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A Quick Guide to Mastering Twitter for Business Critical tips to help you maximize your 140-character interactions.

By Carol Roth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Twitter is an excellent tool for business. However, many entrepreneurs don't understand how to use Twitter, or at least how to use it well.

Here are some tips to help you maximize your 140-character interactions.

Understand the four Cs.

Twitter can be used for four different Cs. Using Twitter in this framework can help you get more out of your usage.

  • Consuming content: By following the right accounts, including those of industry experts, news sources, customers and competitors, you can get access to must-know information quickly with Twitter. Use Twitter to stay abreast of the intel that is important to your business.
  • Creating content: You can establish thought leadership by creating content through the lens of yourself or your business as an expert. Whether you use Twitter to link to content that you have created elsewhere (such as through a blog or being quoted in an article) or through short (140 characters or less) tips that you distribute through Twitter, your knowledge can raise your profile and gain you followers and customers.
  • Curating content: You can gain a strong following without doing the heavy lifting by sharing information that you find elsewhere -- either online or through other twitter followers -- that is of interest to current and potential customers and clients.
  • Communication: Twitter is an easy way for you to connect with current and potential customers, by tweeting directly to them, or using their Twitter "handle" (the name they go by on Twitter, such as @CarolJSRoth for me) to thank them or highlight them.

Related: Why I Follow 15,000 People on Twitter

Once you understand the 4Cs, here are some other important Twitter do's and don't's:

Don't bury the "lead.'

The Lead (or "lede" as it's called in journalism) is the major point that you are trying to get across. You have a limited amount of characters to capture attention, so highlight the key point or an intriguing quote, to make your tweet stand out and make others want to share your tweet and interact with you.

Picture it.

Tweets that feature pictures get significantly higher engagement than those that do not, so include pictures to illustrate your points, showcase your products or to add depth to your tweets.

Repeat the tweet.

Most people aren't on Twitter all day long. When they are on it, they usually only see recent Tweets in their timeline. So, consider sending important Tweets several times. Space them at least eight hours apart or over a variety of days at different times, and consider varying up the language to see if certain phrasing gets more engagement.

Also, make sure that you share other content in-between repeat tweets so that if someone looks at your profile, it doesn't look like you are an auto-bot!

Embrace lists.

I find that the most efficient way to consume content is to create lists of the people you follow on Twitter. I make mine private (only viewable by me), and group different accounts that I follow into different lists to make it easier to read. You may have a list that has your competitors, one for customers and one for news, as an example, so that you can easily hone in as to what you are reading via Twitter.

Use a social-media client.

I like to have a special interface to use Twitter. I recommend that you use a program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to easily view your lists, your mentions and to even be able to pre-program your tweets, so that you can still drive impact on Twitter without having to be online constantly.

Related: The Right Way to 'Stalk' People Online

Take conversations offline.

If you find that you are engaging with customers, such as through a customer service conversation, only tweet back and forth twice before moving the conversation off of Twitter -- such as to email or a phone call.

Your Twitter stream is like your very own media channel, so while it's great for the public to know that you are interested in your customers, they probably don't need to be privy to the details of a full conversation.

Understand @.

The "@" sign combined with a user name is a Twitter handle, which effectively notifies a person or brand that you are talking about them. However, if you start your tweet with the @ symbol, Twitter thinks that you are replying directly to that person, and that tweet -- while still public -- won't show up in everyone's Twitter streams, as many people filter out replies.

If you want to mention something about a person and want others to see it, either move their name somewhere else in the tweet or put another character (such as a period) before the @ symbol. For example:

Incorrect: @CarolJSRoth's book is now in stock!

(this wouldn't be seen by everyone, because Twitter reads it as a reply)

Correct: .@CarolJSRoth's book is now in stock!

(the period before the "@" allows the tweet to be seen broadly)

Correct: It's time to purchase @CarolJSRoth's book, which is now in stock!

(the tweet starts with a letter, so it's not read as a reply by Twitter)

Think before you tweet.

If you are going to reference a trending topic that includes a hashtag (aka the pound or "#" sign), make sure that you know exactly why that topic is trending before trying to leverage it. DiGiorno's pizza had to apologize for jumping into the hashtag #WhyIStayed with a pizza promotion, not realizing that the discussion was around domestic abuse. Also, don't try to joke or add a promotional element to any serious situation, such as one relating to where people have been hurt or injured.

Give credit.

Be generous when you share content. Use the retweet button or start your tweet with "RT" (shorthand for retweet) if you are sharing something sourced elsewhere to acknowledge the source of the content. You can also use the words "via" or "h/t" (for "hat tip") to acknowledge where you found content. This is a relationship builder that will help you gain followers and inspire reciprocal actions for your tweets.

Hopefully, these tips will give you some extra insight to decipher how others use Twitter and help you make the best use of it in your business.

Related: The Best Type of Social Network Is a Phone Call Away

Carol Roth

Entrepreneur, TV host and small business expert

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. A small business expert, Roth has worked with companies of all sizes on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to raising capital. She’s been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies, as well.

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