Twitter for startups and small businesses: a step-by-step guide

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Twitter has more than 300 million active monthly users, making it a great way to tell the world about your business, connect with customers and develop brand awareness. This step-by-step explains why you should use Twitter, how to do it well and the most effective ways to measure your success.

Twitter can be an incredibly useful tool for startups to find their voice in an industry and a great way to connecting with customers. The key is having a well thought out plan of attack. Give it the resource it deserves, create smart content, promote it strategically and engage with your audience.

  • Be clear about what you hope to achieve through using Twitter
  • Mix up what you share to drive engagement and attract followers
  • Pay attention to analytics to ensure you’re making the most of Twitter

Step 1: Plan your Twitter strategy

Establish your need and resources
The first point to consider when creating a company Twitter profile for your startup is whether it is worth the effort. This will depend on a number of factors, such as your industry sector, your audience and the resources you have available. Using Twitter effectively is a commitment and can take time.

Don't spread yourself too thin
Avoid running multiple social media accounts for the sake of it. LinkedIn makes it easier to understand who your followers are, but Twitter offers more potential traffic upside. Instagram carries little traffic potential, so avoid that platform unless brand and influence is your focus. Different social networks have different reporting tools and offer varying levels of insight on overall performance. It can be hard to know how you're doing when compared to your rivals. Facebook and Twitter offer a lot of data on performance, but they often measure different things, so try and treat each channel as distinct entities.

Set goals
You also should map out the tangible outcomes you hope to achieve through launching the account.

They could include:

  • Increasing sales
  • Growing your customer base
  • Support your customers and building trust
  • Growing brand awareness
  • Tracking industry trends
  • Becoming a sector influencer

Step 2: Create an engaging Twitter profile

Once your goals are set and you have concluded the business can commit the resources to use the profile effectively, next is planning your Twitter strategy.

Try and develop a consistent voice and post regularly
There is no merit in a burst of activity once a week or twice a month with nothing in between. Neither the platform algorithms nor the users will engage with you unless you're consistent. Try also to find a human voice. It might be business, but people behind the accounts are people to be enticed.

Know your audience
What do the people you want to reach like to read and watch? Are they time-short? How much do they already know about your product? Are they experts in your sector or new to it? Ask yourself these and other questions to properly get under the skin of your target audience. And if you’re going to use Twitter extensively, consider defining personas to fully understand their needs and how your posts can help meet them.

Experiment with different formats
Videos, infographics, podcasts and emojis can all add significant upside to your engagement and click-through rates. They also mark you out as providing a proper service rather than just using the platform as a placeholder or a cynical traffic driver.

Don't just share your own material
A lot of social traffic and influence relies on trust. While there will be times where sharing your own content is a business imperative, don't be afraid to engage with your followers and share their material too. A 1:3 ratio of external links to your own posts is about right.

Keep an eye on the competition
To stay ahead of the curve, it’s incredibly important to check your competitors to see how their approach matches your own. Such is the varied universe of startups out there, don’t automatically assume that your strategy should match that of your rivals. However, keep an eye out for tips and tricks that might benefit your target audience. If something works for you, don’t be afraid to keep using it.

Step 3: Optimising your success

Just as important as planning for success is measuring it intelligently. Here are four ways to do that.

Tailor your success
Success isn't a one-size fits all approach for every business. Some will see the growth of their follower numbers from a small user base as highly valuable, others will aim for increased traffic into their on-site sales funnel.

Think about the end journey
Chasing traffic is often understandable, but users from social don't typically hang around very long, so you can spend a lot of time (and money) bringing users to site without much bottom line benefit. In that instance, it's important that your website is as efficient and clean as possible before you start driving traffic that way. Certainly don't invest in paid social (advertising on third-party social media channels) unless you're confident of your desired outcome.

Scheduling tools can help
They can do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of working out which platforms and formats prove most effective for your business and can unpick the optimal times of day to post your messaging. Use social listening tools, they can help understand what is being discussed in your industry and to work out what successes your competitors are having in their social strategy. Many of these tools suggest optimal days of the week to post as well as format and length of content observations.

Use your website analytics for social traffic
The best data you'll have is your own. Try and establish how your social visitors use the site. If, as is often the case, more than 75% of your users leave the site after a single page view, try and find a way of making that experience as positive as possible.

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