There's no magic formula for how to use Twitter to promote your business. But here are a few things to try.
There's a real etiquette to doing business in 140 characters.
And unlike when you tweet as an individual, it means no random thoughts, photos of your last four meals, political rants, or too much information about your digestive issues, sex life, and drinking binges.
Hopefully you already knew that.
So what should you tweet?
If you become a respected member of the Twitter community, you can throw in messages directly related to your products or services, but those need to be counter-balanced by tweets completely unrelated to your sales efforts. There is no single formula that is guaranteed to work, but here are 10 things you should try:
1. The "I found this amazing article I think you'd love" tweet:
These are not direct plugs of your business, but links to articles that would be of interest to your target audience. If you sell health-related products, then link to news stories or tips on wellness. If you are a podiatrist, link to stories about marathons, hiking, etc.
2. The "there are human beings behind our brand name" tweet:
These are tweets designed to humanize your company. Links to photographs of your employees, offices, celebrations, etc. remind your followers that you are the kind of people they'd like to do business with.
3. The "twitter-only promotion" tweet:
Everybody loves a deal. By giving discounts or other benefits to your Twitter followers, you give them a reason to follow you and you get a captive audience for other business messaging.
4. The "promote our favorite charity" tweet:
Remember, social media is social. We are all part of a greater community. If your business donates or is otherwise involved with a charity, use your Tweets to promote it. If your business doesn't have a direct relationship with a charity, pick one and use Twitter to promote it.
5. The "we're listening to you" tweet:
Twitter is an amazing tool for customer service. If you fail to monitor what is being said about your company on Twitter you're making a huge mistake. Simply monitoring the messages and taking no action is a mistake, too. Only when you monitor and respond appropriately will you get the full value of Twitter as a customer service tool. This doesn't mean that you have to respond to every negative statement, but when there is a real issue or if a person has a specific question, you need to address it quickly and honestly.
6. The "sharing our great content" tweet:
If you have a company blog, if you've written article or white papers, use tweets to link to your content. If you are a thought leader, an expert, or just have some unique thoughts or perspectives, tweeting is a great way to get your expertise in front of a large audience.
7. The "we're proud as hell" tweet:
So your company has won an award, gotten a great review, garnered some major press or has a killer testimonial; don't be shy about using Twitter to broadcast the great news.
8. The "we found this to be hilarious and hope you do as well" tweet:
While Twitter is a fantastic place to do business, the compelling thing about it is that it's not all business. If visitors think you are just trying to sell them all the time, they will unfollow you or, worse, complain about you on Twitter. There's a lot of funny content on the Web, whether it's on YouTube, in The Onion, or on any number of humor sites. Sharing humor with your target audience (via links) not only humanizes your company, it gives your followers a reason to seek you out.
9. The "we are on top of industry trends" tweet:
If your business is based on being on the cutting edge of your industry, show the world by providing links to the latest studies, trends, breakthroughs and advances. This serves the dual purpose of providing interesting content and proves to your audience you are serious about staying ahead of the curve.
10. The "none of the above" tweet:
As you become a regular participant on Twitter, you will find unique ways in which Twitter works to deliver messages specific to your business. Twitter is all about being creative, useful and engaging. Utilize the specific talents, interests and strengths of your team to find a way to use Twitter to the best advantage of your business.
As with any other marketing efforts, pay close attention to how your followers respond to you tweets. Which ones are getting positive feedback (retweets, etc.)? Which ones are being ignored? Which ones are getting you negative feedback?
The answers to these questions might surprise you, so be prepared to tweak your tweets.
More from Inc.com: