5 secrets to really harness Twitter for your business

You know that potentially Twitter can be a game-changer. You’ve read about companies achieving amazing results with tweeting campaigns. And you wonder if you could you make the same magic work for your business.
There is no way to guarantee success with Twitter, but you can stack the odds in your favour by following some simple tips to vastly increase your effectiveness. Here’s how to get the most bang for your tweet:
1. Follow wisely
Some think Twitter is a numbers game, in which the more followers you have, the more powerful you are, and so they build up as large a number of followers as possible. However experts say a more strategic approach works better.
Whatever you do, don’t automatically follow every account that follows yours. Some may be spammers or even porn spammers. And services that promise huge numbers of followers are probably a bad investment.
“If you have 25 super powerful followers willing to review your product and they each have a lot of followers and blog readers, then you are going to do a lot better than with 5-10,000 more random followers,” Glen Gatty, of Response Source, recommends following industry experts who do a lot of retweeting—with any luck your posts may get retweeted too.
As an example: We recently ran an interview with Sharon Wright, who had gained an investment in Dragons’ Den from James Caan & Duncan Bannatyne, which, when the cameras stopped rolling didn’t happen. After we spoke to Duncan Bannatyne to get his side of events he retweeted a link to the story 10 his 100,000 followers and the Business Matters site on that day had a 4-fold increase in reading figures on that day. 
How do you get these powerful followers? The first step is to follow them. Some will follow you back if your tweets contain valuable or interesting information. Another good strategy is to connect by reading and commenting on their blogs.
2. Take full advantage of search
The biggest unused Twitter resource for business owners is the search.twitter.com function. You can search for what people are talking about in real time, which is very powerful. If you are a plumbing company, you can search for ‘burst pipe’ and see the people doing anything using those words, which you can then refer to their location on your profile,  so if someone is wading knee deep in water, you can say, ‘Hey, do you need a plumber?’ 
Advanced search settings give you many useful options, including the ability to search for keywords in a specific geographic location, or in tweets containing question marks. So if you are a plumbing company, you can search for ‘burst pipe’ and adding the location which you can service.  So if someone is wading knee deep in water, you can say, ‘Hey, do you need a plumber?’ 
“Twitter’s search only goes back for a few weeks, so if you want to search further back in time, consider using applications like FriendFeed, or set-up an RSS feed for the keywords most important to you. (You can do this on Twitter by clicking “RSS feed for this query” near the bottom of the page after entering a search term.)
By the same token, you should know which hashtags are most important for your business or sector. How do you find out? On hashtags.org you can enter any hashtag and see how it’s trending.
3. Time your tweets
Most Twitter users don’t look at tweets that are more than a couple of hours old, so if you want people to actually read your posts, you should time them for when you have the largest live audience. 
When is that? “If you have followers all over the world, then aim for Eastern Time (4 hours behind GMT) and during business hours is the best time to tweet,” says Andrew Martin from Eye-To-Eye ” If you have a UK audience, then aim for the window between mid morning and mid afternoon. 
Retweeting starts to drop off toward the end of the day.” Although this is a good general rule, your customers’ habits may be different, so try experimenting, for instance by offering giveaways on different days and at different times to see which get the greatest response.
If the best tweet time for your market isn’t the most convenient for you, you can schedule tweets in advance using applications such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. If you have a product or service that has a global reach then schedule some tweets in the middle of the night Eastern Time in order to reach followers in Australia and Asia.
4. Aim for Friday
One of the most popular hashtags is #ff, an abbreviation for “Follow Friday.” Follow Friday is a tradition in which Twitter users on Fridays list interesting Twitter accounts that they recommend following. Though the hashtag is overused and sometimes abused, it’s still worth considering when making your plans.
It’s counter-productive to ask your followers or customers to recommend you on Follow Fridays. But you can time your most interesting snippets of information, giveaways, announcements or other posts you know the Twitter community will especially like so that they happen on Fridays. That way, you may be top of mind when your followers start thinking about whom to recommend. Friday is when you want people talking about you.
5. Think retweet
What’s the longest your tweets should be? If you answered 140 characters, you’re wrong. That’s because — you hope — your most interesting tweets and appealing promotions will be retweeted by your followers, and then their followers, and on and on. A retweet means adding the initials RT followed by your Twitter name. If someone retweets someone else’s retweet of your tweet (whew!) a second Twitter name may be included as well. If you started out with 140 characters, some will get lopped off at the end to make room for these additions.
“If the end of the tweet is a link, as it often is, then your link will be lost. To avoid having this happen experts recommend keeping your tweets to 120 characters at most. A relatively short Twitter name can help too.
But you won’t get retweeted in the first place, or gain much attention on Twitter, unless you tweet information and links that others find interesting or valuable. Thus, you should avoid having your Twitter stream consist of a list of announcements about your products and other marketing messages. “Business owners get caught up worrying about issues such as what their background will look like or what their brand will be and none of that is as important as their engagement with the community. 
That’s why posting things on Twitter when you have nothing to gain will bring huge rewards. The more you give people what they want, the more they’ll give you what you want.”