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RISMEDIA, March 24, 2009-(eM+C Magazine)-If you’re not already familiar with it, Twitter, a microblogging application allows you to send small messages – called “tweets” – to people’s cell phones and Twitter homepages. These messages are limited to 140 characters, the maximum length of an SMS text message, and your tweets can be used to build a personal and business following, if you use it correctly.

If you are looking to build a personal following or another avenue in which to market your business, follow these steps:

Build a personal following

1. Speak in your own voice. Add in your own personality and flavor. Offer insights, but keep them relevant and topical.
2. Tweet articles of interest. If you or your company has a blog, post links to it so that you can share articles and topics of interest with others.
3. If you see an article that you think will be useful to your followers, post that, too. Many people post random thoughts, but it is critical to keep your tweets on topic and true to your mission.
4. Forward other peoples’ tweets – also known as retweeting. If you receive a tweet that warrants forwarding, do it. Add “RT” (for retweet) before the text.
5. Add your Twitter URL to your email signature. This will remind people to look for updates from you.
6. If you are a member of social networking site LinkedIn, use its Blog Link application. This enables you to connect your LinkedIn account with your Twitter feed. Another social networking site, Plaxo, also enables you to connect with your Twitter feed.

Market your business
1. Call out and provide specials to your customers.
Make sure these are real-time specials or offers. However, try to not be too pushy. Fit the offers and specials into the context of your customer conversation, and don’t overpromote.
2. Link to your blog. Same concept as personal tweeting above, make sure you stay on topic.
3. Tweet news and information about your company and products. New products, company news, press releases, corporate milestones, testimonials and “meet-the-employee” articles are great examples of things to tweet. Anything you think will get people both familiar and, more importantly, emotionally involved with your brand is worth tweeting about.
4. Ask questions. Twitter, like any social network, is all about conversation. Make sure you have someone who can spend time working with your followers to answer their questions. Engage your followers to provide information about how to make your company even better. And, harnessed correctly, Twitter can be an exceptional customer service tool as well.
5. Encourage your employees to create Twitter accounts. This will create more than one voice for your company, and make sure your employees add their Twitter addresses to their e-mail signatures as well.
6. Add Twitter badges to your website. This enables customers and prospects to easily follow in on the fun and stay up-to-date with what your company is doing.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert. Reach him at jimdirect@aol.com or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect.

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