Expert Tips for a Tweeting Business

Blogger, social-media strategy consultant and sought-after corporate speaker B.L. Ochman talks about how to avoid common business Twitter mistakes.

It's easy enough to use Twitter, but businesses have to use social media marketing in the same way they use any form of marketing — with a business plan and knowledge — to be successful.

Blogger, social media strategy consultant and sought-after corporate speaker B.L. Ochman heads the creative team of She also is the co-founder of, the custom photo t-shirt site for pet lovers and most recently authored "Debunking Six Social Media Myths" which offers an excellent overview of what social media — and isn't.

In an e-mail interview with, Ochman says that mistakes are easily made when it comes to using Twitter for business. Often, a business hears about Twitter and wrongly expects it to be a substitute for a marketing plan.

Avoid Common Business Twitter Mistakes

It is important to remember that Twitter is just a tool that can be helpful to a business, if you follow the social media rule of thumb. Ochman says that one in every 12 tweets can be about you. The rest of the time you should be answering questions and offer helpful information and share links.

For the most part, a business cannot realistically run a social media campaign in-house. Ochman said, "Most businesses simply haven't spent enough time listening, lurking and understanding the lay of the land in social media. Smart companies hire experienced consultants to help them plan their strategy and to coach their internal team on how to participate effectively."

It is important to remember that social media is just one part of an integrated marketing campaign. "Just as you don't do your own taxes, fill your own teeth, or, hopefully, do your own plumbing repair, it's wise to learn from experts. If your goal is to have your marketing done in-house, it's smart to have an experienced consultant to act as your Sherpa guide, at least initially."

Another common mistake that businesses make is automating the Twitter process. When companies use bots or try to push their message out as if they were advertising they are only going to be ignored or blocked by other Twitter users. On her blog, Ochman tells people, "Don't use programs that auto-follow anyone who follows you on Twitter. It's a social network not a robot network."

Twitter is a worthwhile investment for businesses that use the service as a way to interact socially with consumers, but not for those who use it as their only interaction tool. Ochman said that not all interactions are social on Twitter. Comcast, for example, handles customer service issues; Fresh Books answers questions about accounting. She has also seen Google, Apple and several other companies jump in and answer questions and help solve issues brought up by consumers on twitter.

Dell taps Twitter
Dell uses Twitter to answer customers questions.

Dell is another company that has had success from twittering. Dell says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year-and-a-half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company's Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others. There are now over 150,000 followers for the Dell Home Outlet Store (@Dell).

Amassing a Twinfluence

To drive traffic using Twitter, a business needs to have a Twitter following — that is, other Twitter users who voluntarily "follow" your tweets. When your followers log in to Twitter they will see any tweets you have posted. You can opt-in to receive notification when a new user starts following you on the service, and you can also view the users profile and choose to follow them also. From Ochman's own experience she says that following everyone who follows you is a waste of time.

For a business, the best way to have a large following on Twitter is to be a brand people care about in other mediums. "People got excited about Zappos CEO being on Twitter because we already know and love the brand." Ochman recommends that to develop a following you need to be there where the conversation is happening, and you also need to read and comment on blog posts that are mentioned in Twitter.

Ochman says that Twitter is not a magic bullet but rather a tool — and a great one. She cautions businesses to get a strategy in place for using Twitter.

"Most businesses don't have a Twitter strategy, and this toe in the water thing is just bunk. You need to go where the conversation is happening — you listen, you get an understanding of how the medium works, and then you participate in a meaningful way."

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller, frequent contributor to She is also managing editor of You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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