The marketing methods used today are far different than what we have seen in years past. The reason for this is due to the massive increase in social media networks; Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter, especially has been gaining recognition for its ability to send real time information and opinions to a mass audience. Reaching out to large businesses is now possible, with a quick search and a short 'tweet'.

Marketing is now evolving from a practice of sending out press releases and purchasing ad space in magazines, to immediately grabbing the attention of media moguls and company executives through social networking. The ability to reach out to the very people who seemed untouchable only a few years ago is now more than possible. The barriers between the 'unknown' and the 'famous' are breaking down full force.

Just like any form of business networking however, it is wise to keep in mind 'best practices' when using Twitter to gain the attention and the respect of prospects. Keep in mind the following when searching for people to follow and sending out tweets:

A Bio is Vital
Include a bio and relevant contact information (a business email or phone number). Your bio will tell your story and present you as a real person. It is important to let other users know where you are coming from, what you hope to accomplish and what you can do for them.

The '@' Messages Should Not be Ignored
It is important to continually check and respond to your @ messages. Twitter is a social "network", so networking is essential to reaching the success you are seeking. In addition to responding, it is equally as important to always using a friendly and inviting tone.

The Retweet Tool Should be Used
Retweet other people's messages if you enjoy what they are saying. You will gain credibility and appreciation by sharing other people's ideas and information.

A Link Can Go a Long Way
Maintain people's interest by sharing information they may find fascinating. Post a link, video or photo. It is OK if the information you are sharing does not relate to yourself or your business. Remember, social networking should not be about directly pitching your product or service. But rather, it should be about establishing connections. Think about what your friends would find interesting and share it with your 'followers'.

Each Tweet Should be Valuable
It is important to provide valuable information with each tweet. Rather than share what you had for breakfast each morning, post photos of your office, offer discounts on your services or share information on upcoming events and projects.

Spam is a Big No No
Never spam people with messages or promotions. Spamming can include:
- Posting the same message over and over again
- Copying updates and pasting them to other accounts
- Following and unfollowing people who do not follow you back. You may just be considered a nuisance if you continue to do this to the same people repeatedly.

Real time means Right Now
Twitter is a 'real time' tool. Meaning, what is posted at this exact moment will be read by others the minute you hit the 'update' button. This means your questions and feedback will be replied to almost instantaneously. This is fantastic as you are given the opportunity to test out new logos, slogans, or product launches with instant results. This also means that you are expected to provide equally quick responses to your followers. Do not forget to continually check your @ messages.

The Results can be Measured
Determine what you wish to get out of Twitter, in terms of marketing results and company growth. And provide yourself with a timeline to accomplish your goals. You can then measure your progress by:
- Keeping a list of the amount of questions answered and of all encouraging relationships formed. Go back and determine if these connections have increased or decreased over time.
- Analyzing how many people visit your website via Twitter through analytic software such as Google Analytics.
- Keeping track of how many users take advantage of promotions. Any promotions offered through your tweets can be tracked using exclusive coupon codes.

Using Twitter to reach out to customers and prospects has allowed many businesses to flourish while maintaining valuable relationships. The networking tool should not be used as a platform for a sales pitch but rather for developing meaningful connections; bonds that will seal trust and keep people wanting to know more. There is no better way to learn what customers want than to ask. And there is no better way to provide updated business information than to share.

Author's Bio: 

Serena Carcasole is a certified Internet Marketing Specialist, business consultant and the President of Virtual Business Solutions ON DEMAND, a premier virtual assistance firm helping entrepreneurs around the world to succeed and grow their businesses. In addition to administrative services, Virtual Business Solutions ON DEMAND provides a host of specialized technical and marketing outsourcing options to meet business owners' unique needs. Some of the most popular services include Internet marketing through social networks, blogging, and article marketing; website and graphic design; search engine optimization support.

Virtual Business Solutions ON DEMAND has access to a large network of niche specialists, whose certifications include QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel Expert, Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant, and other. As a full-service outsourcing provider, VBSOnDemand provides full project management support for even the most complicated projects. VBSOnDemand donates 1% of sales to the Canadian Cancer Society. For more information:
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