Twitter is one of the biggest social networks in the world. It also has a unique format that appeals to a lot of users, in that it provides a direct and immediate line of communication between anyone, including users that have millions of followers. This is one of the things that makes it so appealing to businesses wanting to reach out to both current and potential customers. Twitter is not a marketing magic wand that you can just wave at your will, however. It is easy to create a strong Twitter presence, but you have to play the game right. Here are some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to using Twitter as a business.

Use it for Communication, Not Advertising

Although it is a great way to get publicity, your company’s main focus on Twitter should not be to advertise. If users do not think that they are gaining anything, they will not follow you. You can tweet out deals, promotions, and videos, but if there is too much, your followers will quickly lose patience. The point of Twitter is to generate conversation and facilitate communication. If you try to make it about that, rather than advertising, the results will follow.

Talk to Your Followers

An increasing number of people are turning to social media, rather than traditional customer service channels, to voice their opinions or frustrations about services and products. It can be dangerous to your company’s brand if you do not respond to bad tweets, and it is a missed opportunity if you do not respond to good ones. Customers like to feel listened to and appreciated, so devote someone in your company to social media to give people exactly what they want.

Use Hashtags the Right Way

Hashtags can be a great way to generate conversation, create buzz, and draw attention to your brand. However, when used incorrectly, hashtags can damage reputations as well. During this year’s Super Bowl’s power outage, Oreo won the hashtag game with a viral tweet that used #blackout to make a joke about eating Oreos in the dark. On the other hand, consider Kenneth Cole’s attempt to make light of the uprisings in Egypt, using #Cairo to promote their spring line. One was lighthearted and humorous, while the other attempted to exploit a serious issue for profitable gain. One of them caused an uproar, no prizes for guessing which one!

Act Like a Real Person

The draw of following companies on Twitter is that it breaks down that corporate barrier. This is not possible if every tweet sounds like it is coming out of a machine. Give your tweets a personality, and connect with your followers. Try to reach out to as many people as you can directly, without being intrusive. When they have questions of praise for your company, it does not take much to respond with a few words; yet it can make all the difference to your company’s image.

About the Author: Lindsey Patterson is a freelance writer who specializes in the latest social and technology trends, specifically involving the use and growth of social media. She is currently acting as a consultant to Vivint. Like them on Facebook here.