By Helen Raptoplous

Social media is a great tool for business. It allows us a reach far beyond what we can achieve any other way. It does take some discipline to stick to a strategy, but then again isn’t that true of all business tools? Twitter is a tool that does not always get a good rap and I’d like to defend it. It does seem silly at first and the idea to communicating with others and sharing your thoughts in under 140 characters can seem an unlikely way to grow your business. It isn’t silly at all after you sit down and lay out a structure for yourself. I have a plan for how I use Twitter and I stick to that plan. The more I am present and the more of a following I build, the more I get excited about the possibilities.

Setting up list’s is one of the first things you need to do to use Twitter for business. Make a list of your customers and even your prospects. Consider making this list private, which means others will not see that you created this list (or even know they are on the list). Find ways to keep in touch and also encourage and promote your customers. If you make people feel special and support their success you are not only keeping your brand in front of them but you are creating a loyalty program. Also create a list of the top 10 thought leaders in your industry and watch what they are up to and who they interact with. The people you most want to emulate will leave great clues for you about how to reach the next level of success.

Time management is an important issue in business and Twitter is known to take people away from daily tasks that are important. To get the most out of Twitter and not feel like it is a waste of time you need to schedule it like it is an appointment. It is a tool that can be used in under 15 minutes. In that short amount of time you can stay in touch, cultivate relationships and share your expertise to name only a few. Depending on your goals you can schedule anywhere from 1 to 3 blocks of time per day. An ideal time block would consist of you replying to the people who mentioned you since your last time block, re-tweet a few posts from the thought leaders that you are following, introduce a few like minded people and leave a few comments about what you are working on, questions you have, or a promotion you’d like to share. Sharing your products and services is an important way to end each time block. (This is one of my great secrets for business success.)

The last thing I’ll share with you here about using Twitter for business is to use it as an accountability structure. Accountability is one of the big keys to success, in my opinion, and Twitter is the perfect place to make your commitments known. For example, you might have a goal of reading and commenting on a minimum of 3 blogs each day. You could set a structure for yourself to mark your progress each day at 4:00. Your Tweet might say, “For my blog goal, I read and commented on 3 today. Great blogs on biz from @ConnieGreen, @JeanneKolenda & @DeniseWakeman” My tweet mentioned my goal, gave credit to 3 bloggers who will appreciate my mention, and allowed me to stay on task. You can choose to announce that you are setting accountability up and invite a small circle of friends to be in on it, or just do it of your own accord.

Like anything new that you add to your schedule it takes time to get in a groove and make progress with it. Understanding Twitter can be tricky at first, but the more it is a part of your work week the easier it will become. Not only will it become easier, but you will be able to measure your progress and results which will reiterate its value and further entice you to stay on track. Make a plan for how you will use twitter and then stick to your plan. The possibilities really are endless!

I have created a Twitter video series that explains all the basics of a Twitter account in great detail. The first video (17 minutes) is free. Claim your free instant replay now at where I share some ideas that will help you maximize your time with social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can better support you, I am @HelenRappy

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Helen Raptoplous - EzineArticles Expert Author

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