I have been a Twitter user since February 2007 and have evolved with the service over the years. I am well-versed in how individuals and companies use Twitter and what strategies are effective.

Twitter users have myriad purposes. Some are there for networking. Some want to gain expertise by sharing knowledge and finding and following potential mentors. Some simply want to share stories.

Similarly, businesses can use Twitter to reach out to potential and current customers in many ways. Comcast and Pandora Radio are excellent examples of customer service through Twitter. Small businesses have become known worldwide simply by running promotions through Twitter. Promotions tend to go viral through retweeting, causing plenty of brand exposure. Companies can also gauge goodwill and reach through Twitter, by routinely running searches on their name and keywords related to their business.

As with all social networking, however, businesses must be careful with Twitter. A Twitter account should be useful. Too much marketing lingo, too many contests requiring retweeting, too many @ mentions of other users, and your account could becoming annoying or even marked as spam and blocked. Similarly, setting up a Twitter account just to have one and then never updating it is a surefire way to be branded “out of it” by customers.

Best practices for Twitter:

  • Provide useful information and interesting tidbits about your business.
  • Interact with users who mention your business or industry.
  • Do not @ mention users randomly.
  • Unless you are registering users for a contest, auto-direct messages on follow are probably not a good idea.
  • Run promotions, but require retweeting sparingly.
  • Only auto-publish on Twitter if you are consistently producing unique content. If every post is on a similar topic, users may come to think of you as a spammer.