Social media site Twitter currently has 284 million monthly active users who send 500 million tweets per day. Can your business afford to let the bandwagon get away?
Whether you’re the MD of a blue-chip organisation or a café owner, Twitter is a low-investment marketing tool with potential that shouldn’t go untapped. It allows your business to form valuable relationships with relevant audiences, drive conversions, and boost your brand image.
This platform can be intimidating to new users, and getting it wrong can do more harm than good. To make sure your organisation efficiently extracts every ounce of value, read our Twitter for business guide below.
How to set up your business Twitter account
Creating your Twitter profile
- Visit twitter.com and enter your full name, email address and a secure password. Click ‘Sign up for Twitter’.
- On the next page, you’ll choose your Twitter username. This is preceded by an @ to form your handle (@username), which is displayed on your tweets and used by those who want to connect with you on Twitter. It’s therefore best to use your brand name — although alterations may be required if the username is already taken. Keep it as short as possible.
- Fill in any other parts of the form before clicking ‘Create my account’.
- Twitter will send you an email — click the link to activate your account.
Personalising your Twitter profile
- Head to your profile at twitter.com/username and click ‘Edit profile’.
- Click ‘Change your profile photo’ and upload an image — ideally your brand logo in 400x400px.
- Click ‘Change your header photo’ and upload an image — ideally something related to your brand in 1500x500px.
- Type in your display name — ideally your full brand name, bio — a brand description up to 160 characters, your location, and your website.
- Click ‘Theme color’ to change the colour links on your profile are displayed in.
- Click ‘Save changes’ when you’re finished.
Remember to add a follow button to your website, so visitors can easily find your Twitter profile.
This @TheEllenShow tweet was crowned the ‘Golden Tweet’ of 2014, after earning the most retweets in Twitter history.
Direct Message: A private tweet sent between users who follow each other.
Favorite: Favoriting a tweet is similar to ‘liking’ a Facebook post — it shows you have enjoyed the content.
Follow: You follow a user to ‘subscribe’ to their tweets, so their messages appear on your timeline, and unfollow if you want to stop seeing their tweets. The people who have subscribed to your tweets are your followers.
Hashtags: Key words and phrases preceded by a ‘#’, which are used to tag tweets according to the subject matter. Click on them to see related content.
HT: Stands for hat tip. Used to credit someone who inspired a tweet.
List: A way to group users you follow. Allows you to separate work and personal interest accounts, for example.
Mention: When another user’s @username is included in a tweet, by way of tagging or citing them. Users will be notified when they receive a mention in a tweet.
MT: Modified tweet. Indicates that the following content is a truncated quote from another user.
Notification: In the ‘Notifications’ tab, users are alerted of tweets where they received a mention. They are also informed when users have interacted with their tweets in some way.
Pinned tweet: Users’ profiles show their tweets in reverse chronological order, but the owner can ‘pin’ one tweet to the top. This pinned tweet therefore has more exposure.
Profile: A user’s profile displays their header photo, profile photo, bio, and tweets in reverse chronological order (any pinned tweet is at the top).
Promoted tweet/trend/account: A tweet/hashtag/account that advertisers have paid Twitter to display more prominently.
Reply: To respond to a tweet and start a conversation with the user, or prompt a discussion by putting someone’s @username at the start of a tweet. Replies are only be displayed on the timelines of users who follow both parties.
Retweet/RT: You retweet another user’s tweet to share it with your followers. This appears as a retweet on their timelines.
Subtweet: To talk about a Twitter user without including their username (i.e. without mentioning them).
Timeline: The real-time feed of tweets displayed on a user’s ‘Home’ tab, composed of tweets from the users they follow and recommended tweets.
Trending: A hashtag that is being widely used at a particular time is said to be trending. Twitter organises trends by location.
Tweet: A message shared via Twitter, which may include text, images, links, mentions and hashtags. Tweets are a maximum of 140 characters long.
How to compose a tweet
To get started, click ‘Tweet’ or the quill icon.
How to write a tweet
Twitter is all about short, snappy content, so avoid the temptation to spread longer messages across multiple tweets. If you’re really struggling with the character count, you can use abbreviations — just make sure that your followers are likely to understand what you mean.
Bear in mind that Twitter is a social network. Users don’t want their timelines cluttered with adverts — a constant stream of promotional content is your fast-track to receiving unfollows. Focus on starting conversations and sharing interesting content (both your own and third-party).
How to add your location to a tweet
Where relevant — perhaps you’re at an event — you can share your location in a tweet. Twitter will automatically detect where you are, but you can type it in if you prefer. Remember to ‘Turn off location’ if you don’t want it to be displayed next time.
How to use hashtags
Hashtags allow users to group related content and make tweets more searchable. For example, users interested in The X Factor gossip can follow the conversation on #xfactor, and those who want to contribute can add #xfactor to their tweet.
Using more than three hashtags in a tweet is often considered spammy, so be selective. Remember that hashtags cannot include spaces or symbols (that includes apostrophes and so on).
You can use trending hashtags to join popular conversations, but make sure you’re adding something valuable. Many brands have been slated for ‘hashtag hijacking’: crowbarring a popular hashtag into an irrelevant tweet, purely to benefit from the added exposure.
How to tweet links
Twitter will automatically convert your URL into an http://t.co link, as this improves security and supports analytics. No matter how long this link, it will be classed as 22 characters.
How to tweet images
To include an image in the body of your tweet, click ‘Add photo’ and select the file from your device. You can tag people by typing in their full name or @username.
Your photo will be included by means of a pic.twitter.com URL, and will be previewed on followers’ timelines. To see the full image, they can expand your tweet by clicking on it. Images are classed as 23 characters.
Where they add value, it’s well worth including photos with your tweets. According to Buffer research, tweets with images receive 89 per cent more favorites and 150 per cent more retweets.
How create media-rich tweets with Twitter cards
Create a Twitter Card for a particular URL and add the appropriate meta tags to your website, and extra media will be included when anyone tweets the link. You can monitor the success of this strategy with Twitter Card Analytics. Find out more about the types of Twitter Cards you can create below.
Summary Card: Gives a preview of the content, including a title, description and optional 120x120px image. Summary Cards are great for sharing blog posts.
Summary Card with Large Image: Same as the Summary Card but the image must be at least 280x150px. Perfect for image-focussed blog posts.
Photo Card: Adds a large image to a tweet, which expands when clicked — a title is optional. This card is ideal for sharing stand-alone photographs.
Gallery Card: Shares up to four images within the body of the tweet, as well as a title and optional description. The best option when sharing image-based listicles and product category pages.
App Card: Provides a direct download link for apps, as well as information from the app store, including star rating, description, icon and name.
Player Card: Allows media such as videos to be streamed within the tweet.
Product Card: Includes an image, description and two other details about a selected product, such as price and stock level.
Engaging with other tweets
Twitter isn’t just about sharing your own content: engaging with the community is good etiquette, and a great way to find content that interests you and your followers.
Finding interesting tweets
First of all, start following people and brands you’re interested in. Use the search bar or check out the ‘Who to follow’ box for recommendations. Remember: tweets from the accounts you’re following populate your timeline (along with some recommended and sponsored tweets), with the most recent first.
If you want to follow celebrities or big brands, look out for the verified badge to ensure you’ve got the official account.
Your timeline isn’t the only place to find relevant tweets. On the ‘Discover’ tab, Twitter displays tweets it thinks will interest you — and not just from users you follow.
If you’re interested in a particular topic, click on or search for relevant hashtags. The results page will present you with the ‘Top’ tweets, which Twitter’s algorithm deems most popular, first. Click ‘All’ to see all relevant tweets in reverse chronological order — click on the notification to see results that have been tweeted since you loaded the page.
To learn about the hottest topics on Twitter, often dictated by the news, look to ‘Trends’. This box lists the most widely used hashtags of the moment in different areas (e.g. Worldwide, United Kingdom or Newcastle Upon Tyne).
Interacting with tweets
There are four main ways to engage with a tweet. Click ‘Reply’ to start a conversation thread with the user, but know that this exchange won’t be displayed on all your followers’ timelines: any tweet starting with an @username will only be shown in the timelines of those who follow both parties.
If you want your followers to see the original content and your reply, you need to quote. To do so, compose a new message like so:
[Your comments] RT [@username of user you’re quoting] [copy-and-pasted content from original tweet]
If you want to shorten the tweet you’re quoting, show you’re citing a modified tweet like so:
[Your comments] MT [@username of user you’re quoting] [amended copy-and-pasted content from original tweet]
To share another user’s tweet with your followers without adding commentary, simply click the ‘Retweet’ button. This will share the tweet in its original format, but with a notification showing who retweeted it.
If you want your own username and profile photo to be prominent when retweeting, you can simply use this format:
RT [@username of user you’re quoting] [copy-and-pasted content from original tweet]
Finally, you can favorite a tweet. This can work like a bookmark, allowing you to easily find the tweet again later. It also shows your appreciation for a tweet, similarly to the ‘Like’ button on Facebook.
The numbers next to the icons at the bottom reveal how users have been engaging with a tweet.
Communicating with other users
Replying to a tweet isn’t the only way to communicate with other users. You can start a new conversation by using their @username at the start of a tweet — remember, only users who follow you both will see the exchange.
Alternatively, you can mention them in a tweet by including their @username anywhere, and they will receive a notification letting them know. Tagging users in this way can also help your followers find new accounts to follow.
If you want to chat privately with another member, you can send a direct message as long as you follow each other. Click ‘Message’ on their profile, go to the ‘Messages’ tab then ‘New message’, or compose a tweet in this format:
DM [@username of recipient] [private message]
To find out how your Twitter account is performing, login to analytics.twitter.com. Here, you’ll be able to see how many impressions (views), as well as the number of engagements (clicks, favorites, retweets, replies or follows), each of your tweets achieved.
You can also look at follower and engagement trends across any period, so you can test and compare different social strategies. Trialling different tactics and monitoring results is the best way to optimise your Twitter activity.
Advertising on Twitter
To help build your followership and extend the reach of your tweets, you can use Twitter Ads. Based on a pay-per-engagement model, Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends can be cost-effective marketing methods.
If you want a tweet to reach a wider audience than just your followers, you can invest in Promoted Tweets. Twitter will display your clearly labelled Promoted Tweet to users it thinks will be interested, helping you extend the reach of your content.
Have you created a hashtag to get people talking about your campaign or raise awareness of a product launch? You’ll be more successful if it’s featured in ‘Trends’. In a 2013 study, Twitter found that Promoted Trends boosted brand mentions by 73 per cent on the day, and by 20 per cent three weeks later.
You can get your Twitter account in front of targeted demographics with Promoted Accounts. You’ll be recommended in users’ timelines and ‘Who to follow’ boxes.