Having a social media presence is key in maintaining our present and active brand. And good news, it’s free! All you need to do is set up your social accounts, and you’re ready to connect with a new audience. However, like anything, there’s some strategy involved, the sheer amount of competition for small business on the internet is massive. So, get informed by diving into the deep end.

Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms, and for small businesses, it could be an untapped market. Many small business owners don’t see how Twitter can help them market their business. But many major retailers have already gotten the hang of the Internet’s fastest-growing and most talked-about social media site and are using it to their advantage.

– Dell recently announced it’s made $7 million in sales through Twitter, by hanging out and tweeting with “no strategy” in particular.

– Best Buy’s Twelpforce has answered 20,000 customer questions since July, and is featuring Twelpforce in company TV ads.

How can you use Twitter to grow your business? Here are 5 basic tips to get you started.

1. Make a profile

The first step to making an impact on the internet is creating an outstanding account. Fill it out completely, providing a good description of your business, and a link to your company website. In some cases your social media account might be the first impression that potential customers have of you, so you want to make it a good one. When you’re uploading your company logo, make sure you adhere to the size guidelines to best show off your brand. For Twitter, the logo guidelines are as follows:

– Profile picture: 400 x 400

– Cover picture: 1,500 x 500

When setting up your profile, you’ll also want to write an engaging bio for your business. Your bio should be a summary of the core focus of your business, so that your followers and potential customers know exactly what you’re about. As your business grows, you may want to set up a second Twitter account – perhaps one as a customer-service channel, and another as the main company page. This will allow you to better address queries and issues, rather than them getting lost in the replies to your tweets.

2. Listen & learn

At first, don’t post much… just search for Twitter users in your sector who have a lot of followers and watch what they’re saying. Follow them – some will follow you back and you’ll start to build an audience. Locate influential Twitter users such as Peter Cashmore of Mashable (@mashable) or Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) and read their Twitter tips. Of course, also locate users that are relevant to your field, and interact with their community. When you start gaining followers, look at their profile and see how they interact and what they like.

Once you start posting, you’ll soon learn how to interact with your audience. With social media, you should spend time gaining a new audience, and also learning how to interact with the audience you already have. Twitter has built-in analytics, so you’ll be able to measure how people saw your post, interact with it and click on any links etc. When your audience interacts with your posts, it encourages Twitter to spread your post even further and helps you gain new followers.

3. Care & share

To encourage engagement, you need content that inspires your audience to interact. So, you need to provide value in your content. Talk about subjects that interest your audience, apply what you’ve learned from your previous posts. And tailor your blog content to suit what your audience is interested in. You can also interact with your community. Start retweeting interesting posts from others. Participate in discussions. Search on your company name and find customers with problems – then solve them. Share news about your company too, but keep it to about one-quarter of your total posts.

4. Attract attention

Hold a contest, take a poll, make a Twitter-only free offer, ask a question, or start a hashtagged discussion thread (a keyword that begins with the # sign). Start a blog on your company Web site and post links to your posts on Twitter to draw visitors over to your URL. If you decide to hold a competition to increase your audience, make sure you offer a prize that will interest your audience or the audience you wish to attract. To encourage engagement in your competition, set guidelines to enter, like follow our page, our like this post and share it with three friends etc. On social media it’s all about the give and takes, you have to give to your audience, as much as you want to take.

5. Promote it

If you already have a website, then utilise the audience you already have and connect them with your Twitter account. Feature your Twitter handle prominently on your own site and in all your marketing materials to help customers and prospects connect with you on Twitter and build your following. You can use your business’ Twitter account as a way to announce certain things that are important to your business, and post pages from your website that you think might appeal to your current followers and attract new fans.