4 BEGINNING TWITTER TIPS FOR BUSINESS

Twitter-art

From 2014-2015 the number of Twitter users grew by 50 million, and it’s estimated that close to 1/5 of Internet users have Twitter accounts. The average Twitter user follows 5 businesses so if you’re not trying to reach your customers on Twitter you’re missing an opportunity.

Twitter is easy enough to understand, just share something 140 characters or less. You can share links, images, or videos. Here are a few other tips for businesses just starting out on Twitter:

Use Hashtags

Twitter is as hard to follow as the ticker tape on a stock page. It’s a constant barrage of messaging, particularly for those accounts that follow a lot of people. Hashtags, or pound signs (#), help people search for the information they want.

Using an appropriate hashtag can expand your business’ reach and help potential customers find what they’re looking for. Employ one specific to your business and use hashtags that are relevant. For instance, Jake’s Jewelry Store might use all, or any, of the following hashtags in tweets with images of gifts for mom: #jakes, #mothersday, #gift.

You can also use popular hashtags of trending topics, when applicable, like #marchmadness or #50shadesofgrey.

Share Images

This tip applies to most of social media but Twitter will display images prominently in the stream so it’s a good way to get your followers’ attention.

Rise Above the Noise

Find ways to stand out from others who are merely posting articles they’ve written. Ask questions. Have conversations. Thank people for sharing your content.

One of the easiest ways to create loyal followers, at least initially, is through commenting on what they share – either by providing your own opinions or asking them follow-up questions.

Avoid sending out automated thank you messages to new followers. While the concept seems nice – thanking them for following you – they come off as exactly what they are, robotic. Plus many Twitter users don’t check their messages box because of a large number of these they receive.

In addition to finding customers and potential customers on Twitter, it’s good to connect with influencers in your industry or audience such as mommy bloggers or niche bloggers.

Follow the Golden Rule

To follow back or not to follow back. That is the question and the answer for business is follow back, or do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Twitter will cap you at 2,000 following (people you follow) if your followers (number of people who follow you) are not fairly equal. For instance, if you followed 2,000 people but only 500 followed you, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until those numbers get within (about) 200 of each other. Twitter won’t tell you the exact number that it takes but you will be limited until those follower numbers rise.

You also don’t want your followers and following number too far off of one another because:

  • If you are following too many people, and a relatively equal number is not following you back, it looks like you’re not sharing worthwhile information.

On the other hand,

  • If a lot of people are following you and you’re only following a handful, you look like a bit of a jerk. That’s okay for reality TV stars but people who are using Twitter for business should be a little more congenial.

You can manage your Twitter followers through tools like ManageFlitter, Followerwonk (a Moz app) or Friend or Follow. Many of these tools can help you tell which accounts are spambots or fake accounts or inactive accounts. (You don’t want to spend time engaging those.) They also help you isolate influencers in your area.

There are pages and pages of tips written on topics like Twitter for business but the best thing to keep in mind is your humanity. Don’t make it all about your business and be gracious. Find ways to connect with people on a more personal level and imagine every tweet you’re sending could be seen by your grandmother, unless you’re in the type of business you don’t want your grandmother to know about.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Memberclicks.

Member Tip Monday: HOW TO FIND TIME FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Build Your Visibility

Small business owners, especially those businesses with under 10 employees, find it extremely difficult to justify the time on social media because it doesn’t lead to predictable, measurable cost savings or revenue.

Social media and content marketing is about becoming an engaging resource for your customers. What’s the yield of a relationship? If you can figure out what a relationship is worth in revenue dollars, you should be blogging about it.

The truth is, we can’t. Not exactly at least. But we know people buy from people they know, like, and trust and that’s why it’s important to invest time in building these connections and affections.

Finding that time is easier said than done. Still here are a couple of suggestions on how to carve out some time to increase your efforts on social media.

Keep Content Handy

The first thing you’ll need is a place to keep content you find. Not all content will be applicable for sharing the moment you come across it. We’ve all seen people on Twitter who post 10 tweets at a time and figure they are done for the day. It is better to deal out your posts at multiple times than all at once. Often you’ll find content that you’ll want to share later so select a system in which you can easily access your content gems in the future.

Upload content to DropBox, use Evernote or keep a notepad handy (paper or electronic). Doesn’t matter if you keep fortune cookie messages in a shoe box. Never let what you deem to be a valuable piece of content escape. Keep it somewhere handy and build a cache of it.

Find a Scheduler You Like

There are many options to help you pre-schedule posts. Scheduling is important because you can’t spend your whole day posting, nor do you want to be that person who bombards others with a firehose worth of content once a day.

Find a scheduler you’re comfortable with. Many systems allow you to control when you post and often give you the ability to do it several days out. One of the most basic is Buffer. It allows you to schedule across multiple platforms. It offers a free and paid version, but even the paid is only about $10 a month.

The most popular is Hootsuite, and while I use it occasionally because it offers greater capabilities than Buffer, I do prefer Buffer’s minimalist design. Hootsuite’s interface is busy but allows you to monitor in real time. If you’re developing relationships, this is a powerful ability to have.

Multi-task

I’m not telling you to turn off the TV when you get home, but there is no reason if you’re “vegging out” that you can’t use that time to schedule a few posts for the next day. Don’t let mindless tasks, like television watching, steal your productivity.

“Steal” Time

We all have moments where we’re waiting – before doctor’s appointments, before meetings, on the phone, while the kids finish up with practice, you get the idea. Many of us fill this time with other mindless tasks like scanning pictures of our friends’ pets on Facebook. Instead, use this time to be productive by finding content, scheduling it, or responding to people on social media.

I am a firm believer in scheduling posts but the interacting cannot be scheduled, so use this stolen time to reach out and connect with people.

Look for Content Everywhere

Content ideas are everywhere – airplane magazines, overheard conversations, commercials, popular TV shows, as well as all over social media. Use the many messages that bombard you daily to find gems you’d like to share. Retweets are only the beginning.

Take Pictures

Along that line, take pictures of everything that moves you and some ordinary things that don’t. Pictures you take can be used in blogs, memes, and image quotes without concern over cost or copyright. Links with pics are more likely to get shared and clicked. Encourage staff to do the same.

You don’t need huge chunks of time to make connections on social media. The key to success in this area is the same in most business- or relationship-building. Give people what they want/find valuable; do so without expectation. Become a resource for them and help them. Be consistent in your efforts so they know they can count on you. This takes minutes a day. Schedule good content and steal time for interacting. Then watch your relationships grow as people share your resources with others.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Your Chamber Taking the Lead on Education

Why would a chamber of commerce get involved in helping students get to college?

While it is common practice for school districts, college and universities, and education-focused organizations to participate in chamber membership, increasing postsecondary attainment rates is not typically a role chambers are thought of playing. However, your Chamber has taken a different view.Print

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce has stepped up to take a leadership role in the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T); an initiative that focuses on bridging the gap between high school graduation and postsecondary educational attainment. Working in close partnership with organizations like the Barancik Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, UnitedWay Suncoast, and UnidosNow (to name a few), The Chamber has been working over the last year to bring about new, innovative programs that help our local students go beyond high school graduation and into a postsecondary program.

One area Talent4Tomorrow has particularly targeted is FAFSA completion. Financial burdens are often cited as one of the top reasons students do not enroll in a postsecondary program. The FAFSA, or “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, is a federal form that students must complete to receive Pell grants, most scholarships, and other types of financial aid. However, confusion and lack of awareness around this application process cause many to simply not complete the application. According to the Florida College Access Network, 59 percent of Sarasota students were eligible for Pell Grants in 2012-13, but fewer than half of them filled out FAFSA forms, resulting in more than $2 million left untapped by Sarasota County students. Ultimately, this results in fewer students entering quality educational programs that feed our local workforce needs and causes local businesses to feel the pain of seeking out qualified employees.

However, in the 2015-2016 FAFSA application cycle, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership orchestrated a multi-faceted strategy to address the need for more students to complete the FAFSA. Thus, Sarasota County was recognized by the Florida FAFSA Challenge with awards in eight categories. Even more impressively, these efforts resulted in an additional $283,000 in Pell Grant funds being accessed by Sarasota County students. With those additional funds, many more students have been able to attend technical/trade schools, two-year degree programs, and traditional Bachelors programs. For our Chamber members, this equates to more skilled workers ready to take on important jobs for their companies.

Efforts of Talent4Tomorrow have not gone unnoticed by those around the state and the nation. Recently, T4T partners collected $62,500 in matching funds to procure a $50,000 grant from the Florida Philanthropic Network. With these grant dollars, T4T can begin to work on other barriers to postsecondary enrollment and attainment, such as college and career awareness. The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this initiative, bringing the education and business communities together to help students see themselves not only in our colleges and universities but also as professionals that contribute to the future of Sarasota County.


Submission contributed by Mimi Cirbusova, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Group Coordinator.

Reach Higher Convening Recap

“The ultimate outcome of education is not a diploma. It’s a great job and life.”

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development, Gallup

It’s often been said that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Just as true: you don’t know what you’ve got until you see what someone else has. Last week, GSCC staff members were part of a small delegation to represent Florida at First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” convening in Colorado. This conference focused on preparing students with work ready skills. Presenters, ranging from corporate leaders of Fortune 500 companies to the President of the Education Commission of the United States, discussed the growing national need for education policies around work readiness for all students.

Much of the conversation revolved around the critical need for talented, engaged, and well-supported school counselors. Nationally, more than 20% of high schools lack any school counselor, and over 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school counselor (Dr. Joyce V. Brown, National Consortium for School Counseling and Postsecondary Success). Reflection from these presentations highlighted the great resource guidance counselors are for our own community. In Sarasota County, our students are fortunate to school guidance counseling staff at every school K-12. Our local guidance counselors have been the key to our Talent4Tomorrow Partnership efforts in increasing FAFSA completion, and expanding awareness of financial opportunities for post-secondary education.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) was another primary area of focus of several presenters and panelists, including an informative site visit to Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus in Colorado Springs District 11. Departments of Education around the country are seeking opportunities to partner with companies to align CTE programs at the high school and postsecondary levels to workforce needs. Ensuring that students are aware of these opportunities is a key component of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in December 2015 as a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Locally, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has placed career awareness at the forefront of its programmatic work. Recently, Talent4Tomorrow gathered 84 of Sarasota County’s brightest students for an “Experience Engineering” luncheon. Students engaged in roundtable discussions with 31 engineers from 14 local companies about the many engineering opportunities available in the greater Sarasota community, the diversity of specialties within that field, and tips for gaining the most of their time while in college.

Internships and hands-on career opportunities was also a strong theme. During a panel presentation, Noel Ginsburg, Chairman and CEO of Intertech Plastics, spoke of the 2.6% youth unemployment in Switzerland due to apprenticeship programs and the economic benefit to companies that invest in these opportunities, including lower long-term training costs. Carl A. Marchetto, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Space at Lockheed Martin, also discussed the need for a stronger infrastructure for smaller companies to “plug and play” in experiential opportunities for students. However, Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development for Gallup, shared that only 4.6% of students in grades 5th-12th are interning for a local business. With little hands-on experience, how is a student to discern whether a career path is right for them? And without the confidence of an internship to guide their career pathway, how can students feel comfortable taking on massive debts to pursue a degree in a particular field? Again, Sarasota County boasts strong relationships between business, schools, and universities that allow students to gain those hands on experiences. Whether it be at the annual State of Jobs conference for high school (and soon, middle school) students, or internships with incredible organizations such as PGT, Sun Hydraulics, FCCI Insurance and Mote Marine Laboratories (to name a few), there are many exciting ways for local students to gain real-world knowledge of career pathways. Career exploration continues to expand within the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership’s Local College Access Network, and a community asset map focused on internships is in the final data-gathering stages.

During the long flight home, it was easy to think about the incredible community we have in Sarasota. Though we learned so much from Colorado, and well as the other 48 states present at the “Reach Higher” convening, it is safe to say that Sarasota is making enviable strides towards preparing our students to be ready for the 21st century workplace.

Using Data to Develop Talent

Feature by Young Professionals Group Coordinator Mimi Fleck, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Less than a month ago, people all over Sarasota County added a few extra minutes to their commutes to accommodate school zones. Area colleges filled their dorms with anxious freshmen, and parents everywhere scrambled to find folders with tabs and pockets for their child’s school supply list. While many see back to school as a new start, local community leaders were gathering all summer long to prepare Sarasota for something much more challenging.EducationFlorida is bracing for a disaster that is beginning to brew below the surface. We need talented and skilled individuals, and we need them now. Sarasota County is expected to see a job growth of nearly 30,000 jobs by the year 2020—only half of which is for the replacement of retiring boomers (Florida Department of Economic Opportunity). And while many of these jobs will require a post-secondary degree, only 40% of Sarasota County’s working age population (aged 25 and older) have obtained some college, associates, bachelors or a graduate/professional degree. This is a challenge that has deep roots. Nearly 1 in 4 of our students entering Kindergarten are not ready to learn, and 30% of our students do not demonstrate reading proficiency by 3rd grade. In a recent Chamber Member Intel survey, 60% of employers reported having difficulty filling open positions in the last 12 months, with respondents sharing that too few applicants applied and/or that the applicants lacked occupational skills. Continue reading “Using Data to Develop Talent”