Marketers everywhere are discovering the value of Twitter for sharing content and insights with customers and prospects and creating top-of-mind awareness.

I used to be skeptical of Twitter, but I’ve become convinced of its marketing power. As I approach my 1,000th tweet on Twitter, here are 21 tips I’ve learned for using Twitter in a smart marketing strategy:

  1. Write a great company description. You have 140 characters to describe yourself. Use them to say something interesting and show how you benefit your customers.
  2. Aim for the briefest copy in your tweets, ideally 115 characters or less, so that if your content is retweeted, your identity (RT: @companyname) will be preserved along with the full text of the original tweet.
  3. Use your company logo as your profile visual.
  4. Create a custom background for your Twitter page that reflects your brand, states your key value proposition and lists your website and social media addresses.
  5. Avoid self-promotion. Helpful information about using your products is valuable; a sales pitch is a turnoff.
  6. Curate content. Find and share information from other sources—the news media, bloggers and other social media participants—that your followers will find valuable and interesting.
  7. Include links to content in the majority of your tweets and use a URL shortener (such as bitly.com) to reduce the number of characters required for a link.
  8. Add your point of view to content you share from others. Tell your followers why they should read what you’ve just posted or visit a link.
  9. Be active but don’t overdo it. I recommend posting tweets at least three to four times daily, but also being careful not to over-post. Keep tabs on the volume of tweets in your industry to gauge how much is too much.
  10. Welcome new followers. You can set up an automated welcome message, although a personal message is more effective. Suggest a visit to your website, blog or Facebook page in your welcome message.
  11. Thank those who retweet your posts or mention you via a direct message or tweet.
  12. Follow people who follow your company if they have a clear interest in your industry and are posting on related topics.
  13. Follow reporters in the news media who cover your industry.
  14. Follow your competitors.
  15. Check who’s following your competitors. Review their profiles and follow key tweeters; many will automatically follow you back. Retweet their content if it’s interesting.
  16. Create lists of people and organizations you’re following on Twitter. Tweet your lists to show people who influence you.
  17. Use a Twitter management tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck to manage tweeting and to time your tweets for delivery on weekends and in multiple time zones.
  18. Use and follow hashtags (#) related to your industry to flag your posts for followers of these topics and see who’s posting information on topics of interest to you.
  19. Use conference hashtags to send tweets from conferences and trade shows you attend.
  20. Use the #FF (#FollowFriday) hashtag on Fridays to tell your followers about tweeters you recommend.
  21. Have a plan and a process in place to respond quickly to negative tweets about your company.

Final tip: Take twitter seriously. As a marketing consultant, I believe it’s time for every marketer to take Twitter seriously. I’m encouraging my clients—even business-to-business marketers—to view Twitter as an effective way to share information, connect directly with prospects and customers and spot trends.

Get on the Twitter bandwagon. You’ll soon see why Twitter should be part of your smart marketing strategy.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing that provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.