People use Twitter for many different reasons – to chat, to celebrity-watch, to keep up to date with a particularly industry or market sector, or to promote a blog or a business. Whatever your reasons for using Twitter there are certain things you should be mindful of but these are particularly important if you are using Twitter to market your business.

We started using Twitter 8 months ago and had no idea what we were doing. But through trial and error, and following some of the great advice available online we quickly got the hang of it. Like our Guide to Free Publicity, this is a lighthearted overview of what has worked for us. So now we are proud to present – The Mum’s the Boss Guide to Twitter!

Be Yourself – one of the huge benefits of social media is the ability to engage with potential customers and clients on a personal as well as a professional level, so let your personality shine through! Talk about things other than your business – your family, pets, hobbies etc – to give a more rounded view but always do so in a careful way without giving away too much specific information. And don’t ever try to be something your not. People like to do business with people they like. If at a later stage they find it was all an act it will not endear them to you. And apart from anything else, it’s hard work pretending to be something you’re not.

Know your audience – as with any form of marketing, knowing who your audience is and how to speak to them is half the battle. Once you have identified your perfect customer, speak to them in their language about things that will interest them, not just about your business, to help build up a positive relationship online .

Quality not Quantity – this does depend somewhat on your business but generally it’s better to have less quality followers than thousands of spammers and wierdos! If you have an online sales business it is obviously good to have a large following, however you will probably still be aiming your product at a specific type of customer, so seek out your ‘perfect’ customer to follow, in the hope that they, and all their friends, will follow you back. And if you find yourself following people of little interest, don’t be afraid to unfollow them – your live feed should be full of posts that add value, either personally or professionally.

Watch what you say – it can be tempting to get embroiled in long conversations or to bear your soul when you’re having a bad day, but do always bear in mind that anything you tweet is then in the public domain. Think carefully – especially if you are feeling low or have had a drink – you really don’t want to damage your brand or your reputation. Things can spread like wildfire on Twitter. Just think about the furore at Jan Moir’s article about Stephen Gately’s death or the torrent of support for Stephen Fry when he threatened to quit Twitter. You never know what might be picked up, and by whom, so always think before you tweet.

Mind your Manners – Twitter has its own online etiquette and it is polite to thank people who retweet your posts or recommend you. Many people also like to thank new followers for following them, and it’s always much nicer to get a personal welcome from someone who has taken the time to look you up and find out something about you. And lastly, try not to use bad language – you really don’t know how sensitive your followers are and it won’t do your brand any favours.

Use Humour (with caution) – nobody wants to be bombarded with sales spiel or lectured all the time and many small business owners and home workers use Twitter as their down-time, rather like a ‘virtual tea-break’ . So a bit of light banter, a link to an amusing news story, a funny quote or just something unusual that has happened to you that day is generally well received, particularly by any of your followers who may be having a bad day.

Be Interesting – there is simply no point in tweeting if you don’t add some value by doing so. Yes, your business is brilliant and amazing, but sometimes it’s just as valuable to share information about great service you have received, a great holiday resort you have visited, or a delicious recipe you have discovered. I for one have picked up no end of useful tips from people that have nothing to do with business – topical news items, interesting blog posts, information about films or TV programmmes. So if you discover something that interests you, chances are other people will be interested too – so share it around.

Pay It Forward – try and use your Twitter habit to help others. If you notice someone very new to Twitter is following you, introduce them to your followers and extend a warm welcome. If you have a large following, retweet relevant postings of people who have a much smaller following, thus spreading their message even wider. Retweeting is at the heart of the community spirit of Twitter and you will find that the more you do to help others, the more people will be inclined to help and support you.

Don’t overdo it – lots of people find Twitter a bit addictive once they get going, and it can take over your day. But don’t tweet about absolutely everything you do (i.e. every meal you eat ot TV programme you watch, or when you go to the loo!). You can have TOO much of a good thing and if you appear too frequently on someone’s live feed they may get fed up of you and unfollow you. Don’t forget you can Direct Message people – not everything you share with your contacts has to appear publicly.

If in doubt, tweet about cake (or food in general) – it may seem banal and trivial but eating is a fundamental need that binds us all together, so sharing a virtual cup of tea and a slice of cyber-cake can provide you with those water cooler moments you miss when you work from home.  And if you ever need some cake inspiration, take a look at our recipes in the Cake section of this blog!

Twitter is an amazingly powerful, free resource for you to market your brand, and if used properly can reap huge benefits for your business. And if you found our guide useful you may also enjoy Mrs Stephen Fry’s Indispensible Guide to Twitter – one of the funnisest Twitter Guides you’ll ever find!