The first tools you should use are those which are available on Twitter to personalise or brand your Twitter profile – logo, bio, website link, background etc. When people look at your profile and timeline, they should be able to learn all about your brand, business, products, USP etc from that profile.

There are people who will argue that personalising your profile is pointless when so many use the tools we recommend below – Tweetdeck etc, which generally do not show the actual Twitter profile design, but it is an undeniable fact that there are now many people sharing visually attractive profiles, as well as others making money from creating them.

If you are team posting from within your company, you should brand each Twitter user in a similar fashion to give a corporate look/feel to the accounts.

The next most important is a tool which allows you to keep track of all that is going on in your own Twitterverse – the website is too clunky to do this easily. You need to be able to easily follow:

  • specific events (usually denominated by a hashtag)
  • individual accounts (e.g. your competitors or loyal customers)
  • conversations so that you can see how a conversation developed (this is particularly useful for helpdesks where different team members can see what has gone on previously)

Also, most tools offer stats, trends and search facilities, as well as lists so that you can keep track of what is working as well as what isn’t, what is trending, and group users into different departments or lists. You can check Twitter trends by region too, as well as trends in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow on Twitter itself, so if your audience is local, you can keep an eye on what is trending right now near you.

Essential for all of this are either Tweetdeck (acquired by Twitter this week), Hootsuite or Seesmic.

These tools help you to both aggregate the tweets from those you follow, your followers, hashtags, search terms etc, and separate them out into columns to make life much easier.

Try all three to find which one best suits your modus operandi – there are plenty of how tos, videos, FAQs and tutorials across the Net to make the most of their features. It may take an hour or two to investigate but will pay enormous dividends if you have the right tool for the job. All also offer mobile solutions which will give you more chance to follow and post to Twitter on the move.

Automate your tweets

You will send tweets for one of two reasons: a) to communicate/respond or b) to promote. The vast majority of companies are using Twitter only for the latter, which can be fully automated from your blog, website, RSS feed, or for tweets written ahead of schedule e.g for upcoming press releases.

There are so many tools to do this job that you just need to assess what you are attempting to conjoin with Twitter eg wordpress blog, Facebook or Linkedin status update, RSS feed, press releases etc and choose the right tool(s) for the task. These requirements will be unique to each company and based on the existing resources that you have for marketing both on and offline.

For example, Socialoomph (previously known as TweetLater) offers you a wide variety of tools to automate many of the tasks that you may find you need to carry out to harness the power of Twitter for your business. This not only includes automated tweets, but autofollow, welcome messages, stats, linking multiple social accounts and blogs, monitoring follows/unfollows and so on.

Personalised Engagement

The area that you cannot automate at all, if you value your reputation, is the personal side of Twitter – responding to a technical support tweet, answering questions, expressing opinions, conversing etc.

This is the most important part of a social media strategy, so you need to assess the human resource needs for this. You can start small and bring in further resources as you find you need them, and as they begin to generate results.

If you don’t engage on Twitter, or use Twitter to promote a route for human engagement eg a forum on your site, blog comments, a phone line or online chat, webinar or real world seminar etc, then you are not being social, you are broadcasting.

Decide what tone or personality your company wishes to adopt on Twitter – this is really important and needs to be upheld reasonably consistently. Customers want to feel that companies are far more approachable than in the past, especially large corporates, and it is easy to develop a personable, friendly style, even in a technical help centre format. Instead of Business to Business, or Business to Consumer, think Person to Person.

Then, decide who is going to be responsible for monitoring and maintaining your tweetstream, Build in redundancy so that you have at least two people responsible, even if not both full-time, and each knows what the other one has done, conversations that have been held and so on.

Tomorrow, we will continue to look at how to use these tools and strategies and your Twitter account to maximise your business strengths and create social signals to help improve your search engine optimisation and internet marketing.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology