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5 Twitter tips for local business

During the week we've been thinking about using twitter to improve our communication with clients and spread the word about our services. 

Up to now we've been very active little tweeters from a personal perspective, and find it an extremely helpful mechanism for gathering information and taking the pulse of a situation. But using twitter for business requires some thought and careful planning.

So, here are 5 of our thoughts on using twitter for your business.

Tip 1 - Treat your followers as contemporaries.

Users will follow you and engage with your tweets on the basis of the value you're adding to their lives. If you're constantly trying to sell your products they are unlikely to remain a follower, or to click the links you're providing. Take time to develop a voice for your business that engages followers, provides relevant information and is not pushy. Mashable has an excellent article on Finding the Right Brand Voice on twitter.

Tip 2 – Listen more than you tweet.

Point 9 in the Mashable article and worth highlighting. Twitter offers your business an amazing opportunity to connect with and listen to your customers. Treat them as contemporaries, rather than prospective sales, and you can grow a conversation with them that provides you with knowledge and insight into their likes, dislikes, preferences and moods. Then use twitter sparingly to remind your followers how your business can help improve their lives. 

Tip 3 – Search near your location

Twitter provides location information on where tweets have been sent from where available. For example users tweeting from a GPS enabled phone have the GPS coordinates attached, and twitter uses IP addresses of desktop computers to provide a similar function. At you can enter the name of a location, and a radius around which you want to see tweets.

To search for tweets within 5km of Vancouver simply enter the following in the search box “near:vancouver within:10km”. You can enter mi for miles if you prefer. You can also search for a specific query, such as your business name or niche, before the location parameters.

Pizza shop example

If you're a pizza shop and want to monitor users within your delivery area of 5km, simply enter “pizza near:vancouver within:5km” into the search box and you will see only tweets within your area that contain the word pizza.

In the image above you can see that the local search returned a result that said "Really Bored...Pizza? Or Seven Eleven?" You could simply message that person by tweeting with their username, @meshSEM for example, inviting them to some try your pizza!

Tip 4 – Share the burden using CoTweet

One of the challenges for businesses is keeping on top of the volume of tweets that relate to your business or your area. CoTweet is an excellent web application that enables you to share the burden of managing your twitter account with colleagues. Once you've created a CoTweet account you can share accounts between colleagues, assign the supervision of an account to a member of your team, and receive notifications when you receive a direct message or someone mentions your account using the @ symbol.

Tip 5 – Experiment and collaborate

The final tip to get you started is simply to try it out. If you take care not to bombard your followers, and aim on the soft side in terms of a sales approach, then getting stuck in really is the best way to develop your twitter presence.

Try out a week of tweeting stories, articles or news that you find interesting and that relates to your business. CoTweet let's you know when someone has retweeted one of your posts, so you can gauge interest in the types of stories you're posting. Keep it personal - don't lose your voice or become too 'organizational', and searching and following people that are tweeting about things that you can relate to as a business.

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