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The Definitive Guide to Twitter for Small Business Owners, Part 1

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at August 24th, 2017

As a small business owner, you have undoubtedly heard someone tell you that you just have to get onto Twitter. You may have your own personal account and be an old hand at it, or you might be completely mystified by it. Not to worry. Here’s your road map to Twitter.

Why You Want to Be on Twitter

Your first question of course is: why are you doing this? Here are the top reasons business owners just like you are on Twitter:

  1. Your customer demographics coincide with Twitter’s. Per OmniCore:
    • 24% of all male internet users have a Twitter account (and 21% of all female internet users)
    • 79% of all Twitter accounts have a basis outside the United States
    • The US has over 67 million Twitter users
    • The UK has 13 million
    • 25% of Twitter users are ages 30-49; 37% are between ages 18 and 29
    • 54% of all Twitter users earn at least $50,000 annually
    • Outside the US, the top three countries using Twitter are Brazil (almost 28 million), Japan (nearly 26 million), and Mexico (23.5 million)
  2. You want to get out a quick message to customers.
    1. Coupon codes were made for Twitter.
    2. Inform customers of sales.
    3. Tweet store hours or store openings.
  3. You want to point potential customers to another site.
    1. This can be a website, blog, or Facebook page or group.
    2. It can also be a link to an online survey.
    3. Got a contest sign up form? Tweet that.
  4. You want to handle customer service via Twitter.
  5. You need to respond to a crisis.
  6. You want to engage with customers and potential customers.

Getting Set Up

Let’s get you started.

Your Twitter Handle

If your business is slow to get on Twitter, you may find your preferred handle is gone, taken by someone else. All is not lost. Investigate who is using that handle. Is the account abandoned or active? Is it someone in business, or a private individual? For an abandoned account, send a PM (private message) to the account and ask nicely if they will give up the handle. They might do so, or they might ask for payment for it. It’s up to you whether you want to pay anything.

Some people are squatters on Twitter. Conan O’Brien, for example, originally could not get his own name on Twitter. Therefore, he and his social media team created an account called Team Coco. Now the two accounts are both verified and connect with him – and they even put out different content. So if your company is called, say McSweeny’s and you can’t get that as a handle, consider something similar, or even what your customers call you, which might be McS’s. Or add a location element if there’s more than one McSweeny’s, and go withChicagoMcSweeny. Your handle can be 15 characters or less, and that includes spaces and numbers. However, you can add a name for up to 20 characters, for clarification. Your handle can’t have punctuation, but your name can.

Extra Twitter Handles

Twitter is free, so it doesn’t matter how many Twitter accounts you make. And there’s no law that says more than one of them has to be active. You can just toss a link to your main Twitter account into these extra profiles and call it a day.

Why would you want extra Twitter handles? The real reason is to lock them down. If you are ever in the midst of a social media crisis, the last thing you want is for someone to start a Twitter stream that looks like your business, but isn’t. And always be sure, if it can fit into a Twitter handle, to get your business name plus the word ‘sucks’. For the McSweeny’s example, McSweenysSucks is 14 characters. It’s short enough to be a legitimate Twitter handle.

You can also use extra handles if you ever need to split up your content. If some of your clientele doesn’t speak English, then you could have, say, a Hungarian version of your Twitter account if that would reach customers. Or you might split adult and minor child customers if appropriate.

Avatar (Profile Image)

Got a company logo where any lettering isn’t too small? Then this is a great place for it. Consider Nike, which has an image associated with it (it’s called a swoosh). That account’s avatar is a swoosh.  Too much detail will be lost on Twitter, particularly on the mobile version, so go with a more basic version of your logo if it has too much verbiage. Streamline it.

Other ideas for avatars can be the company mascot if you have one, or even an image of your sign. If you are a company that retails other, more recognizable products (let’s say you are a reseller of Corvettes), then you might want to go with an image of your product here.

If the company is just you, then a picture of your face is fine, too. Make sure the image is clear and relatively recent – and for God’s sake, smile!

And even if your logo is fuzzy and hard to read, or you’re scowling in your picture, it’s still better than the default avatar, which is an egg.

Background Image

This image is larger, so it should be of higher quality than your avatar. You could showcase your city’s skyline, or your business’s menu, or the local Little League team you’re sponsoring. How about a picture of your storefront, or your best-selling product? You can even add a price list if you like. This image isn’t clickable, but it’s another way you can showcase your business. Backgrounds look different on mobile devices, so look at yours on several before settling on one. Make adjustments if you need to.

If you have no idea what to use, there’s nothing wrong with a color associated with your business. It’s not very flashy, but it is better than nothing. As with your avatar, you will always do better to have made a modification rather than just going with the default.

In Part 2, we’ll finish getting set up and go into detail about how to use Twitter.

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