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Tips for Smart Tweeters

August 16, 2010

There’s no doubting the popularity of Twitter (care to guess who the Top 5 people are, ranked by the highest number of Followers? We’ll reveal that list at the end of the article, but number 5 is Barack Obama with 4,949,403 (as of the writing of this article)). But not everyone gets the need to use Twitter as part of your overall marketing strategy. After all, isn’t mainly for people to tell others what they had for breakfast (link: Top 10 Twitter Mythconceptions)?

No. It’s not.

In fact, there are some clever companies and organizations right now doing things with this form of communication that are downright brilliant:

Wait times at border crossings. Who doesn’t get frustrated waiting in line while trying to cross the U.S.-Canada border? The Canada Border Services Agency publishes — every minute — expected wait time for both commercial carriers and travelers. Now, if they could somehow tell us which line at Customs is faster!

Custom food creation. Have a favorite burger joint or other stop that allows you to customize your lunch? One New York restaurant allows you to create a burger, name it, Tweet it and then every time someone orders it, you gets 25 cents off your next order.

Where to hear Christmas carols. Boston’s Logan Airport uses Twitter to notify arriving and departing customers about flight delays and cancellations, flight sales, specials in the airport’s restaurants and even where the Christmas carolers are. You can even participate by choice parking spots that opened.

Consumer product recalls. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses Twitter to notify Followers (almost 72,000 and counting) about food recalls and other food and drug alerts.

Construction updates. The Michigan Dept. of Transportation updates everyone in real time as to where the delays are. Still, it doesn’t make sitting in traffic any better — at least you know you’re not alone in the frustration.

There are tons of other uses too, from an L.A.-area traveling food van that tweets it’s late-night locations to the LA County Fire Department alerting followers during last summer’s forest fires. But while most companies and organizations can think of a few possible uses for Twitter, most don’t know how to proceed past signing up. Well, here are a few helpful tips that can help rise you rise about the crowd:

Personalize your profile. If you’re thinking of making the jump to Twitter for your business or organization, you’re likely already on Facebook. Just as you can customize your profile or account there, so can you on Twitter. Pick an icon to represent your account (but realize how tiny it may appear), complete basic information on your profile (hours, what you offer, where you’re at) and then maybe pick a nice color scheme or even background graphics.

Connect to the right people. There’s a bit of a strategy here. While no one knows the right formula for success, smart advice says to follow people who might bring you followers in return, broadcast clever and helpful information (and often) and keep an eye on trends — and trendsetters. Retweeting (or rebroadcasting what someone else broadcasted) gets you almost as many kudos and having done it originally.

Participate. Offer helpful advice. Ask if anyone needs help. Keep focused and follow the mix of 75% helpful, informative and unselfish tweets vs. 25% that might inform about your company or organization, its products and/or services.

Protect your reputation. Don’t spam. Don’t copy content claiming it’s your own. And don’t do those things mom told you not to do (lie, cheat, steal, etc.). Sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised.

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