service they inadvertently found new ways in which to utilize it. As we all know, this is how some of the best products and services are created.

Janelle found this out through her personal evolution with Twitter. She started with wondering how others would find her world interesting. That evolved into finding other people and what they had to say interesting.

People began communicating with other Twitter users by typing @username before the message that they wanted a specific user to see. After a while, Twitter has come to evolve into multiple things: output only (people who don’t talk to other Twitter users), a community of people (cliques or groups of people with common interests) and conversations; with the last being the most important.

What is the benefit of using Twitter for small business?

Now that you know what Twitter is, the next biggest question is this: what’s in it for me? Quite frankly you’re going to get business and brand awareness by following people, getting others to follow you and having conversations. It’s the age-old concept of networking.

You are your brand. Represent yourself. Be a human, not an advertisement but don’t be afraid to show you and your company’s value. When you’re authentic, people will want to hear what you have to say. This builds a relationship of trust, creating loyal followers and future customers.

People always ask me how to create returning customers who are loyal followers or better market themselves. What about WOM? Twitter creates that as well and it is one of the best answers, depending of course on where your target audience is located.

You have the ability to connect to an audience that you otherwise may never have had the opportunity to reach before. Since Twitter is under the umbrella of social media, the expectation is that of being social, thus being a part of a community and taking part in conversations. The conclusion is that we must be social in order to connect and make our audience aware of our brand.

Twitter also helps us with reputation management. Janelle touched on this a bit regarding customer interests but it can also be applied towards monitoring your reputation. Using you can put in keywords such as your name or your company’s name. It will display real time results for whatever term you’ve searched. It will update the page and tell you if there are more results (in real time!). You can even subscribe to the RSS feed for that search and keep track of it in your favorite feed reader.

But why 140 characters or less?

Sure it might make more sense to say more in light of this being a social atmosphere, but that’s not the point. Twitter was intended to be portable. Let’s face it; most of us are pretty busy people. We have a lot on our plates and we don’t always have time to sit for long periods of time in front of our computer. Twitter incorporated a way to allow status updates to be sent and received via SMS with your mobile phone. The standard character count for SMS is 160. Limiting updates to 140 characters allows for twitter to transmit the SMS and who it is that’s sending the message. It’s all for good reason, honest. But really, if you want to say more than you can get out in 140 characters, you should write that in a blog post and then tell us about it on Twitter!

What do I do first?

Now that you see potential benefits it’s time to get a move on. Class is in session.

I often find that many people aren’t able to grasp the concept of Twitter unless they have others to share it with; people to @reply to and have conversations. I recommend asking a few of your friends or business associates to explore Twitter with you. Having others to actually interact with to get the ball rolling often will help you find your way and get you in a groove.

When you begin, be sure to set initial goals for yourself. Be willing to change them frequently. As you interact and learn how to use Twitter you’ll likely find that your perceptions, goals and even the way in which you interact with others will change.

How do I find people to follow?

Since you now need to find people to follow, that leads us to the question: how do I go about that? There are search engines that you can use to find Twitter users:

As a business owner, you should know who your target audience is. With that in mind, you need to develop search terms and keywords to use in the search engines. Do you want to find people who have blogs? People who own businesses? People interested in cars? If you were to say that you liked cars in a few short words, use that as a search term. It’s likely that others will use similar words. Basically Janelle is right in that you want to find and add the people who you can derive value from but also find people who are going to find what you have to say valuable.

Tip: Make sure you’ve made some updates before you start following a bunch of people. If you start following people without any updates (or very few) you may come across as a spammer to many users.

What can I do to make tweeting more efficient?

Now that you’ve found some people to follow, let’s work on what to tweet about and how to make it all efficient.

Telling people what you’re doing when you update is alright but don’t let that be all it is. You must be social. Share a bit of who you are. Share a bit of who your company is. By following other like-minded individuals you maximize results and conversions (sales). Try to comment or relate to them. What this does is it creates a connection with them. Connections start relationships and relationship equal trust. Trust means a willingness to act. This will increase your conversion rates with a bit of time and attention.

While there are many other options for communicating with Twitter like mobile web browsing, IM clients and the like, I’m going to focus on just a few options. I recommend the use of 3rd party applications or tools. What that means is you’ll install a small program on your computer that enhances your Twitter experience. They automatically pull in the updates of the people that you follow and have an interface that allows you to simply and quickly respond, direct message or favorite. My suggestion is to use applications that are based on Adobe Air (works for both PC and Mac) technology. Twhirl is a great program to use if you don’t have a large network. For those with larger networks, I recommend using TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows you to create custom groups of Twitter users within the application, filter @replies and direct messages. You can find additional applications at

Of course there’s the all around reason for the140 character restriction: updating via SMS. To do this you need to go into your settings on, enter your mobile phone number and follow the instructions. At that point you’ll be able to send and receive messages from your mobile phone. I use Twitter SMS mainly just for sending out my messages when I’m on the go.

Remember that what you say is out there for the whole world to see. Janelle touched on this, but be conscious of that and consider both the positive and the negative aspects of what your message can say. This will also help you to keep your messages clear and concise.

How do I communicate with others properly?

Some say that there’s a right and a wrong way to use Twitter. Others say that there is no wrong way. There are ways that people use Twitter that I don’t agree with, but I also choose not to follow what they do. We’ll get to what not to do shortly. First though, I’ll give you my suggestions on how to properly communicate.

A Simple Twitter Formula

Update, communicate, and find more people.

Wash, rinse, repeat. In that order.

  • @TheirUsernameHere [your message here]

  • d TheirUsernameHere [your message here]

  • #Topic

What shouldn’t I do?

Do not use a script or Twitter adder to follow thousands of people at once.

  • You won’t be able to engage in quality conversations and keep up to date on the people that will make the most difference to you and your business.
  • Twitter users sniff out spammers quite easily, they may consider you one and not follow you back.

  • Twitterers generally don’t like people that only talk about how awesome they are and promote their product or mission.
  • They want real substance and real content. Give them a reason to be interested in what you’re doing.
  • Do not follow a lot more people than follow you back. To do that will cause you to look like a spammer as well. Use the formula I gave you above. This will help to keep your numbers even and ensure that you have captured the interests of your following network.

Twitter and social media are in a constant state of evolution. Almost everything is created with the intention of action and reaction. Don’t be afraid to try new things with the tools at your fingertips. You could be the one to start a new trend, be the catalyst for a new service or a new way of communication.

So now it’s time to get out there and begin your Twitter journey. You can find me on Twitter at Once you get your account all set up, send me a message @kFenolio. I’d be happy to help you find your way. Happy Tweeting!

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