Twitter : How to use it in business

How one trip to the supermarket turned into a rant about Twitter.

As I stood in the queue at my local supermarket with my 2 boys recently, I noticed a well-known charity canvassing for donations. I listened carefully to their spiel, whilst trying to avoid eye contact, as they badgered people finishing their shopping.

“Can I tell you what we are doing Sir?”

“Do you have a moment Madam?”

“That wine looks nice, are you going to drink it tonight?”

“Can I chat to you for a second?”

It never seemed to stop. I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the trolley, as I knew I would be next. However, instead of targeting me, the charity decided to hone their radar on my children.

“When are you back at school boys?”

 “We have another week on holiday yet” my eldest son answered.

I ushered them to the other side of the shopping trolley and thankfully we moved a little further up the queue. We were now out of their reach, but they carried on badgering other shoppers as they tried to make their way home to a more guilt-free haven.

I know that every charity needs donations and, don’t get me wrong, I more than do my bit, but there has to be a better way to do it than this harsh, double-glazing salesman approach. They made me feel really uncomfortable and slightly annoyed. More importantly, from a charity perspective, I couldn’t see that they were actually achieving a great deal.

After unpacking the shopping at home, I started to wonder if this charity was using the same approach on Twitter. Thankfully, after a little look at their recent tweets, I could see they weren’t. Their tweets were friendly, chatty and helpful. What a shame they didn’t take the same approach when they were doing it in an environment that relied solely on social interaction.

Twitter : Don’t just schedule and run.

It got me thinking about social media and how often I see people getting it wrong. In recent weeks, I have also heard the same comments about Twitter. “I get nothing from Twitter. I have tried it, but it just doesn’t work from my business” seems to be a common grievance. If that’s the case, then ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly.

  1. Do I help people on Twitter?
  2. Do I share information for others on Twitter?
  3. Do I actually speak to people on Twitter?

If you answered “No” to all of the above, then ask yourself something else. Is your current strategy to schedule lots of sales messages? Yes? Do you then wonder why no-one seems to be interested? If so, like the charity in the supermarket, you are trying to hard sell and, for many people, it is a complete turn off.

The clue is in the name, SOCIAL media. Twitter is about being friendly, helpful and real. If you start to act like the charity in my example above, you will probably get the same results as they did. Zero interest in what you do!

At the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres took a star-studded selfie, then tweeted it to the world. It became the most popular tweet in the history of Twitter.

most popular tweet

“When Ellen took the selfie, she talked directly to the viewing audience, so sharing the Tweet made them feel like part of the show,” says Elaine Filadelfo, data and trends manager at Twitter. “And of course, it featured many of the most popular celebrities; in fact, this is the third year in a row that the most retweeted ‘tweet’ of the year included a photo.

You may think Twitter has nothing to offer except writing short messages of 140 characters or less, but there’s so much more to it. Let’s take a look at some Twitter basics!

What is a tweet?

A tweet is an expression of a moment or idea that you want to share. It can contain text, photos, video, links to webpage or include mention of someone else on Twitter by including their Twitter username (starting with @) to be sure they see the message. Millions of tweets are shared in real time everyday. Each one is limited to 140 characters, so needs to be succinct.

You can also Reply to a tweet, allowing you to comment on a particular tweet and join a conversation. You can even ‘Retweet’ it, which lets you share a tweet with your followers that they may not otherwise have seen. Finally, you can ‘Quote Retweet’, which is similar to retweeting, but it allows you to add your own thoughts or context before you share it.


Seeing a tweet you like and marking it as a ‘like’ lets the author of a tweet know you like their content. You can also use it to bookmark an article to read later. The author will get a notification that you have liked, their tweet.


Assigns a common topic to a tweet. So, for example, tweets that contain #worldcup are about just that. Any word can become a hashtag and anyone can start one. Clicking on a hashtag lets you see other tweets related to that topic. It’s a great way for disparate people to share a topic, shared issue or cause that they may not otherwise see. Popular hashtags can become ‘trends’ and are a great way to see popular topics under discussion across the world and take part.

Where do tweets live?

When you follow people, their tweets instantly show up in your timeline. Similarly, your tweets show up in the timelines of those people who follow you. To see interesting tweets, follow interesting people; friends, celebrities, news sources, or anyone whose tweets you enjoy reading. Unlike Facebook the relationship doesn’t have to be reciprocated. If someone follows you, you don’t have to follow them, and vice-versa.


See when someone retweets you, likes one of your tweets, replies to you or mentions you via your Twitter username, you are sent a notification. This can be customised via the settings of your account, if you don’t want to know.


Twitter isn’t just a public forum. You can have private conversations with your followers, also known as a DM, or direct message. To communicate privately, you and the person you want to message, have to follow each other.


This is where your Twitter profile lives. It lists those that follow you (followers) and the people you actively follow. It also shows you how many tweets you’ve sent and those tweets that you like.


When you’ve found someone you’re interested in, quickly follow people by adding their usernames. This is perfect for when you meet someone and you’re exchanging info. If you ever change your mind, you can always ‘unfollow’ them without them knowing.

If you are using Twitter on a mobile app you may find that it looks slightly different, but in essence the functions mentioned here are the same. They may just be located somewhere different, depending on the phone or tablet you are using.


In late 2015 Twitter launched moments. This new function helps users to follow the latest news and trends with the click of one button. Clicking on the lightning bolt shows a list of different stories from the day. You can also browse topics, such as sports or entertainment to glance back a day or two and read more specific news stories.


A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the users on that list. A list can be public or private. Find out more information here

So what should you tweet about?

The best tweets share meaningful moments and interesting useful information.  If you think it’s interesting, chances are your followers will, too. It’s a community that thrives on content. The better the content, the better the community.

twitter for business

As a business I think many people struggle to know what to say. Here is a list of 10 things your business could tweet about …

  1. Tips on how to solve a problem for your target audience.
  2. Interesting articles relating to your industry.
  3. Information about a charity that needs help or that you support.
  4. Give a mention to another business that has been helpful.
  5. Adventures you experience while not working. Could include concerts, meals out, a simple trip to the park.
  6. Share tips from an event or presentation remembering to credit the authors.
  7. Connect and talk about many topics via a Twitter Chat.
  8. A simple hello or how is everyone today?
  9. Anything that shows you are human. Be real, engaging and talk like a human being, not a robot.
  10. A helpful blog post that your business has either written or enjoyed.

I asked a couple of local Twitter users and business owner what they loved about Twitter. Here is what they had to say …

Jo from @notjustjam

  • The networking hour / Twitter chat #covhour (Coventry Hour) for interaction with others locally.
  • The ripple effect of retweets, which means more people can see what you’ve tweeted.
  • I have made some good friends both virtual and non-virtual. I have also made some good customers.

Joanne Brooks from @covhour

  • I love connecting with like-minded people – I have met some amazing local people that I would have never had met if it wasn’t for Twitter.
  • Short messages, no waffle.
  • Networking hours are brilliant idea, I know I am biased but you should take a look in your area to see who you could connect with.

If you want to chat to Jo or stop by #covhour, it takes place on a Thursday between 8pm & 9pm. They love a good Twitter chat!

I hope this has made you think slightly differently about Twitter and how it could help your business. It’s a fantastic tool. By adopting a more social persona for your business, you can grow your followers and customer base and you don’t have to stand in a supermarket, rattling cans to get your message across. #winwin

If you feel like you need some help with Twitter – tweet us or contact us

Research for this post …