Twitter is one of the hottest social networking tools on the planet with <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/08/twitter-190-million-users/" target="_blank"><strong>190 million</strong></a> users. It’s a great communication channel that can be used to build brand awareness and provide direct contact with consumers and contacts. The question any smart business owner in the 21st century has to ask is this, “Does my Twitter presence reflect my brand?” For some the response may be a simple yes or no, but to truly answer the question you have to first determine what type of account fits your needs: personal branded, business branded or a combination of the two. Branding your Twitter identity goes beyond simply selecting a handle and should include visual elements and Twitter apps to help you manage your accounts. Here are six steps to get you off to a good start. <em>—Hajj E. Flemings </em>
<ul> <li><strong>Customize Your Twitter Handle</strong></li> </ul> Twitter enables users to customize their Twitter handle with a vanity URL (up to 15-characters) to brand their presence. First, you have to decide if you’re going to create an account that’s centered on your personal brand or your business brand. Personal branded accounts are great to help establish individuals like CEOs and entrepreneurs as thought leaders. For personal brands, I recommend using your name as your Twitter handle (i.e. <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/HillHarper" target="_blank"><strong>@HillHarper</strong></a> or <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/billgates" target="_blank"><strong>@BillGates</strong></a>) in order to own your identity on Twitter. If you decide to use a different handle, you should still secure your name to ensure no one else uses it, which could potentially damage your brand. The other option is to develop an account that aligns specifically with your business brand (i.e. Best Buy Customer Service: <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/TWELPFORCE" target="_blank"><strong>@TWELPFORCE</strong></a>). Either way you have a unique opportunity to engage potential customers, humanize your brand and interact in real-time conversations.
<ul> <li><strong>Use a Branded Avatar</strong></li> </ul> An avatar is a visual representation (i.e. a photograph) of your brand on Twitter. Ask yourself; What does this image say about me and/or my brand? For personal brands, it’s very important that your headshot photo reflect your professional image, industry, and the style of your personal brand. Otherwise, your company’s logo should suffice. People are very visual and your profile photo is one of the key visual elements of your brand. Also, the image that is used should be consistent across your other social network channels (i.e. Facebook, YouTube, etc.)
<ul> <li><strong>Create a Powerful Bio</strong></li> </ul> Your bio is the160-character sound bite of your brand and should include the appropriate keywords that communicate the niche that you operate in, which will ultimately enhance your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In your bio you have the ability to include additional links to blogs, articles and/or books you may have written and even places you have spoken. If space is an issue, drop the “www” if you can. Make sure the Web field is completed with the appropriate URL that you want to drive your audience to.
<ul> <li><strong>Customize Your Background Image</strong></li> </ul> The background of your Twitter profile is a great opportunity to provide some additional information about your brand. If you’re setting up a business account with multiple people who will be tweeting you can list their names on the background, as well as add web addresses or images that reflect the brand (i.e. yours truly <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/hajjflemings" target="_blank"><strong>@HajjFlemings</strong></a>). Any images that are added to the background should not clutter up your page. Keep your background clean and professional.
<ul> <li><strong>Create Content that Matters</strong></li> </ul> Gaining influence and growing your Twitter following goes back to creating content that matters. This is achieved when you share content your community finds valuable and will want to share. Telling people you just went to the grocery store and the milk was on sale doesn’t really add value. If you want your ideas to spread, share links inside your tweets, and engage stimulating conversations, which are more likely to get retweeted and spread throughout broader networks. Remember, entrepreneurs or brands that grow their business are the ones that add value to their communities.
<ul> <li><strong>Complete Your Profile 100%</strong></li> </ul> This may not be a sexy item but it’s fundamentally one of the most crucial ones. If you establish your Twitter account without completing the setup in full, you could be missing out on business opportunities. You reduce the likelihood of being found in a search if key pieces of information are missing (i.e. location, keywords in bio, and Web information). Liking your tweets wont matter if consumers can’t find you or your brand.
<strong><em>Hajj Flemings is a weekly technology columnist for BlackEnterprise.com, founder of Brand Camp University, and the author of the book </em>Brand YU Life<em>. As a speaker and brand strategist, he works with some of the largest brands, covering the topics of branding and digital technology. Check back next Wednesday for his next column. Until then, continue the conversation on Hajj’s BE Insider page at <a href="http://beinsider.ning.com/profile/HajjEFlemings" target="_blank">beinsider.ning.com/HajjEFlemings</a>. </em></strong><strong><em> </em> </strong>