Twitter Tips for small businesses and start ups

Twitter has been around for a while yet remains one of the platforms that seems to cause the most confusion when I talk to small business owners, especially start ups.

It is one of those things that we all know about yet makes us feel that everyone else understands and is using it and we just aren’t ‘in the club’.

So here are some simple tips to get you started that will hopefully set you on the right path to using twitter effectively.

Make sure your twitter user name (handle) is easy to be found

You will set up your twitter handle (name) when you set up an account so make sure you pick this carefully. You must have a unique name which can prove challenging considering how many users there are on twitter but try and get something as close to your business name as possible. You only have 15 characters to play with.

Avoid using too many non-standard characters (like 1 instead of an l) as it makes it difficult for people to find you. It also goes without saying not to use something non-professional so avoid nicknames or inappropriate words.

Set up your twitter profile

You will have the opportunity to personalise your page and this is something that people often don’t get round and then never update.

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  • Your username – your name appears above your username. This can be the same but doesn’t have to be. I have my name in addition to my twitter handle
  • Your profile picture – this could be a version of your logo but I would recommend it is a picture of you, especially if you are a small business. People are more likely to interact with a person than a logo so this is one instance where person goes before brand
  • Your biog is the bit underneath user name and you have 160 characters as a summary of who you are and what you do. This is probably one of the hardest things you will have to do as brevity is a real art. Try and steer clear of bland words and phrases but get something that provides a bit of personality. People will look at this when judging whether to follow you so make it count.
  • You also can add a page image which would be 1500 x 500 pixels and works best if is in a GIF or PNG format. Be aware that your profile picture will crop into this area
Start by following relevant accounts

This sounds simple but many people forget this and start ploughing on with their tweets without thinking about building their following and if no one is following you, then no one will see what you are tweeting.

Think about who you want to follow and go and find them on twitter, this could include –

  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Competitors
  • Industry gurus
  • Your target audience

You can use the hashtag facility on twitter to look for tweets on a specific subject or even locality. If you had a florists for example you might search for hashtags #weddings. And don’t forget you can see who everyone else is following or being followed by and then you can follow them. Spend a bit of time and you can quickly build your follow list but a word of warning … it isn’t just about numbers and you are looking to have a roughly even amount of followers and people you follow.

Promote others

The twitter equivalent of sharing is retweeting. If you see a tweet you think would be interesting to your followers than you can retweet

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There is also a less altruistic motive for retweeting, as if you start promoting other people’s tweets they are more likely to start noticing you, follow you and may retweet your tweets to their followers.

Be careful about not just retweeting anything and everything though or your followers will get fed up. Pick your retweets carefully and also try and add something to it with a few extra words.

Start a conversation

Twitter is all about being interactive so don’t be afraid to reply to tweets making a comment and starting to build a rapport with that person. If you are a small business this can be a great way to make contact with potential customers or influential people in your market, just remember that contact shouldn’t be a sales pitch!

Start tweeting

You only have 140 characters (including spaces) so, like your biog, you will need to be brief. Best practice, however says the ideal tweet is more like 100 characters which allows people to retweet and add a comment.

If you are adding a link then either use a URL shortening site such as  or use social media tools such as tweetdeck which allow you to tweet via their system and automatically shorten links.

You also need to be creative with your tweets and write them so they are attention grabbing rather than the same as everyone else’s

Use hashtags

Hashtags are a type of marker that allow people to search for a subject and all the tweets and conversations around that hashtag. These are good to add into your tweet, but don’t overdo it and make sure they are relevant. If you are not sure if it is then do a quick search for that hashtag and see what comes up. Does it fit with what you are talking about?

Mention others

With twitter you can mention or tag any twitter user by including their twitter username starting with the @ sign. So if you wanted me to see the twitter then you would add @kinetictweet in the body of the tweet and I would be notified that you had mentioned me. This is a good way of getting a conversation going.

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Include a picture!

Studies have shown that tweets including pictures get improved engagement than those that don’t. So think if you have a relevant picture you can use, most smartphones allow you to post directly from your phone so it couldn’t be simpler

Be focused

Have a clear idea of what you will be tweeting about and who your audience is and don’t be tempted to go ‘off piste’ and start tweeting about every topic you can think of. If you want to use twitter to air your views and subjects non business related then set up a personal twitter account but keep your business one for business.

Above all don’t be afraid to use twitter as the more you use it, the more you will learn from others what does and doesn’t work and you can tailor your own activity accordingly. If you are still not convinced about how it could help your business, check out our blog ‘Practical Tips on using twitter for business