Monday, May 02, 2011

Twitter Do's and Don't's for creative entrepreneurs

If you are using Twitter to promote your independent creative business, one way to do it is to position yourself as a reliable and consistent source of news pertaining to your industry. This is established fact. But there's another thing, too... a gold nugget that often gets overlooked, in fact sometimes—often— it's not even on the radar when companies start using Twitter... it is the YOU factor!

Showcasing your friendly, bright, unique personality with plenty of passion and heart for your business is extremely important as well, and it is something that can really make you shine in your niche.

Here are some Twitter tips I've put together, to help you on your way to being both a professional entrepreneurial tweeter with great information to share, as well as letting your tweets get to know YOU and by extension, your brand, in a fun and engaging way.

DO inject your own personality into your tweets.
Opinions may vary from person to person. But in my estimation, "keeping it real" is a plus—especially in the Twittersphere where so many of the tweets are succinct, informational and, well, sometimes a little dry and lacking in personality. I am not knocking this aspect of Twitter—to the contrary, I treasure it. The straight-to-the-point, cut-the-fat, distilled, timely information all served to you in a 140-character nutshell is perfect for me. My point is that, as an independent businessperson in the arts, bouncing between useful, informative tweets, and alternately injecting your own sparkling, creative personality into your tweets, can together help to strengthen your public-facing identity like nothing else, enhancing your overall brand and its overall relevancy, in as well as OUT of your niche market.

DO mainly stick to your industry focus, but DON'T be un-YOU about it.
That said, it's a benefit to mostly stick to your main focus. The key here is mostly. For instance, I post about art business & art licensing, but I also tweet about my favorite TV shows and pet advocacy/pro pet tweets. I tweet what I am passionate about, both on-topic as well as off-topic.

Twitter is a hybrid. It's social media mixed with a top-of-the-minute niche information stream, so it can be tricky to navigate. From my experience, people appreciate hearing your business notes, tips, promotions and area expertise, but they ALSO like to experience your unique personality as well—with tweets told in your own individual voice, and maybe your goofy jokes once in awhile. That said, at the top of the pyramid, you must also always keep in mind that your main goal with Twitter is promotion of your work. What better place to identify your business with the "IT" factor—YOU— than Twitter? On twitter, personality is very important but you must always remember you are crafting your businesses' personality as well. To that end, DO be YOU, but also pay attention to what you tweet and respond to where hot-button issues are involved.

Otherwise, As far as ratio goes, here is my rough guide: I try to balance my tweets, with about 75-80% on-topic and about 25% off-topic or more casual/fun/silly. (Note try is in italics— I am not perfect!)

DO find like-minded folks/businesses to follow
...especially those who post quality articles and information pertaining to your industry. Follow them,  read their tweets and retweet (RT) their useful articles. Also, this is a GREAT way to get to know your peers and interact with them in a socially safe and non-committal setting with a friendly, personable and pro-sharing disposition.

DO tweet your own blog-post articles (old OR new) that contain evergreen content.
Try to do this at regular intervals. This is one of those no-brainers that we might forget about. We already have plenty of great original content on our blogs. Why not use it to its full advantage?

DO search for pertinent news to tweet about.
Do Google searches, press release searches (try and general news searches for the latest breaking news or press releases which pertain to your industry. Tweet these links out regularly. For instance, I'll tweet some great new font web site, or links to some cool Photoshop brushes I discover.

DO reply PUBLICLY to friendly tweets who tweet to you
On the flip-side, DO block spammer tweets who spam you. Report them, if you are able. (This is sometimes not so easy to do on mobile devices.)

DON'T feel like you have to follow everyone back who follows you.
Use your best judgement and take things into consideration on a case-by-case basis.Worst-case scenario: you can always Unfollow.

DON'T feel the need to DM everyone new who you follow
...or to DM-greet new tweets who follow you. If it is not personal information of a more private nature, a DM is not necessary, and, from my perspective, "Greeting" DM's are a rookie mistake, plain and simple.

DO publicly thank people for helpful or informational tweets by RTing their tweet.
The practice of RT'ing retweets their original tweet. It's a common (and appreciated) Twitter "Thank you"!

DO try to keep your tweets as short as you can.
This makes potential RTing is easier for other people and they don't have to edit your original tweet very much, if at all. This is especially helpful for informational or news tweets that have a higher probability of being Retweeted by others.

DO check out the followers of your peers and of those you admire
...and check out who THEY follow. Cull through these lists of tweeters, and you are sure to find some great new tweets to follow! This is a high quality way to expand your network.

DO allow yourself to speak passionately in your on-topic tweets, where it makes sense.
I, for instance, have been known to go off on mini-twitter tangents about independent creative business and a DIY philosophy. Hey, maybe I could reign it in a little once in awhile, but I stay on-topic, the words come from my heart. I speak with passion, and from personal experience I keep it POSITIVE, but I also keep it REAL. (That combo is key!)  My point is, let your humanity shine through. You are not a tweet-bot, and please do not let anyone mistake you for one on Twitter. Showing a streak of passion for your industry to your followers every once in awhile is not a liability! People enjoy hearing if you are enthusiastic and passionate about an aspect of your business, even if you have strong opinions. I believe that they always appreciate it.

DON'T be afraid to be an evangelist
We entrepreneurs take our outsourcing seriously. I myself have worked with several on-line printers and promotional giveaway manufacturers over the years, and I'm sure you have too! We are also in the relationship business and in the service business ourselves, so we appreciate a stellar experience from those we buy from as well.

When you have a GREAT experience with a vendor, let all of your tweets know it! It's a win-win, it's professional good will, there is no reason to keep it to yourself. You will also expand your network by default, possibly with others in your industry (and if not, maybe you will pick up some new fans!).

On the flip side, if you have a not-so-great experience with a vendor, Twitter is the last place to air your dirty laundry. If you have a bad experience, and you've exhausted every measure off-line to have it corrected to no avail, and you feel the need to warn others who are in the market to use that product or service, then use your own best judgement. But, that said, just remember overall that EVERYTHING you tweet reflects directly on YOU, positive AND negative. I believe in honesty and fairness, and these days, companies need to be more vigilant than ever before. But just remember that you are a representative of your OWN company, as well.

DO tweet with a regularity that works for YOU.
It will take some time to get familiar with Twitter and work it into your routine. You don't have to tweet all the time, but you DO need to maintain SOME level of consistency. That is the name of the game on Twitter. The key to using twitter, building a twitter readership and using twitter successfully as a promotional tool is committing to it with consistency, however consistency takes shape for you. But consistency is not an option. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

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