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The Local Business Owner’s Guide to
1.1 What is Twitter? ________________________________________________________ 2
1.2 Setting up your Twitter account____________________________________________ 4
1.3 Configuring Your Twitter Account _________________________________________ 7
1.4 Sending Messages ______________________________________________________ 11
1.5 Followers And Following ________________________________________________ 12
1.6 Finding Interesting Twitterers To Follow ___________________________________ 14
1.7 Using Hashtags to Add your Tweets to Breaking News ________________________ 17
1.8 How to use Twitter Guide for Local Businesses ______________________________ 18
1.9 Twitter Marketing Strategies and Tactics, part 1 ____________________________ 22
1.1 What is Twitter?
Twitter is, simply, a popular and very rapidly growing social media site on which
participants communicate with each other by sending short messages — called Tweets –
to each other.
The most common first reaction to Twitter is even shorter than the average Tweet: Huh?
This reaction is common for at least two reasons:
1. The tag line at the top of Twitter asks, “What are you doing?” Answering that
question literally and constantly — as many Twitter users seem to — seems like an
exercise in narcissism (at worst) or futility (at best). Reading thousands of such Tweets,
on the other hand, seems like an exercise in voyeurism.
2. It’s easy to be skeptical about the efficacy of something as simple as Twitter.
Shouldn’t a social media site be full of blinking lights, scantily clad teenagers, and
tributes to today’s pop stars? (You must be thinking of MySpace.) Or at least have
videos, more pictures, and perhaps some games involving throwing virtual puppies at
each other? (That would be Facebook.)
Trust us — there’s much more to Twitter than what first meets the eye. We aim to show
you precisely that during this course.
Here are some different ways to think about Twitter …
1. Twitter is an extremely effective hyper-local advertising platform for local
merchants. With its uncanny ability to connect you with your local community, and
specifically with those in your local community who want to hear what you have to say.
Twitter is increasingly being used by merchants across the country to advertise deals of
the day, daily menus, and local commentary.
2. Twitter is the simplest but arguably the most powerful social networking platform.
Like other social media platforms (Facebook, for instance), it’s a way for you to connect
with a network of people who share common business interests, or a common geography
— or both — with you. Like other social media, Twitter doesn’t exist in an online
vacuum; it’s simply an adjunct to the traditional offline interactions that people have
always had with each other.
3. Twitter is a serendipity force multiplier. Serendipity, of course, refers simply to
those unexpected events that happen in our lives that lead to good outcomes. You’re at
an industry conference, for instance, and the person standing in the registration line ahead
of you turns out to be exactly the right person you need to talk to in order to consummate
a big deal with a prospective client company. By the very nature of Twitter, with the
seemingly random connections that are created between seemingly unrelated people,
you’ll find that serendipitous events happen not only more frequently, but also with more
4. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. Blogging, of course, is simply a way of easily
publishing your content on the Internet. Twitter simplifies blogging by forcing messages
to be 140 characters or less, an artifact of its origin as a cell phone text messaging-based
communication platform. The strict size limit forces your content to be pithy and
prevents you from over-engineering your content.
5. Twitter is a hyper-local real-time citizen journalism platform. Twitter is increasingly
turned to as the source of news for events in which time is absolutely of the essence —
often natural or man-made disasters. Twitter proved its value facilitating Iranian voices
challenging the June 2009 Iranian election, the US Airways Hudson River crash in
January 2009, and earthquakes from California to China.
6. Finally, Twitter is a (nearly) spam-proof permission-based marketing system.
Because the only people who get your messages are those who choose to “follow” you,
spam doesn’t get very far on Twitter. If somebody follows you, and you abuse that trust
by spamming your Twitter network, pretty soon your followers will simply stop
following you and no longer receive your messages!
1.2 Setting up your Twitter account
To use Twitter, you must, of course, have a Twitter account! Fortunately, it’s pretty easy
to do; follow along!
1) Start by opening up your browser and going to Twitter.com The home page of
Twitter.com (if you don’t already have an account) looks like this:
2) Click on the big green link towards the bottom of the screen that says Get Started —
3) Put in your name (e.g. John Smith), your desired user name (e.g. johnsmith), the
password you want, and your email address. Note that if you have a common name, you
may need to try several different permutations before you find a unique user name to use.
We recommend, at least for now, using your own name.
Type in the squiggly-looking words (designed to frustrate auto-account-creation software
Finally, click the big green Create My Account button.
4) Twitter will now bring you to a screen where you’re asked to See if your friends are on
Twitter. If you have a web-based email address (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL)
and you put in your email address and password, Twitter will look in your address book
and invite people there to join you on Twitter.
For now, we recommend skipping this step. (We’ll show you later how to add people to
your Twitter network.) Click on Skip this step at the bottom of the screen.
5) The next screen recommends some prominent Twitter users for you to add to your
network. The screen says “Look who else is here. Start following them!” Again, for
now, click on Skip this step.
6) Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your Twitter account!
1.3 Configuring Your Twitter Account
Now that you’ve set up your Twitter account, it’s time to configure it. Follow along…
1) Go to Twitter.com and log in (if you haven’t done so already).
2) Click on Settings in the upper right corner.
3) You’ll see a number of tabs, including Account, Password, Devices, Notices, Picture,
4) Click on Account. Your name, user name, and email address will already be filled in.
You’ll want to let Twitter know your time zone (so that your Tweets will have the correct
If you have a web site that gives more information about you, put that into the More info
In the One Line Bio box, put in some quick background information about you. It’s
common for Twitterers to put something pithy and/or witty in this box; if your little bio is
neither pithy nor witty, that’s fine for now — just put something quick there. Simply
keep your eyes open for good ideas on how to improve your bio.
Under Location, be fairly specific with your town and state or province; this will make it
easier for other Twitterers to find you.
Finally, we recommend you do not click Protect my updates. Doing so will require you
to give permission individually to each person who wants to follow you. Remember, if
somebody follows you, that simply means that they will get your updates, not that you
will get their updates. There’s generally no downside to letting other people follow you.
Finally, click on Save.
5) If you need to change your password, you can do so on the Password tab.
6) For now, you can ignore the Devices tab, which is where you can configure Twitter to
work via SMS on your cell phone. We’ll talk about how to do this in a later session.
7) Next, click on Notices.
The Auto Nudge option isn’t relevant for now.
Enable New Follower Emails if you want an email when a new person starts following
you. Note that you will receive a lot of emails from enabling this feature, and you should
Enable Direct Text Emails if you want an email whenever somebody direct messages
you. (You’ll find out shortly what a direct message is.)
Enable Email Newsletter if you want regular email updates from Twitter about new
Finally, click on Save.
8) Next, click on Picture.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, this is where you can upload a picture of yourself. As you
spend time on Twitter, you’ll notice that many pictures are in casual settings. It’s
certainly fine, however, to upload a more formal shot of yourself.
Unfortunately, Twitter’s picture upload feature isn’t terribly sophisticated, so you’ll need
to do some things to get your picture ready.
Take this picture, for instance:
There are at least three things wrong with it (apart from the goofy grin and the overly
formal attire!): It’s not square, it’s too big, and it’s not cropped around the face.
We recommend using a tool like Paintbrush (which is on most Windows-based
computers) or Irfanview to fix these issues. Once you’ve done so, it will look something
Once you’ve cropped and saved your picture, go back to Twitter, click on Settings, then
click on Picture. Click on Choose File, find the picture you edited, then click on Save.
9) Finally, click on Design. You’ll notice that you can choose from several different
themes. Go ahead and pick one that suits you. When you’re done, click on Save
Changes. For now, don’t worry about changing the background image or changing the
1.4 Sending Messages
The basic thing people do on Twitter is, simply, to send out Tweets – Twitter messages.
These Tweets are limited to 140 characters, a legacy of Twitter’s origins as a cell phone
text-messaging-based communication platform. As you would expect, sending a message
on Twitter is ridiculously easy.
Follow along …
1) Go to Twitter.com and log in (if you haven’t done so already).
2) Right at the top of the screen, you’ll see a box underneath What are you doing?
3) This is a trick question. Although you can be mundane and say what you’re doing –
having breakfast, just finished working out, etc., it will better to make a “tweet” that will
be interesting to your followers. One of the best kinds of tweets is breaking news and
topics you have special expertise in. For example, tweet “I’m following some Iranian
revolutionaries reporting on their country’s turmoil on Twitter now”
and then click the update button.
4) You can also add links to your tweet. Many Twitterers do that. For example, tweet
“Interesting to follow Iranians reporting on their country’s turmoil…
iranelection/”. In a later lesson, we’ll show you how to “shorten” long URL links so they
fit into a 140 character tweet.
1.5 Followers And Following
As you begin to explore around Twitter, one of the first things you’ll notice is that all
Twitterers have connections with two types of people: following and followers. In the
screenshot below, user kevinboer has 3147 following, and 3318 followers.
Followers and following
Understanding the difference between these two types of people is critical to
understanding Twitter. Here’s what you need to know:
First, if you follow somebody, you will get their updates.
Second, if somebody follows you, they will get your updates.
In the above diagram, user kevinboer is following 3147 people — ie. any time one of
those 3147 people sends out a message, user kevinboer will get that message.
Conversely, 3318 people are following kevinboer, so any time user kevinboer sends a
message, those 3318 people will get it.
So how do you follow somebody? Simple: You simply click on follow on their Twitter
page. For instance, here is the Twitter page for NBA star THE_REAL_SHAQ. You’ll
notice the follow button.
How to follow somebody
If you click on the Follow button, the Follow button will disappear and be replaced with
an indication that you are now following that person:
Now any time THE_REAL-SHAQ sends a Tweet, his Tweet will appear on your page …
because you are following him.
And how do other people follow you? That’s the flip side of the same coin; they simply
need to go to your Twitter home page and click on your Follow button. Then any time
you send out a Tweet, they will get that message.
1.6 Finding Interesting Twitterers To Follow
Now that you understand the difference between Followers and Following, the next
logical question is: how do I find interesting people to follow? Here are some basic tips
on getting started; further details on a comprehensive strategy to build a large network
will come later.
One way to start is by going to the Twitter page of somebody you know and following
For local merchants, you want to follow and be followed by people in your community,
the people you want to do business with. One efficient way is to find local Twitterers on
the Breaking News site of your city and follow the followers of the Twitterer, assuming
they are also local.
Follow @5A5stk’s followers, who are also likely to be San Franciscans:
The best way to do research on local Twitter feeds by category is to use Google to search
for, say, all pages on Twitter.com that mention San Francisco restaurants. To conduct
such a search, go to Google.com and type in the following
san francisco restaurants site:twitter.com
Other resources you can use to find local Twitterers include:
Wefollow.com. Search across city names.
1.7 Using Hashtags to Add your Tweets to Breaking News
Twitter has numerous conventions for communication that you will soon discover.
Although these conventions are simple, we’ll guide you through all of them in the next
We want to introduce you to #hashtags. A #hashtag is simply an informal method to
categorize a Tweet. A hashtag can be inserted anywhere in a Tweet, for example the
hashtags #sf and #realestate may characterize a Tweet about a San Francisco home for
sale, adding #lakers makes the Tweet a discussion about the NBA Los Angeles Lakers.
For a Breaking News site, you can add hashtags to insert your Tweet into a Breaking
News category. For example, if you add #sf #food, your Tweet will be added to the
Breaking SF News Foodie section.
1.8 How to use Twitter Guide for Local Businesses
We see Twitter positioning itself as a local advertising platform: it's simple to use,
requires little time commitment to Tweet, and free. Here's a guide for local merchants on
how to use Twitter to reach their local audience:
Walk in / appointment based services: Barbers, beauticians, spas, nail salons, auto
maintenance / lube,
Tweet schedule openings for the day. Offer daily special and coupons.
Examples: @truemassage, @polishednails
Articles: Putting Twitter's world to use
Medical / health services: Optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, doctors
Create a professional profile befitting your standing in the community. Discuss the tools
and trends of your practice. Demystify.
Examples: @scottgreenhalgh (Cosmetic dentistry), @evansclinic
Professional services: Accountants, attorneys, financial planners
The problem with arcane professions like the law and accounting is the "boring" factor.
Twitter should be used to connect with the community for branding purposes. Become a
"business calendar"; accountants can broadcast changes in tax codes and alert important
Examples: @cordellparvin, @kanoisandeep (Tax guru)
Articles: Attorney marketing on Twitter. Valuable or waste of time?
Transaction based services: Real estate, mortgages, travel agencies, recruiters
Transaction based service providers suffer from a spammy reputation because it's easy to
incessantly tweet out home listings, job posts or travel deals. The focus should be on
providing information and data relevant and interesting to, say a prospective home buyer,
by talking about communities or market conditions. Interacting like a "real" person is
paramount to establishing a welcome identity as a hub, not a spammer, in the community.
Examples: @mortgagereports, @scottkato
Arts and entertainment services: Night clubs, events organizers, symphonies
Tweet schedule of events and shows, offer quizzes, advertise discounted tickets, create
contests - give away two free tickets to a local follower
Examples: @yoshisjazz @sanfransymphony
(note: arts groups should design great backgrounds!)
Articles: Cultural groups tap social networking
Hospitality: Restaurants, hotels, taco trucks, street food vendors
Tweet the day's lunch menu @ 11am, and dinner menu @ 1 pm, 4pm. Link to recipes.
Offer coupon code.
Examples: @divinopiazza, @kogibbq, @nakedpizza
Articles: Naked Pizza erects Twitter billboard, List of street food vendors using Twitter
Advertise your deals of the day, weekend sales, etc. Your Twitter feed's timeline
chronicles what your store offers so consumers will use this as a consumer and
comparison shopping resource. Consumers may use Twitter to ask questions in lieu of a
phone call because it's more efficient. Be sure to intersperse deals tweets with interesting
links. @ABC_Carpet twitpics its rugs!
Examples: @brooksrunning, @ABC_Carpet, @wfm_oakland (most Whole Foods
Market branches have their own Twitter feed)
Twitter marketing no-no: Abandoning a Twitter feed at @bestbuybayarea
Articles: List of US retailers on Twitter, Retailer Twitter aggregation
1.9 Twitter Marketing Strategies and Tactics, part 1
How to Build a Local Follower Base
• Follow the followers of other local Twitter feeds in your city.
• Contests: Offer two free tickets to concert or lunch in a weekly drawing to a local
follower. The locals will follow you.
• Quizzes: Post picture of city landmark, or quiz about interesting local facts.
• Give to the community: Support other local Twitterers by retweeting their local
interest stories and events.
• Provide links to interesting articles related to your business, market conditions or
city. For example, link to reviews of cameras if you're a camera shop.
• Position your Twitter account as your online point of contact by adding your feed
info to business cards and storefront signs. Twitter names are much easier to
remember than phone #s. Article: Twitter to replace 800 #s as point of corporate
• Tweet using hashtags at a Breaking News site for your city, and request
placement of your feed into the City site.
• Personalize: Of course, make sure you're not tweeting about business all the time
or it may come across as spammy. It's best to create two accounts - a business
account like @yoshisjazz that sticks to the subject, and a personal account to have
conversations that reveal your personality.
Surveying for Business Opportunities
• Monitor Twitter search terms for your business. Many Twitterers ask for help to
their follower base. If you're a tax accountant in Chicago, monitor the search
terms "Chicago tax accountant" by creating an RSS feed at Search.Twitter.com
and tracking it in your RSS reader.
• Use the hashtag conventions #ihave and #yourcity occasionally (add them to a
tweet once per week or so) to alert others who monitor this hashtag convention for
services or goods you provide.
• Register your Twitter feed at Jobaba, the social marketplace for local services.
More of these localized service sites will appear.
Twitter Efficiency Tools
• Use a Twitter scheduling application like Hootsuite or Tweetlater to schedule
your tweets for the week. Especially useful for restaurants that know their menu
offering for the week.
• For larger companies or stores, use a collaborative Twitter application like
CoTweet so your Twitter account can be monitored and updated by multiple
employees. Example: @ocreggie has five monitors.