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updated 3/24/2013 10:17:11 AM ET 2013-03-24T14:17:11

In his book Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Business, online marketing expert Ted Prodromou offers an easy-to-understand guide to using Twitter that will help small-business owners generate leads and connect with customers. In this edited excerpt, the author offers 10 ideas for effectively using Twitter as a marketing and sales tool.

Businesses are discovering that Twitter is a very effective tool for marketing, sales, technical support, and customer support. Your prospects and customers are talking about you and your competitors on Twitter, so you need to be listening to what they say and adapting your Twitter strategy to respond to their conversations. You can also use Twitter to proactively promote your brand, generate leads, promote company events and engage with your customers and prospects in real time.

Here are some ideas for using Twitter as a marketing channel:

Promote your brand by optimizing your Twitter profile.
Be sure to:
#insert related here#

  • Use your logo as your profile picture.
  • Use your brand name as your Twitter handle and your Twitter username.
  • Use your brand name in your Twitter bio, and add a link to a white paper in your bio.
  • Add your website's URL to your profile.
  • Use your brand name as your hashtag and include it in all Tweets.

Related: How to Create a Successful Twitter Contest

Generate leads by offering white papers, instructional videos, e-books and product samples if appropriate.
Write a compelling Tweet with a link to the lead generation asset. Always send visitors to a separate landing page with an opt-in form for each asset you Tweeted about. After visitors opt in to receive the asset, follow up with a series of emails that introduce them to your products and to additional white papers, videos and e-books. Track your results so you know which assets are most popular and which Tweets generate the best response. Tweets are like subject lines in your emails, so track your Tweets in a spreadsheet so you know which work best.

Promote webinars, conferences, training classes, and other events sponsored by your company.
Write Tweets that promote the events, and include a link to a landing page where customers can sign up for the events. Again, use a separate landing page for each event and track your results.

Display the Twitter logo prominently on your website and encourage people to follow you on Twitter.
Also add links to your Twitter page in your email footer, on your blogs and in your email newsletters. Constantly ask people to follow you in all your marketing materials.

Related: Building Your Brand on Twitter

If appropriate, offer discount codes in your Tweets.
Twitter has also become a very effective sales tool for both B2B and B2C businesses. In B2B sales, Twitter helps you keep your name in front of prospects when you have a long sales cycle. In B2C sales, you can Tweet promotions and coupon codes and create contests to generate sales. Here are some ideas for using Twitter for sales:

Listen!
Monitor your competitors' brand names and hashtags to see what people are saying about them on Twitter. When you see negative Tweets about their products or service, use it as a competitive selling point. Listen for positive and negative comments about your products and services as well. Engage unsatisfied customers or prospects immediately to defuse the situation. The key is to address their concerns quickly so you can turn the negative sentiment into positive sentiment publicly.

Use Twitter Search to find people using your target keywords in their Twitter profiles, hashtags, and Tweets.
They may be dissatisfied with your competitor's product and are looking for a solution to their problem. These people are potential prospects, so you should check out their profiles and follow them. After you follow them, see who they're following and keep following more potential prospects as you find them. Add your prospects to a Twitter list so it's easier for you to monitor and communicate with them.

When you have a prospect in your sales funnel, engage them in conversation publicly on Twitter.
Send them links to new white papers or videos to introduce them to new features in your products.

Hold contests to generate sales.
You could have people Tweet a picture of themselves using your product, with the winner receiving a discount on their next purchase.

Tweet coupon codes.
One of the most popular searches on Twitter Search is for "coupon codes" for specific brands or products.

Related: 5 Online Marketing Strategies for a Tight Budget

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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