Is Twitter just for people who can’t shut up? Many tweets are irrelevant, and it takes some digging to get to the good stuff. That way, it’s not any different from looking for a good book. Between shelves of fluff, there are literary gems such as “The Perfume”, “Madame Bovary” and “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

Companies (and individuals) can of course choose never to send a tweet into cyberspace. But the problem is that companies will be left behind and their competitors will have the competitive edge.

Tweets are short (140 characters) and resemble sms-speak (not surprising, considering the original twitter concept) and have huge marketing potential.

Following is a short guide to tweeting (courtesy of www.ReputationManagementFor.com with some of my own additions).

1/ Tweeting
When you tweet, you’re sending a message to all of your followers (see 2/) and displaying the message on your Twitter Feed (a list of your tweets). Now, it’s extremely important that you bear a few things in mind when tweeting, as you can end up wasting a lot of time for zero productivity. Don’t over-tweet, but don’t tweet sparingly either. A Tweet a week does not an interest garner. These are some important things you’ll need to keep in mind while tweeting:

  • Don’t treat Twitter like an SEO exercise. Nobody cares for unexplained, uninteresting links, and if all you’re doing is linking back to your website, people will generally ignore you.
  • Don’t make ridiculous spelling mistakes. Tweets are only 140 characters long, and typos and other errors will reflect badly on your company. Spell it right; sell it right.
  • Try not to be too personal, or emotional. You’re marketing your brand, and while that doesn’t mean you should be robotic, attention-seeking will ultimately reflect badly.
  • Develop your own style, but unless you’re a professional comedian don’t make every post into a joke.
  • Make sure to hashtag important keywords in your tweet (see 4/).

Ideally, every time you tweet you want your followers to re-tweet (RT) your posts. That way, you are reaching the followers of your followers.

2/ Following
When you follow somebody on Twitter, it means that you’re going to automatically get updated with every tweet of that user. You can opt to get as many people to follow you as possible, or to expand your brand awareness and market influence to targeted users (journalists, institutes, bloggers, magazines, etc.).

The easiest and simplest way getting followers is to include obvious links to your Twitter account on your website, and any email correspondence you send out. If you don’t tell people to look for your Twitter account, you’re relying on people looking for you speculatively, and that can be a slow process. Also, you can enter your contact list from GMail, AOL, MSN, Hotmail and Yahoo! accounts to see if the people you already speak to use Twitter. Following people you know on Twitter will encourage them to follow you.

3/ @Mentions
If you have a look at your “homepage” on Twitter, you can see a few tabs below the Tweet box. One of these tabs says ‘@Mentions’. A @Mention is when somebody puts a ‘@’ sign, followed immediately by a username. When somebody @Mentions you in a Tweet, it’ll show up both on their Tweet Feed and on your @Mentions page (which your followers can’t see. A @Mention is useful:

  • To engage other users who are not in contact with yet. They’re then more likely to return the favor.
  • If you’re Tweeting their material. Their details do show up on a RT, but a @Mention will show gratitude and let the person know you’re passing on their content/posts.
  • When tweeting original content. Start the post with “RT” and end it with @yourtwittername. It makes it easier for people to find you and associate your Twitter account with the content being (re)tweeted.

4/ The #Hashtag
While we have already mentioned that this shouldn’t be an SEO exercise, that doesn’t mean that none of the same principles apply. The #hashtag is the king of Social Media Optimization – an opportunity to make use of ‘keywords’. People searching Twitter for posts on specific subjects will generally find #tagged posts first. Tips to use #hashtags:

  • If you want to talk about a #subject, #location or #person (without linking to their Twitter account), use the #hashtag.
  • A #hashtag can be used to emphasize a specific part of your tweet, and generally adds context to any content or comments you might be posting.

Twitter posts show up in Google search results. Although it is unlikely that a Twitter post will outperform a highly contested keyword by normal SEO standards, a clever campaign on a specific subject will get attention.

5/ Trending
Twitter keeps track of when a term (or #term) is being used a lot on Twitter. It records Trends that appear by geographical demographic, and a general worldwide tracker. Thus, if a #term (with or without the #hashtag) is popular in e.g., the US; users who’ve set up their “Trend Feed” to the US will automatically see a list of the “Trending Topics” for that country. Users can also click on a topic that is trending (e.g. budget cuts).

There are many innovative ways to turn social networking and social media profitable for business. On your Twitter homepage, you can link to your own website. You can also add Twitter to your website homepage. Your tweets will now automatically be displayed.

6/ Shortened Links
As mentioned before, tweets are limited to 140 characters. Most website links (e.g., to articles you RT) take up a lot of character space. To solve this problem, there are several free services around that automatically shorten your links. The most popular are tinyURL and bit.ly.

Wishing you Happy Tweeting!

(Cartoon courtesy of Johnny Ancich of Past Expiry)

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The Globalization-Group published an interesting article. It helps business owners and their employees to understand why their business cards might not be effective in some countries.
Although business cards may seem small and uncomplicated, there are some issues when it comes to using them in foreign markets (and languages). The article provides some excellent tips to help business go smoothly when working with international clients.
Size, non-translation of certain elements, and even the way a business card is presented differ depending on the country and situation. Before traveling, the business card must be translated quickly, smoothly, and without incident. Various preferences and reference materials must be provided to the translation supplier in order to have the business card translation process run smoothly.
Standard Business Card Dimensions by Country
Standard business card dimensions differ from country to country, and the business card must have the correct size. If the corporate headquarters are in the U.S., but the business card is printed in multiple languages, U.S. standard dimensions can be used. However, if business cards are printed for someone based in one of the international offices, then the designer (or the translator) and the printer will want to use the standard dimensions for that country.

  • United States, Canada: 88.9 × 50.8 cm / 3.5 × 2 inches;
  • United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland: 85 × 55 cm / 3.346 × 2.165 inches;
  • Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden: 90 × 55cm / 3.54 × 2.165 inches
    Japan 91 × 55cm(or 90 x 55 cm) / 3.582 × 2.165 inches;
  • China, Hong Kong: 90 × 54 cm / 3.543 × 2.125 inches;
  • Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, & Multiple Latin American Countries (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and more): 90 × 50 cm /3.543 × 1.968 inches.

Culturally Appropriate Business Card Etiquette
Business cards hold differing importance in some countries. Know the appropriate way to give and receive business cards in each country. The most notable example is Japan. The book Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands includes the following recommendations for culturally appropriate exchange of business cards in Japanese business:

  • Cards are presented after the bow or handshake. The card must be presented with the Japanese side facing the business partner, so that it can be read immediately.
  • Read the card presented and memorize all the information. Ask for help in pronunciation and in comprehension of the title and make a relevant comment.
  • Handle cards very carefully. Do not put them in a pocket or in wallet, and never write on a person’s business card in his/her presence).
  • In Japanese culture, business cards are usually given and received using both hands, and Japanese business cards often contain additional details to emphasize qualifications.

Preferences for Business Card Translation
Indicate the following preferences where appropriate to ensure that the business card translation supplier provides what you need the first time:

  • Preferred terminology used on other company cards (i.e. preferred job titles, department names, taglines, or product names).
  • Existing name translations or whether to include names in both languages.
  • Exclusion of address from translation.
  • Preferred international contact information (i.e. non-toll-free phone number with country code that can be accessed outside the U.S.

Reference Materials for Business Card Translation
Provide the following optional reference materials to ensure that the business card translation supplier has everything needed for appropriate translation:

  • Existing company style guide, especially if related to translation and/or business cards.
  • Existing company glossary, especially if related to translation and/or business cards.
  • Existing translation history.
  • Example of an employee’s business card that has been translated or created in the target language.
  • Other reference material including existing translations for logos, slogans, names of products, names of people, etc.