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How to Use Twitter for Business: Complete Marketing Guide [2021] 

account_circle Team
A person's hand holding on a mobile phone and signing up for a Twitter account.


Twitter has become one of the most sought-after social media avenues customers go to when they want to know the latest from their favorite celebrity, organization, sports team, and even small business. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, the platform has 192 million daily active users. Businesses would also be pleased to know that Twitter has an advertising audience of 353 million. That number is up 8% since Q3 2020, which is an increase of 27 million users. If those number aren’t enough to make you want to give your small business a Twitter presence, maybe the following statistics will:

In this blog post, we’ll share everything your small business needs to know to get better reach, brand awareness, and engagement on Twitter. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Fast facts on how to use Twitter
  2. How to get more engagement on Twitter
  3. Tips that can up your Twitter marketing game
  4. How to generate leads through Twitter
  5. Do's and don'ts for using Twitter direct message
  6. What you need to know about Twitter Cards
  7. What you need to know about Twitter Lists
  8. Automation or manual tweets: How to manage your Twitter account get better results
  9. How to combat Twitter abuse

Fast facts on how to use Twitter

  • Use Twitter as a listening tool. Listen to your clients and other businesses in your industry.
  • Look at Twitter Analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t, and build your strategy off of that.
  • Share content that really highlights your business.
  • Use Twitter to ask for feedback on new products.
  • Give sneak peeks, as it creates a bigger buzz.
  • Visit their Twitter Business Blog as it can help you decide what to tweet about.
  • Create better ads with their goals-based user interface.

How to get more engagement on Twitter

If you’re new to the social media channel, this guide will help you work on the basic things your small business should do to make Twitter work for you. If you’re already on it but failing miserably, these tips should help you up your game.

No matter what, remember: Focus on sharing super interesting and relevant stuff (more on why below).

Write a compelling “about”

You have 160 characters to make a great impression in your “about.” Instead of saying what you do, say how you help people/the value you bring to the table. Include a link to your website, and hashtags for the topics you tweet about. For your profile pic, use your company’s logo.

Tweet frequently enough

According to Dan Zarrella’s research in The Science of Marketing, the accounts with the most followers tweet 22 times per day. Before you run away screaming in the other direction, there is a corollary that will make you feel better.

Dan also pointed out that these accounts were simply retweeting interesting information rather than replying to tweets. The takeaway: Retweet a lot. Twenty-two times a day is probably overkill for your small business, so try a handful a day. Keep up a consistent pace, and people will come to rely on you for information.

Share photos

We live in a visual world, and that’s just as true on Twitter as it is on any other social media network. Tweets that include an image get the most engagement on the social network.

Research hashtags

Don’t become a #twitterfail case study. Do your homework before you start using a hashtag for a campaign or even on a regular basis. Does it already exist? Can it be misconstrued? Is it easy to hijack? If you are creating a hashtag for your brand, make it very specific to your brand so there is little room for an #epicfail.

A female business owner is happy browsing her phone in front of her laptop.


Tips that can up your Twitter marketing strategy

If you’ve got the basics of Twitter down pat, good for you! It’s a great tool to discover new content, connect with people from around the world, and strike up or join conversations.

Since it’s already working for you, why not make it work even better? The following tips have the potential to take your twitter marketing strategy to the next level.

Use Twitter Advanced Search Queries

Regular Twitter search gives you broad results around hashtags and users. If you want to hone-in your searches to find people who are looking for your product or service – aka leads – use Twitter Advanced Search Queries. This requires you to manually type in operators—but don’t worry – it’s not complicated. Here’s how operators work:

  • To: shows you tweets sent to a user (to:webdotcom)
  • From: shows you tweets sent from a user
  • Near: narrows down the area you want to monitor
  • Within: narrows the area down to within a certain radius (near:20009 within:1mile)
  • You can also use emojis: happy, sad and question marks are the most common emojis.

Split-test tweets

It is incredibly easy to split-test tweets to see what performs better, whether it’s language in the tweet, the hashtags, or the time you send it. You just need to use a URL shortener like or TinyURL or a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, which have built-in link shorteners.

As you probably know, every time you shorten a link, you get a different code, even if the link you are shortening does not change. Create as many codes as you need for as many emails as you want to test against each other – and write it all down so you can track what performs better.

Hack your way to better Instagram photos on Twitter

Facebook owns Instagram, so it should come as no surprise that Instagram photos do not get the same respect on Twitter (Facebook’s doing, not Twitter’s). For one, your photo won’t show up as an in-stream preview, nor will it be catalogued as a photo. There’s a work around for this, though! Use IFTTT. Set up a command that will automatically post new Instagram photos as a tweet that also show your photo (rather than a link). Nice, huh?


How to generate leads through Twitter

If you’re like most small business owners who use social media, you’re probably still learning the ropes of this relatively new method of marketing, and your attention and energy are largely focused on getting more likes, more fans and more followers. But if these numbers are all you’re counting, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable uses for social media: generating sales leads. Here are some ways to generate more leads with social media.

Watch Twitter hashtags

Keep an eye out for relevant conversations about your competitors, the type of product or service you sell, your industry or your business. Jump in and engage with the people involved. This tactic can work for consumer-oriented local businesses as well as B2B sales. Watch for hashtags related to your business.

For instance, a local clothing boutique could look for local Twitter users tweeting with hashtags like #fashion #style, then send the tweeters a special offer to get them into the store. You can use Twitter Advanced Search to find users in your neighborhood, search through platforms like Twitterholic, or create events based on a hashtag using Twtvite.

Use content marketing 

If you’re already posting content on your business website or blog, be sure to post it on social media, as well. While all types of content can help attract more traffic to your website or blog, which may result in a new lead, the best type of content for lead generation is offering something in return for the user’s contact information.

For example, consider offering a whitepaper, downloadable eBook or online webinar that the user has to register to obtain or attend. Promote this content heavily on social media with links that take users to a form to fill out. For best results, keep the registration form as short as possible, asking for just the bare minimum of information you need to reach out to the lead.


Do's and don'ts for using Twitter direct message

When Twitter lifted its 140-character restriction on direct messages, it made major waves among avid Twitter users. You might have missed the announcement simply because you were so busy running your business (or enjoying a much-deserved vacation!), but this is also great news if you already use – or want to use – Twitter to build relationships.

However, this does not mean you can use Twitter direct message as a marketing free-for-all. In fact, you need to use it even more carefully than you use Twitter so you don’t get marked as a spammer.

Here’s a handy list of do’s and don’ts you can follow when you use Twitter direct message (DM):

Do be helpful

No matter what, always use direct message to be helpful. In fact, treat your DMs like email, except that you don’t have the person’s email address. Make your DMs short, helpful, and polite.

Don’t DM people unless they actually use Twitter

This might seem obvious, but using DM to message people is a waste of time unless they are already active on Twitter – and actively use it for business. Before you DM someone, check out their feed. What do they tweet? How often do they tweet?

Don’t send marketing messages

This is a HUGE no-no; you’d basically be spamming them. On Twitter, people cannot opt-in to get your marketing messages, so to suddenly throw promotions, event information, white papers, or other offers at them is really bad form.

Do use it for customer service

DM is a great tool for customer service. When you see complaints on Twitter, reply immediately and let them know you’ll take it to DM so you can resolve their issue quickly and privately. Likewise, invite clients to DM you with any problems.

Don’t DM people you don’t know

If you are thinking about DMing a potential client or business partner, first ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do we already follow each other?
  • Have we engaged in conversations on Twitter?
  • Do I “like,” RT, or respond to their messages?
  • If I met them in person, would they know who I am?

Do pitch journalists and bloggers – IF you already have a relationship

Journalists and bloggers are probably the most active groups of people on Twitter, so using Twitter to get on their radar is a great idea. I would strongly caution against pitching them via DM unless you already have a solid, established relationship. Otherwise, you’ll be viewed as annoying – or worse.


Screenshot of a tweet containing a Photo card

This tweet makes use of a Photo card along with the rest of the tweet.


What you need to know about Twitter Cards

Have you heard about Twitter Cards yet? In a nutshell, they let you attach and showcase photos, videos, and other media experiences to your tweets in order to help drive more traffic to your website.

This is a great thing, right? Twitter has been criticized for being less of a social media engagement tool than a way to spread (or blast) information. Cards change that dynamic and can really help convert people into leads or customers.

There are 7 different types of Twitter Cards:

  • Summary Card

The Summary Card provides a preview of the content before clicking through to your website. It can be used for blog posts, news articles, products, and anything else you want to share that is housed on your website.

  • Summary Card with Large Image

This is just like the Summary Card in terms of content, but it features a large, full-width image alongside the tweet.

  • Photo Card

These cards are like Instagram, as the photo is front and center in the Tweet with room for 140 characters below. When you click on the photo, it expands for a richer, more detailed view.

  • Gallery Card

The Gallery Card lets you share up to 4 photos. Unlike the photo card, 140 characters appear above the photo.

  • App Card

These are great for app developers, as you can include details of your mobile app with direct download. You can highlight the name, a description and icon, the rating and the price (140 characters appear above the card).

  • Player Card

Player Cards showcase a video, audio clip, or some other form of rich media. Installing this on your website and sharing it on Twitter is a little more complicated than the other cards.

  • Product Card

These are perfect for small businesses who sell products online. A Product Card lets you highlight a product with an image, description, and two other key details (of your choosing).

  • Lead Generation Card

Lead Generation Cards are part of the Twitter Ads platform, so yes, you need to pay to use these. When someone expands your tweet, they’ll see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, Twitter handle, and email address are pre-filled within the Card, so with one click, they can send this information directly to you.

  • Website Card

Website Cards are also part of the Twitter Ads platform. They let you feature website content within a tweet (an engaging image plus information about your website). Users can click through to your website directly from the Card.

Getting started isn’t terribly complicated, but for the non-technical, you might want your developer (or a tech-savvy employee) to handle this for you. There are 5 steps you need to follow:

  • Review instruction for the type of card you want to implement.
  • Add the pertinent meta tags to your page (per the instructions).
  • Run your URLs against the validator tool to be approved (just to ensure your card will appear correctly across platforms and doesn’t violate any Twitter rules of use).
  • Once you get approval, you can tweet the URL – the Card will appear below your tweet.
  • Use Twitter Card Analytics to measure your results.
A screenshot of creating a new Twitter list


What you need to know about Twitter Lists

What are Twitter Lists?

Twitter Lists let you segment your followers on Twitter by whatever criteria you choose. When you look at a list timeline, you’ll only see tweets from the users on that list.

How can they help my marketing?

It is a phenomenal listening tool:

  • It cuts down on the clutter in your stream by only showing you tweets from the people on that list – a huge time saver.
  • It allows you to home in on what people are saying and sharing, which can help you create and share better, more relevant information.
  • It makes it easier to jump into conversations and thus engage people in a more meaningful way.
  • It gives you an easy way to build relationships with influencers and prospects.

How do I decide who to add to any given list?

This is a tough one, and it’s going to require tweaks and adjustments as you go. Start by doing two things: 1) Segment the people you currently follow, and 2) search by hashtag, company, or keyword, then just add the users who pop up to your list. Try clicking the filters on the left side (people, photos, videos, news, or timelines) to further refine your search results.

One shortcut is to subscribe other people’s lists, as lists can be made public or private. Check out the Twitter Lists of influential people. When you are on their Twitter page, click on More > Lists to see if they have a list worth following.

What lists should I create?

That’s up to you, of course, but here are some ideas:

  • Clients
  • Prospects
  • Competitors
  • Influencers
  • Colleagues and coworkers
  • Business partners and project collaborators
  • Interests
  • Expertise
  • Industry


Automation or manual tweets: How to manage your Twitter account get better results

Can manually managing your Twitter account get better results than using automation to handle it? Judging from the results of an NPR experiment, yes, Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

In May, the public radio station, which normally automates its Twitter feed with NPR stories, experimented by manually managing its account for a week. During that week, NPR’s website got 142,219 @nprnews-driven visits, up 45 percent from the average number of website visits spurred by tweets in the prior five weeks.

What’s more, URLs that @nprnews tweeted manually got clicked on almost 100,000 times more than links that were shared automatically. In addition, the NPR Twitter account got 14 percent more followers than its average.

That’s the good news. What’s the downside? The obvious one: The employee who manually updated the Twitter account (in addition to handling the rest of NPR’s social media) admits she basically didn’t leave her desk for five days, except to sleep (and not much of that). She was doing at least 100 tweets per day.

What can a busy small business owner learn from this story? Obviously, you don’t have time to spend every waking moment on Twitter (and neither does anyone else at your business). Here are some do’s and don’ts:


  • Automate, but verify.

It’s OK to automate tweets to some degree by scheduling them to go out at a certain time, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Planning tweets two weeks ahead is how companies end up making major social media gaffes, like wishing it would rain on the day a hurricane touches down across the country. Do a quick check every morning to make sure that day’s planned tweets still make sense with the day’s news.

  • Focus on quality, not quantity.

If you’re putting valuable time into manual tweets, you want to make it matter. Focus these tweets on issues that can’t be automated, such as current news, industry issues or engaging with customers.

  • Time it right. 

You don’t want to waste time manually tweeting at 2 a.m. (unless that’s when all your customers are active on Twitter). Use Twitter analytics to see when your tweets get the most engagement, retweeting and interaction, and manually tweet at those times.

  • Don’t automate replies, direct messages or customer service issues. 

Basically, you never want to automate a conversation. Don’t automatically post your Tweets on Facebook or other social media platform.

  • Do automate content curation and non-timely tweets.
  • Use notifications.

Whether direct from Twitter or using third-party automation tools, get alerted to tweets that you need to respond to. You can turn off unnecessary notifications like getting notified when you get a new follower, for instance.

Of course, since Twitter and its etiquette are constantly evolving, the best place to get a grip on Twitter automation best practices is straight from the source. Check out Twitter’s suggestions for best practices when it comes to Twitter automation.


How to combat Twitter abuse

Twitter has been known to police abusive behavior on its platform. Just recently, they’ve created a Safety Mode, a feature that temporarily blocks accounts for seven days for using potentially harmful language — such as insults or hateful remarks — or sending repetitive and uninvited replies or mentions. They’ve also expanded their policies on addressing hateful conduct, where reported abusive tweets will be immediately removed online. If you are experiencing any abuse on Twitter, or if you see any, there are several ways to combat this:

1.      Report it to Twitter

  • Click on the abusive tweet so it appears as a single page.
  • Click “Contact” in the footer > “Customer Support” > “Report a Violation”
  • Under “Reporting violations,” click How to File Terms of Service or Rules Complaints”
  • Scroll down to Harassment and Violent Threats, and click “Harassment and Violent Threats help page.”
  • Scroll down and click “submit a ticket request.”

2.      Report it to the local police

Twitter strongly recommends contacting your local law enforcement if you’re concerned about your physical safety. Twitter will also send you a summery report of the harassing tweets concerning your wellbeing.

Here’s how it works: after filing a report regarding a threatening Tweet directed at you, you’ll see an option on the last screen to receive a summary of your report via email. Clicking the “Email report” button will send you an email that packages the threatening Tweet and URL along with the responsible Twitter username and URL and a timestamp as well as your account information and the timestamp of your report. Twitter’s guidelines for law enforcement will explain what additional information the social media channel has and how authorities can request it.

3.      Share what’s happening with your community

If you are thinking of quitting Twitter, tell your community – and tell them why. If they only follow you on Twitter, tell them where else they can connect with you, whether it’s signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your blog, following you on Instagram, or connecting on LinkedIn.

4.      Seek therapy

Twitter abuse is a form of emotional abuse, and the effects can be devastating. If you are losing sleep or weight, sinking into depression, or, God forbid, feeling suicidal, find a therapist who specializes in emotional abuse and/or cyberbullying.

5.      Quit Twitter

At the end of the day, you need to protect yourself. Quitting Twitter will not be the end of the world. Leaving one part of social media is not the be-end-end-all.


A male businessowner is taking a selfie with his plant product.


Final thoughts on using Twitter for small businesses

Though Twitter may not be the best social media channel to reach the widest audience for your business, it is still a powerful social network for brand awareness, customer reach, and customer engagement. The social media channel is always improving its useability and has been creating innovative ways to increase visibility for its content creators, like tippingSuper Follows, and Shop Module, among others. If you’re building out a social media strategy for your small business and are considering Twitter, try to do the basics first and then work on discovering the different features and tools for creators. After some test tweets and a whole lot of strategy, your business will be Twitterfied in no time.


Image Credits:

Header: Unsplash

Image 1: Shutterstock

Image 2: Twitter account

Image 3: Twitter account

Image 4: Shutterstock