Social media marketing is a huge weapon in the arsenal of a small business, but all-too-often I see small businesses make the mistake of simply having a presence on a social media network and assuming they're doing something good just because they're there. It's important to understand that as a small business, the most valuable resource you have is time, and ANY investment you make of your time is one that should be carefully thought out.

Twitter is arguably the most "techy" of the most widely-used social media outlets. It's also the one that requires the most effort to use correctly. This combination can be dangerous and it's why Twitter is so often misused.

The most common way I see small and medium-sized businesses use (or really, misuse) Twitter is that they set up an account, they follow Twitter's getting started process, and they never log in to the platform again. Instead, they connect it to their Facebook account and simply auto-publish their Facebook posts or they sign up for a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, Buffer, or SproutSocial (there are a number of others as well) and schedule out their updates. The problem is that simply pushing content onto Twitter is just about the worst possible way to use the platform (the worst is to not use it at all!).

Twitter's value comes from the power derived in open, well-categorized conversations that anyone can view and engage with. There's no such thing as a Twitter post that only goes out to your followers, when you put it up there anyone can see it, retweet it, reply to it, and engage with it. But until you build up a following of any significance, just pushing your own agenda doesn't get you anywhere.

The lifetime of a tweet is extremely short (unless you're famous and say something stupid, those seem to never go away). So that important piece of information you posted to Facebook and auto-syndicated to your 500 Twitter followers might be seen by 5 people ... maybe. With a little tweaking, however, your message could have been seen by 50,000 people; or, even better, by 1 really important person.

I'm going to publish a series of articles on specific strategies you can use to maximize the value of your efforts on Twitter, but for now, get rid of the auto-publish settings and log in to the platform. Play around, search, click on stuff, and familiarize yourself with the ins-and-outs and the language of Twitter. If you don't understand something, Google it, and check back soon for updates!

Photo: Flickr | Andreas Eldh

Chris Searles is President of Searles Media and specializes in helping small businesses maximize their available resources to market themselves effectively using a wide variety of media. Visit Website

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