Spring 2011
Twitter 101 By Carolyn Howard Johnson

You have a store website and a Facebook fan page. If you’re ready to make the move to Twitter, here are some basics to get you started.

What is Twitter? It is an online social network that allows retailers and customers to communicate with one another in mutually beneficial ways.

Just like Facebook has fans who can “like” your gift shop, Twitter has “followers.” Writing fun, snappy and useful “tweets”—the equivalent of Faebook’s status updates—can gain you a strong following. Even more fun, Twitter works like a game—every “tweet” you write must be 140 characters or less.

Marketing on Twitter is easy because you don’t have to understand everything about this social network to get started. So, as Nike says, “Just do it.”

Here’s what you need to be have a commercially viable Twitter page.

Your Twitter moniker or user name is important for your Twitter branding. A Twitter moniker is something that describes you uniquely on the Twitter network. For example, if you are Jane Doe and own a gift shop called Jane Doe’s Gifts, your email address might be jane@janedoesgifts.com and your Twitter address could be: www.twitter.com/janedoesgifts. The part of the address after the slash forms your Twitter moniker. In this case, your Twitter moniker would be @janedoesgifts.

As another example, a complete Twitter address is www.Twitter.com/frugalretailing, but the moniker is just @frugalretailing.

If your store name isn’t already being used, it’s probably the simplest, smartest choice for your Twitter moniker.

Your Twitter biography is the most important tweeting tool because it is what you say in your biography that will have the greatest influence on Tweeters who are deciding whether to follow you. It should establish your credentials and make you and/or your store come alive for your homepage visitor.

Here are some ideas:

At Jane Doe’s Gifts, we can deliver the perfect gift for your loved one. Shop local! We’ve been voted “Town’s Top Favorite” ten years in a row. Follow us for Twitter specials. [Your Website address here].

Alternatively, your gift shop’s biography can include a phone number and a few of your popular brands, which helps Tweeters interested in those products to find them:

A town favorite gift shop, Jane Doe’s Gifts carries Votivo candles, Brighton handbags, Camille Beckman, and more. Phone 123-456-7890.

Your avatar is that little identifying picture that helps fellow Tweeters know who is tweeting. Customers may not follow you if you use Twitter’s canned versions. They deem it unprofessional and assume they’ll get nothing but superficial banter. If you are in your shop taking care of your customers often, your headshot is not a bad choice. Generally though, your shop’s logo will be the most effective avatar you can use if it isn’t too busy. If it is, have your graphic person simplify it for you.

Your avatar is about your branding so don’t change it seasonally or often. You want your followers to identify you easily and to recall some positive benefit when they see your avatar.

Your Twitter “wallpaper” is the design that appears on your Twitter homepage and your Direct Message page where Tweeters go to reach you personally. Wallpaper is easy to hang if you have a line drawing or photo of your store or a simple logo stored in your computer. If the wallpaper is too busy it may get covered by the message window. Find free wallpaper help at MyTweetSpace.com.

Gather followers by following those you’d like to have follow you—after all, it’s a community network. Use all your best promotion skills to get your existing customers to sign up. Gather new followers by clicking on the “Who to Follow” link at the top of yovur Twitter page to find tweeters who might be interested in your products.

You’ll see that Twitter makes suggestions for you based on the words you’ve used in your moniker, bio, and tweets. You can use keywords in a little search window on that page too. Words related to your services or the categories of products you carry will help you find tweeters who may be interested in what you do.

Remember, since you’re a gift shop, you might want to follow self-proclaimed shopaholics like the person below:
Jogger, blogger, shopaholic, sushi lover!

Put Internet muscle behind your Twitter launch. Plan a Twitter Special-of-the-Week. Post it on your blog or website and drive customers by posting messages with the link on Twitter and other social networks. At the end of the special, ask customers to subscribe to your blog and offer them an extra benefit if they do. Use your other social networks in a similar way. Tell your Facebook friends to come tweet with you and tell them how they will benefit. When you tweet, invite your new followers to “like” your shop’s page on Facebook. It’s like a carousel.

If you aren’t networking this way, fear not. Your networking skills will grow little by little, one network at a time. Just know that as you add to your online presence, one Internet presence will help power the others.

Start tweeting. Twitter is a network where you can have fun, be social, and, yes, sell. For ideas on what makes a good tweet, check out “Sweet Tweets,” page 142.

Editor’s Note: To protect privacy, all tweets and other Twitter information are fictional and for illustration purposes only.

Carolyn Howard Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the award-winning How To Do It Frugally series of books for writers including Frugal and Focused Tweeting for Retailers. More information...

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