Twitter essentials – remember, it’s just a conversation

Like it? Loathe it? Can’t be bothered?

More and more ordinary businesses and community groups are realising that they can directly benefit from Twitter. Like it or loathe it social media is here to stay. I recently gave some basic advice on how to use Twitter to a local business in Wapping and thought I would add this to Love Wapping site for general use.

At one level Twitter is all about branding but let’s not go there. You just want to know the basics so here is my opinion. It’s not rocket science, anyone can learn how to tweet for best effect.

@lovewapping on Twitter

When I am not scouring the cobbled streets of Wapping for breaking international news stories I am a user experience designer ( that sometimes involves working on social media strategy for big brands and companies.

Often these big brands and companies do not understand either how social media works or its potential benefits. That’s their problem and they hire me to fix it.

As a result of this experience I know that it is quite possible for any individual or organisation on Twitter to benefit from social media as long as you follow some basic guidelines. I have set these out below.

For software there are lots of choices. Three to look at are:

1. Twitter and Facebook are like chalk and cheese

Twitter is not Facebook. They are both social media platforms but they work in completely different ways. Chalk and cheese. The advice below is only relevant to Twitter and assumes you have a web presence (which of course could be a Facebook page) and or ideally a blog.

2. It’s about what’s happening now

Twitter is a real time service so you have to monitor it as often as you can. If you want to promote your business this is fundamental.

If a potential customer sends you a tweet at 11 am then they expect a prompt reply. You can’t send a reply to a tweet hours after the original question. If you can’t help the customer they will find someone else who can.

3. Tweeting while you work

Best way to tweet is while you are working. Yes of course a tweet written at leisure one evening is fine but people don’t expect polished prose in 140 characters. They want short, sharp and to the point and now.

4. No porky pies

Be honest and transparent. If you do not Twitter will find you out and expose you. It’s the other side of social engagement.

5. Its just a conversation

You need to establish a conversation with people on twitter. This is fundamental. You need to have something interesting or useful to say.  Twitter users follow each other and interact because they have shared interests.

Twitter conversation
Twitter conversation

If you have expert knowledge then this is potential Twitter gold! You might be an expert on biodynamic wines, how squirrels bury their nuts or the inner workings of the local council-planning department. It doesn’t matter what the knowledge is there will be other people out there who will be interested in the same thing.

6. Not too little, not too much

You need to tweet on a regular basis but not too much! Once a day would be fine apart from replies to tweets of course.

7. Building an audience takes time

If you do this in the right way you will make contact with people interested in your business / community group / hobby and then further afield. So you build your audience. It takes time though.

8. Do not live tweet an event. Ever.

Avoid the temptation to live tweet an event – in my experience this is just a very good way to lose followers. A stream of tweets every two minutes is just not good. A person I once followed (note use of past tense) thought it would be great to list 100 things in tweets. Separate tweets. Every few minutes. All day.

9. Give your followers something to share

There is no point whatsoever is sending this sort of message out on Twitter:

“We need your support now more than ever! Could you please help us to spread the word about us? Cheers!”

If you have not been tweeting useful information then even your followers will not RT. You share, other people share back.

10. Schedule your tweet activity

Consider setting up a schedule for the week. Once a week add new content to your blog and tweet with a link to that. Then once a day tweet something interesting about what you do which shows and shares your expert knowledge.

If there is an event on locally (maybe at Tobacco Dock @TobaccoDockLon or St Katharine’s Dock @StKats) then you should promote that to your followers if there is a good fit between your followers and the local event followers.

An example of this might be the Real Wine Fair @RealWineFair or Feast London @wefeastlondon event at Tobacco Dock or Shepherds Market @shepherdsmarket that has food fairs at St Katharine’s Dock on a Friday.

But only associate these tweeters with yourself if they are relevant! The examples above are related to food, wine, cuisine, Wapping and St Kaths. So make sure there is a clear connection between what you do and what they do. If there is then you will get more followers. If you do not then you will probably just get flagged for spam.

11. Tweet offers with links to your e-commerce site

Have a special offer on your ecommerce site? Tweet a link to it with an explanation of why it is a good offer!

12. Physical space can work well with virtual space

If you have premises that your customers physically visit then you can do all sorts of stuff. When your premises are busy why not tweet to your followers something along the lines of “If you are in <insert your twitter name here> now first person to reply to this tweet gets a free / discounted X, Y or Z”. Come to think of it this might work when there are not enough people in your premises so it could be “Next person through the doors of <insert your twitter name here> who can show they follow us on Twitter gets a free / discounted X, Y or Z.

13. Get a good clear photo or logo for your profile

Make sure the photo on your Twitter profile is recognisable when viewed really, really, really small. It is only ever going to be viewed small and so needs to be distinct. Lots of detail and messy backgrounds are bad. No decent photo? Then get a proper logo designed. I recommend local Wapping designer Brad Clark who does wonders with logos.

14. Follow a good tweeter and learn

Follow good tweeters and study how they build an audience, especially in your market sector. Now there is only one Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Marine Unit in the world but tweeters in Wapping should follow our very own @MPSonthewater – they are very good! Textbook.

Metropolitan Police Service Marine Unit at Wapping - expert tweeters
Metropolitan Police Service Marine Unit at Wapping – expert tweeters

@MPSonthewater tweet nautical quotes, useful information (tides) they tell people what they are up to, they do quizzes, banter about the Ray Ban rivalry with the MPS Helicopters  @MPSinthesky – and these are police officers! (I know of new media professionals who call themselves ‘social media community managers’ who are nowhere near as good as they people.)

And because @MPSonthewater did all the right things they went from zero to just under 4,000 followers in a few weeks. Now that is very hard if not impossible to do for most people starting out on Twitter but shows what can be done. I assume the officers were very well trained in Twitter by the MPS but they just have the knack too.

This shows Twitter at its best. As the MPS Marine Unit patrol up and down the Thames in their boats it is quite likely that most of the members of the public they meet are (a) very wet (b) just jumped off a bridge or (c) all of the above.  What their use of Twitter has done is engage @MPSonthewater with people who normally only watch them zoom by.

15. The bad news

Last but not least always leave room in a tweet for people to RT it to their followers. So the bad news is you haven’t even got 140 characters to play with.

17. Often overlooked

Oh and have fun.

Many thanks to What’s in Wapping @wappinglondon for creating the Wapping Twitter community in the first place.

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