If you're not using Twitter to connect with customers and market your startup then perhaps you should reconsider.
In social media, Twitter is a force to be reckoned with. While lacking the massive scale of Facebook, the popular microblogging platform that went public last fall is making noticable strides in users and profits.
As part of its earnings statement yesterday, Twitter said its number of monthly average users grew to 271 million -- up 24 percent year-over-year. (That, coupled with a 129 percent increase in revenue, drove Twitter's stock up about 30 percent in after-hours trading.)
With so many people actively using Twitter, adding it to your online marketing arsenal might be a wise idea. And if you're going to be on Twitter, you better know how to use it right.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips for mastering the art of Twitter marketing:
1. Don't just tweet headlines and links.
Yes, we're all strapped for time. And, yes, tweeting a headline and a link is easy. But first consider: Is that a message you'd want to engage with? Probably not.
Mix it up. Tweet quotes, questions or snippets of interesting details or numbers -- anything your followers would want to click on and interact with.
Also, don't only tweet marketing messages about your company. Inject some life into your tweets. Is something special or out-of-the-ordinary happening at your office today? Tweet a photo of it. Come across a helpful article? Tweet that, too.
2. Understand how to use the @ symbol.
This is a big one on Twitter. Where you place the @ symbol can make a big difference in the meaning and delivery of your tweet.
The @ symbol notes the beginning of a user's Twitter handle. For instance, mine is @jwfell. You'll use this whenever you want to mention someone and call their attention to your tweet.
However, if you hit the Reply button or simply start a tweet using someone's handle, only people who follow you and follow that person will see your tweet in their feeds. In order for everyone you follow and everyone else who also follows that person, start your tweet with another symbol.
For instance, here's a tweet I sent in reply to a tweet from @qz. Only people who follow me and Quartz could see it:
@qz based on one survey of 666 people and another of 500 people? feels like big conclusions from a small sample, no?
For this tweet, I wanted all parties and their followers to see the message, so I started the tweet with a period:
3. Also know (and love) thy hashtag.
Using the hashtag symbol can be a fun and useful way to start and track conversations on Twitter. The idea isn't to hashtag just any string of words but to use meaningful hashtags that are related to the conversation and that people might search for. Sometimes conversations using hashtags become so popular they begin trending, meaning lots of people are using it.
Be smart about the hashtags you use. Sometimes hashtags for positive marketing purposes get "hijacked" and used negatively against the company that started it. Some recent examples of hijacked hashtags include some from McDonald's, JPMorgan Chase and the New York City Police Department.
Read more: 3 Ways to Master the Hashtag
4. Remember, quality not quantity.
Yes, you want to tweet regularly to keep your followers engaged and coming back for more. But you don't want to tweet all the time simply for the sake of tweeting. Filling someone's feed with low-quality content can make them unfollow you.
Your purpose on Twitter should be similar to the purpose of being in business: to add value to people's lives. Make sure what you're tweeting is informative, interesting and helpful.
5. Be patient.
Unless you're a celebirty or other well-known figure, your brand probably won't come with a built-in following. And don't bank on your first tweet going viral. Building a sizable following from scratch takes time.
Start retweeting, replying to and favoriting other people's tweets. And, of course, remember to tweet content that's valuable.
Read more: 4 Ways to Fall in Love With Twitter Again
6. Be engaged.
Patience is a virtue. And being active is important. So is being engaged.
Pay attention to what other people are tweeting and to the people who retweet and reply to your own tweets. Retweet. Return those favors. Respond when people ask you questions. Start networking.
This is one important way to grow your Twitter following fast.
7. Avoid the dead zone.
So, you're tweeting high-quality content, you're engaged and engaging -- but what if you're doing all this when your followers aren't actually on Twitter? Just like any other social platform, you want to be where your followers are and when they're there.
People tend to be off of Twitter between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. local time. (For reference, people tend to check Facebook until about midnight before unplugging for the day.) The " sweet spot " for tweeting is said to be between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Read more: Avoid These Social Media Dead Zones
8. Get smart and monitor Twitter's data.
You want to monitor your efforts and levels of success on Twitter. While a lot of people get caught up stressing about follower numbers and how many times they're retweeted, you can use Twitter to track sentiment about your brand. You want to know who's talking about your brand, what they're saying and areas where you can improve.
You can also track how many people clicked on your post, where they clicked from and if they made a purchase on your page.
9. Get creative with picture and video.
Words and links are great. But don't forget to engage your followers with fun and informative pictures and videos.
Twitter's Vine allows you to create short, six-second videos and share them on Twitter. (Yes, they're that short.) You can leverage Vine for contests, to highlight new products or tell fun stories.
10. If you can't beat 'em, mute 'em.
Sometimes even the people you enjoy following most on Twitter can get annoying. Maybe someone is on an epic rant about politics. Perhaps the person is live-tweeting an event that you don't care about. You don't neccessarily want to unfollow the person to follow them again later on. What to do?
Mute them. Earlier this summer, Twitter rolled out a mute button that allows you to stop someone's tweets from showing up in your timeline until you un-mute him or her. Pretty simple. Pretty convenient.
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.