guest post by Sarah Brooks

twitter birdsIf you’re an entrepreneur, can engaging on Twitter really help you and your business? The short answer is yes. Surprisingly, many entrepreneurs still hesitate about social media because they think it’s a waste of precious time. Some “success gurus” advise staying away from social media altogether for the same reason. However, engaging with potential customers (or investors) on social media can actually be one of the smartest things you can do to grow your business. Fail to engage, and you could be cheating yourself.

Branding Isn’t What it Used to Be

These days it’s never too early in development to start thinking about branding – and social media engagement has become a crucial component of branding. Much more so than in the past, branding is based upon a nearly constant stream of communication. Online entrepreneur, Marc Benioff, one of the visionaries behind cloud computing, said in an interview, “…Customers are discussing a company’s products and brand in real time. Companies need to join the conversation.”
(http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/communicate-like-billion-dollar-entrepreneur)

Wise counsel – even if you’re still just a company of one.

Twitter is an easy way to join the conversation and boost your branding efforts. Arguably Twitter’s greatest value for the entrepreneur is its convenience: you can tweet whenever and wherever you are. One caveat: you must learn to be brief because each individual “tweet” is limited to 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation. But that’s easy to get used to.

The rewards of Tweeting

  1. Tweeting can end your isolation – almost effortlessly. Isolation is still an issue with many entrepreneurs; many are loners who work long hours and tend to ignore the outside world. But the outside world is where you’re going to find your customers, clients, vendors, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs who can provide moral support.
  2. Tweeting can help you build your brand. Tweeting lets the world know you’re there and what you are doing. It allows you to scale your message and maintain a one-on-one connection with people all over the world. You can’t do that by passing out business cards at parties or appearing on local interview shows.
  3. Tweeting provides invaluable market research. Engaging in conversation with your potential customers can give you valuable information about their needs – information that at one time was only available through costly marketing research efforts. You can test product or service ideas, as well as ads, logos, and other branding efforts, thus allowing you to get a real feel for your market.

Three Tweeting Rules to Remember

  1. Know your audience. Are you tweeting for the benefit of potential customers, vendors, investors, or all of the above? Tweet about the things that these people will find interesting. Write about what you’re doing and what it can do for them. Tweet engagingly and people will start looking to you as a resource and re-tweeting you, which gets your name in front of even more folks.
  2. Remember Twitter is a conversation, not a billboard. Although the purpose of engaging on social media is to draw attention to yourself, don’t spend all of your time talking about yourself, promoting your product(s), and ignoring the other people in the conversation. Engage. Respond. Re-tweet. Let your conversations reflect that you care what other people have to say too. They’ll remember you for that.
  3. Show your personality, but keep things on a professional level. You can be humorous or even a little snarky at times, but don’t get on a soapbox – unless it directly relates to your project or industry. Keep your tweets civil and free of profanities. It’s possible to be nice and still be memorable.

Some experts advise tweeting 10-20 times a day to keep your name in the Twitter stream. If you don’t have the time, hire a trustworthy person to manage your social media. However, you’ll still need to monitor the efforts to make sure they positively reflect your brand.

Other social media sites such as Facebook and the business networking site LinkedIn are also worth your while. But for a short, punchy way to keep your name continually in the public conversation, it’s hard to beat a tweet.

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from free people search. She is a Houston-based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.