Social Media: Use Twitter to build your tribe

Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear the phrase “Follow us on Twitter” in TV and radio commercials.

In last month’s column, I discussed how social media is here to stay and how CEOs must hop aboard the bus and learn how to use social media tools to promote our businesses, products and services, or get left behind.

This month, I’ll discuss Twitter, the often-misunderstood micro-blogging site that leaves many business owners and CEOs scratching their heads. My thanks to TEC/Vistage speaker Joan Stewart, a prominent social media consultant in Port Washington, who shares these Twitter success stories and tips.

The Twitter basics

Twitter, at, lets anyone create an account and start sharing information by writing “tweets” of no more than 140 characters each. You can follow friends and business associates and they can decide if they want to follow you, too.

Your mission is to build your own “tribe” of followers and have conversations with them.

How often should you tweet? That’s entirely up to you and it depends on how much helpful information you have to share. Because tweeting sometimes takes no more than a few seconds, prolific tweeters post several times a day.

Write your own posts, reply to your followers’ posts, and send and receive private email messages. If you see items that other people have written, and that you’d like to share with your followers, you can “retweet” them, with attribution. This is a way of complimenting people and telling them that you like what they’re offering.

Success stories

For every complaint that “Twitter is stupid,” there’s a Twitter success story.

The Red Cross uses Twitter for public service announcements, fundraising and to announce disaster news. During the tornados in 2008, it tweeted about the location of its emergency shelters in several states and invited tornado survivors to report in as being “safe and well.”

Twitter’s greatest value, however, could well be as a free but incredibly powerful customer service tool because it allows companies to monitor the conversation and respond instantly. Comcast, for example, monitors Twitter daily. If it sees customers complaining about service, it contacts the customer immediately via Twitter and tries to solve the problem.

H&R Block answers tax questions and responds to complaints from consumers who are unhappy with service they’ve received. pushes out news about its sales. Southwest Airlines informs its customers about special deals and lets the public know about when its executives do major media interviews.

Virgin Group’s Richard Branson and’s Tony Hsieh are among the dozens of CEOs who Business Week magazine says are harnessing the simple powers of this social media tool.


Top 10 Twitter tips

Stewart offers these tips for companies new to Twitter, or those that are already tweeting:

  1. Even if you’re not interested in Twitter and you think you’ll never participate, claim your Twitter name now before somebody else does, like your competitor.
  2. If you’re actively tweeting, let your customers know where they can follow you. Post your Twitter name everywhere – at your website, on your invoices and receipts, on product packages, and in paid advertising.
  3. Don’t worry about amassing thousands of followers. Attracting fewer quality followers, like people in your target market, is more important than attracting many followers who don’t care about what you have to say.
  4. Avoid the “what I had for lunch today” tweets which only add to the noise. Concentrate on sharing helpful tips and advice. Link to quality blog posts and news articles.
  5. Follow the “12 to 1 rule” espoused by social media expert Chris Brogan. For every tweet that talks about you or your company, write 12 more that refer your followers to someone else. If you pass along helpful resources, it makes YOU more valuable to your followers.
  6. View Twitter like a giant cocktail party. You’d never start promoting your products or services the minute you meet someone at these events. You can promote, but no more than 5 percent of the time.
  7. Spend more time listening than you do talking. Ask people how you can help them.
  8. Use keywords in your tweets, so people who are searching for the kind of information you’re providing can find it.
  9. If you’re using Twitter primarily for business, steer clear of topics like politics and religion, which can be divisive.
  10. If you’re confused about how to use Twitter, ask people who are following you. They’ll be happy to help.

Finally, have fun. Follow Stewart at Until next month, happy tweeting.

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