As a business on Twitter, I’ve grown adept at using a good mixture of tweets in order to:
1. Create a large, useful, and fun community of fans
2. Sell some t-shirts – Twitter is my #1 sales channel
3. Become a thought leader in the area of social media usage for small business
However, I may be more the exception than the rule. I am still seeing so many businesses that have no idea what they’re doing on Twitter, and even more businesses that don’t even seem to be on Twitter. The businesses using it think they can broadcast from their bullhorn to yell about their products. The businesses eschewing Twitter think it’s “not for them” or “pointless.” “Why would I want to know what someone is having for lunch,” right? We’re not going to be that naive about this!
Below I have compiled a list of the top 50 tweets that businesses could or should be doing on Twitter. The list should be comprehensive enough that a business with the worst writer’s block should be able to generate a useful, interesting stream of tweets. Not every tweet will be appropriate for every business. Be yourself on Twitter (and everywhere!). If some of these tweets aren’t you, don’t make them. However, understand this: having a nice, well-rounded stream of tweets will do more for you than you think.
Overall, my goal is to show businesses that you shouldn’t just tweet about your products, and concurrently, you shouldn’t be afraid to tweet about things that have nothing to do with your products. As long as the tweets are coming from you, they should allow people to get to know you, and that’s exactly what you should want to happen.
I encourage you to comment below if you feel I’ve missed anything, or if I’ve included a tweet that you think is just completely inappropriate. Speaking of that, I will have a followup post containing a list of “cutting room floor” tweets that I feel are silly or not appropriate. Some will disagree with me on those, and I want to hear from you!
These are in no particular order, and I don’t intend for you to use the list to make one of each tweet and then start over – you must be the judge as to the proper mix of tweets for your business. I try to follow the 80/20 rule (tweet 80% about others, only 20% about yourself), and I probably turn this more into the 90/10 rule when I tweet. I encourage you to keep this ratio in mind as you go about your tweeting.
1. Seriously, tweet what you’re eating. Tweet it. This is the most inane reason people give for not being on Twitter. “I don’t want to know what you’re eating for lunch.” Yes you do. Think about a live conversation between you and another human being – you’re standing together at a cocktail party, at the library, at work. “What’d you do this weekend?” “Oh we went to this great restaurant So-and-So Sushi, OMG it was awesome.” Is this not a conversation that is had constantly between people that know each other? Well, on Twitter, you’re doing the same thing. The only differences are you’re not standing in front of the person you’re talking to, you might not know the people reading your tweet, many others will get to hear (see) your conversation, and you’re limited to 140 characters. If I’m eating a steak with a cognac peppercorn reduction sauce, you’re going to know about it. It’s who I am, and I want you to have a chance to get to know me.
2. The response to a need – using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, monitor key words in your business niche, and respond to questions with helpful information. Or, respond to any tweet that you think you can be helpful on – it does not have to be limited to your business or area of expertise.
3. The response to a customer complaint or criticism – Twitter is all-powerful in this area. Companies everywhere have set up state-of-the-art call centers with toll-free 800 numbers, with computers that roll calls to the next available operator, with super-slick, highly trained operators ready to assist you. And what does the consumer do? They go and complain on Twitter. A plurality of companies are not monitoring Twitter for this type of banter – STOP THAT! Would you hand out your toll-free customer service number and then give all of your phone reps the day off? Your customers would riot! When you don’t respond to their negative tweets, you are infuriating your bread and butter!
4. The new product announcement – if you have a new product coming out, proudly announce it to the world. Don’t announce it every 5 minutes like you’re firing a semi-automatic weapon. Announce it on Twitter, then on Facebook a bit later, then on LinkedIn. Then slightly change the language and tweet it again later. Kindly ask for retweets. Use Hootsuite to schedule tweets in the future so that you don’t have to return to your computer later in order to spread out those tweets.
5. The existing product announcement – related to #4, but you already have the product for sale. Tweet it out, but don’t abuse the 80/20 rule. Save these tweets in a Google Docs file, or “favorite” them – it’s easier to cut and paste than to retype the tweet every time you want to do it.
6. Industry news – this gives people the impression you care about your line of work. Tweet out links with valuable information that’s pertinent to your industry. Example: In the wine industry, retweet a link to an article about an up-and-coming grape varietal.
7. The informative retweet of thought leaders – who really speaks to you on Twitter? Chris Brogan? Gary Vaynerchuk? Set them up in Twitter as a saved search. Find their tweets that probably mean something to them (such as their newest blog post), and that would also be informative to your followers, and retweet it. Don’t use the automatic retweet function on Twitter, as the person you are retweeting may not see that you did the RT for them (for some reason, those retweets do not show up in their “@” replies). Instead, cut and paste and structure your tweet as “RT @ChrisBrogan yadda yadda…”
8. Jump in the stream on a trending topic and respond to random people. You’ll sometimes make new friends. This does not have to be related to your industry. Ignore the ever-present Justin Bieber trending topic, but any other trending topic is fair game! If someone famous passes away, if there’s a big sporting event, etc, that’s a trending topic that will present you with many very interesting tweeters that you’ve probably never conversed with. Say hi to them by adding on to their tweet or responding to their sentiment. A few might say, “Who are you?” Don’t worry about it – they just don’t realize that anything they tweet is now part of the public domain and therefore searchable.
9. Saying hi, asking how someone is doing – just like in real life! This isn’t hard!
10. The compliment – nice avatar, awesome product you have, anything you want!
(NOTE: It is at this point, one-fifth into the list, that some might be saying, “Dude, shut up, this is a waste of time. I am a businessman. I don’t need to be told to say hi to people or compliment them. What’s the ROI on that? This is bush-league advice.” No it is not. This is not your father’s marketing. If you ignore this advice and go 90% heavy on tweets about your product, you are likely to be ineffective on Twitter. Remember, this is about personal branding – letting people feel like they know you, so that they will be comfortable buying from you.)
11. Talking about sports teams, food, things you like – I love LeBron and the Cavs, so I tweet about it. Again, this lets people get to know me. And I don’t worry about the fact that many people can’t stand the NBA, nor do I worry that Boston Celtics fans or Orlando Magic fans will then hate me and my product. I think we can all be adults about this! If not, I’m not sure we should do business together, anyway. I tweet about epic food all the time – I love food! If you are into killer sunsets, be sure to tweet from your iPhone about it – we need pics! If you’re into sculptures made of aluminum cans, tweet it out. Remember, you’re trying to provide an answer the question, “Who are you?”
12. Bringing 2 people together – this is a fine art, but through your circles of Twitter friends, you can hook up two people that you think might get along, have similar interests, or may be able to help each other. That’s a valuable service you can provide.
13. The physical arrival of new product – somewhat related to #4, except this is you whipping out your iPhone and taking a picture (that you’ll tweet) of the actual product being unwrapped at your office or warehouse. I do this with my tees – at the screenprinter, I break open the box in the back of my SUV and take a pic of the t-shirt on top. Hell, I’m excited to get them from my screenprinter! So I share that excitement with those followers of mine that care.
14. The thank you / sweet / awesome / appreciate it / tweet. It’s in response to a compliment. Why leave a compliment unanswered? Read about NASCAR and their general unwillingness to engage their fans. (They’re getting better)
15. Pics from around the office – unless you work at a mortuary, pictures can give people an idea of what your work environment is like. Believe it or not, people are interested in this sort of thing. And the ability to snap pictures and tweet them out is another great reason to own an iPhone (no, not a Palm Pre, you heard me!).
16. Humor – tweet your own humor if you can create such laughs. Otherwise, tweet out the comedy of others (hint: Hulu and YouTube)
17. Video – speaking of Hulu and YouTube, videos are a very HQ tweet, so share what you find with your followers. People tend to give like 5-10% extra credit to any bit of information that can be fed intravenously instead of having to read it – reading is too much work! (that makes this blog post a real bear LOL)
18. A question – this is always a good idea. Ask a question for which you really want and/or need an answer. Use Twitter for research. Solicit feedback. Depending on the size of your following, you’ll get some real help from people. I have leveraged my Twitter and Facebook followings to great benefit. I have had Twitter followers and Facebook fans literally save a t-shirt design from suckiness. Something to keep in mind: the bigger your following, the more robust the conversation can get (sorry, but it’s true). It’s one great reason to try to build a large following.
19. The “Meatball.” Similar to #18, this is the tweet where you purposely ask your followers, or a particular business of your choosing, a question that you could have easily Googled the answer to yourself. Screw it, tweet it out. The business you are addressing, if they’re smart, will realize that you are offering them a chance to publicly respond, to get their name out in the Tweetstream. You’re doing them a favor. You yourself can ask the question in order to get your name out in the Tweetstream. Ask a question that you think will generate a conversation, even if you already know the answer.
20. Point out good things that friends and competitors are doing. Promoting the work and accomplishments of your friends is helpful to them – they may automatically reciprocate, or you may even overtly ask them to reciprocate. Talking about your competitors gives you credibility. What’s gonna happen? Are they going to eat your business alive because you favorably tweeted about them? Is the pie so small that you can’t build up some credibility by tweeting, “Hey, this isn’t my work, but WOW, check this out!” If this makes you cringe, at least point out good things that other noncompeting businesses are doing.
21. Be self-deprecating – have you made an business-related error? Admit to it publicly. Failure is OK, as it means you are trying! When I screwed up a customer’s order, I was so bloody mad at myself. I tweeted about it, and a wave of supportive tweets came in. This made me feel better, but understand the true impact: I showed people I care. This is real – this is the equivalent of a Reality Show…. on Twitter.
22. Tweet your accomplishments, your successes. This is not bragging, but rather celebrating (and phrase it that way). You shipped your biggest order ever? Tweet it out!
23. Opinion – Be careful here, but don’t be a stiff either. Personal branding is one thing, but there are topics you need to avoid, like politics. Jonah Lopin of Hubspot once said something that seared itself onto my brain. “Don’t be afraid to polarize.” Human beings are already self-polarized into groups. It’s your job to appeal to at least some of them. If you’re plain-jane vanilla, you may end up appealing to no one.
24. LOL – yup, simple as that – react favorably to others. This is related to #10, except it’s even simpler. If you’re a stuffy lawyer, perhaps you don’t want to be tweeting LOL or LMAO. Otherwise, it’s OK. Remember, in real life, at that cocktail party, you would not be out of line to laugh at your friend’s funny story. “LOL” is 21st century laughing.
25. Say thank you, no matter what. Thank people when they retweet your content, when they mention you, or if they answer a question for you. Do not worry, this is not overkill. Seriously, half the time, if you don’t thank someone, they’ll wonder if you even read their tweet. You don’t want people thinking that.
26. Interaction – I did not rank these, but if I did, this would be near the top. If someone tweets you, you must tweet them back, almost without exception. If I don’t see some “@” replies in a person’s tweetstream, I usually do not follow them.
27. Search.twitter for your company name and thank your fans. You can do this without permission!
28. Giveaways – everyone likes free stuff. Unless you’re a maker of headstones. Have contests – this can fuel a great deal of retweets. Retweets = marketing “impressions.” (that’s a good thing).
29. Discounts – give people a deal.
30. Tweet general news that you find interesting – yet another way to let people get to know you. This is just my opinion, but I would not be worried about confusing your followers. “This Rizzo guy sells t-shirts, why is he tweeting a science article about shifting tectonic plates?” Because I find it interesting! Don’t sweat it – if it interests you and isn’t like Pro-Nazi stuff, tweet it out.
31. Tweets related to your hometown – no matter if you’re a local restaurant or a business that ships throughout the world, some of your biggest fans will be in your hometown. Capitalize on that love! Local news is a good example. Local not-for-profit information or pressing community issues are even better. If you don’t actually care, ACT like you care! And then do some introspection and find out why you don’t care!
32. Tweets directing twitterzens to your personal blog. Remember, your blog = your personal brand. Twitter can be a decent traffic driver.
33. Tweets directing people to your Facebook fan page, LinkedIn profile, etc. Also, you can link your Facebook fan page to your Twitter account, which allows you to do a post on your fan page and have it auto post to Twitter, thereby naturally drawing people back to your fan page.
34. Recommend those that you appreciate or are in awe of. You can do this any day of the week, or you can wait for #FollowFriday. Pick three people max and explain why these folks should be followed. The explanation, no matter how short, is critical.
35. The emotional tweet – show your emotions. Don’t be a business robot, because then no one will care. Don’t tweet “I’m crying right now” – that might be too much emotion!
36. Asking your followers for help – “Please Digg this,” “ Please Retweet,” – if you have good friends on Twitter, they will help you if you’ve shown a propensity to help them. See why the 80/20 rule is so important?
37. The directional tweet – Example: “I’m going to this restaurant.” It’s a plug for the business, and good karma will come back to you. It’s Foursquare before you get there. The business might even notice your tweet and take extra-special-good care of you once you arrive (it’s happened to me – Araka Restaurant rules).
38. The Foursquare tweet. Link Foursquare to your Twitter account so that check-ins get Tweeted out. It’s OK to let people know where you are. Don’t worry about PleaseRobMe.com – successful burglars are already on the prowl – they don’t need Foursquare. Rather, you need to ensure that you have a relatively theft-proof home.
39. Shazam / Blip.fm – Shazam is a most wonderful iPhone app that allows you to identify the piece of music you’re listening to (this still freaks my parents out). You can then tweet that out, letting people know what you’re listening to. Blip.fm allows you to set up your own Internet radio station, where you “blip” songs for all to see and hear. Both can be linked to Twitter so that your musical tastes end up as tweets. Yet another personal branding opportunity. On Shazam, I even do a Britney Spears one every once in awhile just to mess with people (because that is who I am – I want people to get to know me).
40. The “we’re almost there” tweet – “We’ve sold 9 widgets, we’ve never sold 10 in one day!” Or, “We’re 10 fans away from 1000 on Facebook!” This shows genuine excitement, and often can help you accomplish your goal.
41. The defuse tweet. Related to #3, this comes after the customer service tweets where you’re handling a complaint. Someone continues to stay in your face, and it appears there is nothing you can do about it. You are a business – don’t fire back. Attempt to take the problem offline. The final tweet you will make about the issue will be, “I hear ya, I see your point of view. Let’s take this offline. Peace.”
42. Business tips – explain to your followers how are you doing what you’re doing, as it’s another way to be helpful.
43. The invitation to a webinar or seminar – you are aiding in the education of others.
44. The endorsement – if someone says “We love Radtech” I will often say “Yup, they’re awesome” – yet another way of helping others. (And it’s no lie! Radtech is awesome!)
45. Approaching the customers of competitors. Caution: if they’re happy, approach. I do think it’s OK to tweet them. If they’re complaining, don’t be like a hungry vulture. This is the “Hey, that’s what I do” tweet. “I sell what you’re looking for.” Just tread carefully. This will heavily turn off some people, even if you’re super crafty and careful. To blunt the negative impact, I even draw attention to my marketiness by saying, BLATANT PITCH – I make fun of myself, and it’s often disarming. (related to #21 and being self-deprecating.)
46. Answering the question that your company was built to answer. Somewhat related to #2….. Use search.twitter – find people that are looking to buy your product. For instance, find tweets that say, “Any gift ideas?” Boom! Be gentle, self-deprecating, but say Rizzo Tees! My tees are great gifts! They asked. You must answer!
47. The tweet that takes you to a blog post that takes you to the content – route people through your blog or FB fan page if it is at all possible. I think Guy Kawasaki is basically living on a beach because he’s doing this better than anyone.
48. The tweet where you address someone and then cc: someone that you think might have even the slightest interest in what you’re saying. You’re informing that cc’ed person of the useful info, and you’re potentially bringing two strangers together (see #12).
49. The tweet where you talk about a subject and then you cc: someone influential in that arena. If that influential person is reviewing their “@” responses, they’ll see it. They might even RT it or link to you in their next blog post. Others will see you tweeting them, which they should appreciate.
50. The tweet that you didn’t think you should do because you’ve tweeted enough for today – hogwash, tweet what you want, when you want. Like Joel Comm says, I tweet like I eat. If someone doesn’t like you because you’re a high volume tweeter, that’s OK. Don’t be anything but yourself.
Whew! What’d I miss?