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Keeping up with social media trends can be exhausting. Unless it’s your designated job to do social media research or posts, very few people have several hours in their day that can be devoted to watching social feeds like Twitter. Can Twitter and Facebook be viable marketing options to reach the masses through all the social noise? If it’s done right, it can be a great tool to push traffic back to your website to help generate solid leads. Culling through social media blog posts by leading social media authorities, here are 10 of the best Twitter practices we could find to reach your target audience, and keep them coming back for more.

1. Follow Relevant Businesses and People

Forbes.com recently posted an article “31 Days to Using Twitter to Build Your Business.” It was definitely one of the better how to guides to use Twitter as a business marketing tool. Author Ken Krogue lays out a month-long plan where you do one thing on Twitter per day to maximize its potential. His first bit of advice is to know your purpose on Twitter. If you’re using Twitter for leads and business growth, following relevant people and other businesses within your industry is an easy task. It may take a little bit of research, but once you find your niche, you’ll find other folks that fall into your industry.

2. Return the Favor and Follow Back

Twitter is a social platform, and the key operative word here is “social.” You don’t have to follow everyone that follows you, but if they are relevant to your business follow them back. You may even have some followers that have their own great following and are interested in what you’re posting. If they are retweeting and showing some social love, partner up and do the same. You’ll start sharing some of the same audience, and it will help grow your customer base.

3. Keep It Short and Sweet

Yeah, tweets are only 140 characters long, so you may be thinking, how could I possibly get my posts any shorter? Several social experts in the business field recommend posts 130 characters long so that there’s room for comments. You also don’t want to post too often. If your business is tweeting great content twice a day, you’ll do just fine. Getting bogged down in posting anything and everything will water down your message.

4. Define Who You Are

Do you know what your brand is? Make sure that your Twitter handle (your name) matches either your company name, or is related to what your company does. Perfect example: @NimbleMedia is our handle, and it makes it easier to remember. If not, you definitely need to define that before you start really pushing your social strategies. Identify who you are and what you have to offer from the beginning, which will help establish you in the Twitter community. Decide what you are going to do that will make your company stand out amongst the 400 million tweets that are being posted every day. You’ll attract relevant and like-minded followers, and potential leads.

5. Have a Communication Strategy

Your communication strategy is crucial to making your social media efforts a success. What types of posts are you tweeting about, (and blogging about) and when? How often do you post? Establish certain days of the week might be posts containing your own original content. Maybe other days you feature someone else in your industry to show a little social love, and build stronger partnerships. If you’re just posting all day without a clear strategy of what you’re posting and when, you could waste a lot of time with very little traction.

6. Research Your Stats

At least once a week you should be researching your social stats. Doing it every day won’t really give you the bigger picture statistics you’re looking for. Check out who is following you, who is retweeting you, and what your audience is responding to best. If you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and your audience simply will not grow.

7. Learn to Link

Sure, it’s great to have a ton of content-filled tweets, but the real reason you’re on Twitter in the first place is to create leads (and hopefully sales) for your company. You can’t directly sell on Twitter, so you’ve got to find creative ways to link back to your own site. It doesn’t have to be every post, but it should be in most. Even if you’re linking to a photo, a blog or a service you offer, learn how to link.

8. Don’t Overuse the Hashtag

In the craze of hashtags, you’ve probably seen those friends and businesses that go hashtag crazy. Don’t do that. It’s annoying, hard to follow and really won’t do anything for your posts. Social Media Today, as well as many other social gurus say if you’re going to use a hashtag, don’t use more than two per post. And research those tags before you use. What you might think is clever and fits your post well might actually already be taken for some other purpose that has nothing to do with what you’re posting about.

9. Engage With Your Followers

Social media is a conversation with your customer. At least it should be. Have a conversation with those you follow, or who are following you. Respond to questions, whether they’re good or bad. You’re posts should be conversational as well. This isn’t a TV commercial where you’re telling them what to do. This is a chance to really engage with your audience and get an idea of what makes them tick and how they relate to you.

10. Post Fun and Original Content

Just like Facebook or Instagram, social media users have been shown to respond much better to posts with a photo. Whether it’s spontaneous, (which you should try to do when you can), or it’s a content related photo, put it in there. You can measure how many people click on your links, and what type of photos and posts they respond to best. Since social media is about engagement, it doesn’t always have to be so serious.

If you decide to use Twitter, (and you probably should) it’s a great platform to engage and build a strong audience. Whether you use it to build awareness of your brand, or as a strong vehicle to sell your services, creating a strategy for your social presence will help your efforts become successful.