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Using Twitter For Small Business Lead Generation

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

This is a mini-series on using Twitter for small business for lead generation. First, we’ll cover the basics of using Twitter. You should also read the Twitter Small Business Guide if you’re new to the platform.

Twitter’s main strength is sharing information through links, photos or videos. It’s secondary strength is being able to communicate directly with anyone. Twitter’s main constraint is that you can only post 140 characters at a time. Concise, effective communication is essential.

Twitter vs. Other Social Media

Many people still use Facebook as their primary social network, because that’s where their friends are. Social platforms thrive when clusters of friends are all using it.

People see who’s on the bandwagon before committing more time to a social network. Your customers will be on Twitter if other people they know are already there.

Twitter has 284+ million users, which is more than Instagram or Pinterest, but far less than Facebook or YouTube. Determine who your target customers are, and what percentage of them are using Twitter.

Twitter and Facebook: The Main Difference

Facebook has a Timeline, so does Twitter. But on Facebook, “friending” is a two-way connection. You see your friends’ posts, they see yours.

But when you follow someone on Twitter, it begins as a one way interaction. You see their posts, but they don’t see yours. The people you follow may not follow you back. Cultivating customer relationships on any platform is a process that takes time. Be prepared for that.

Ways People Use Twitter

Everyone uses Twitter a little differently. Many people use it to share their thoughts and ideas. Some people use it to communicate with friends and colleagues. Others use it as an industry news stream. Casual users may use it to follow celebrities. Twitter can be used for any or all of these purposes.

The two ways I see most people using Twitter are: 1) to share and spread links and 2) have conversations with friends and colleagues.

Next: some terminology you should know.

The @ Reply

The @ reply is how you communicate with folks on Twitter. Anyone you mention or reply to in a tweet (@an_example_name) will see that tweet in their Notifications.

All tweets have a Reply button, that allow you to have a dialog with the original poster.

Good ways to use the @ Reply: talking to new followers, joining conversations where you contribute something of value, talking with colleagues and customers.

Bad ways to use the @ Reply: jumping in conversations to behave badly, cold-pitching random strangers because they used a keyword in their last tweet, being generally offensive. Pick your shots wisely. The internet never forgets.

Use @ replies to get to know people and earn their trust. It takes longer to become part of a community than it does to blast people with a marketing pitch. I guarantee you this effort is always worth it. Once people are familiar with you, and trust you, they are far more likely to listen to you than strangers who appear from out of the blue.

What People Don’t Realize About @ Replies

If you @ reply to someone on Twitter, and the @ symbol is the first character of the tweet, not everyone will see your tweet. By doing a direct reply, only people who follow you and the person you are replying to will see the tweet in their Timeline.

If you want everyone who follows you to see the your conversations, use a period for the first character of your tweets. The period as a first character is small enough for people to ignore when reading their Timeline. This ensures all of your tweets will be seen.

The Hashtag (#)

Hashtags help users find conversations around a specific subject. Events with an associated hashtag will have a live stream of its action curated by its attendees. Use hashtags to drive discovery. It is best to only use one to three hashtags per tweet. On Instagram, it is the opposite — load that sucker down with hashtags.


When someone retweets your post, they share it with their followers on their own Timeline. Retweets are less common than Favorites. Retweets cannot be deleted from a user Timeline.

Suffice it to say, when people are retweeting you, that’s a good sign.

Retweets mean that you are speaking to what people are already thinking.


You can add a tweet to your Favorites by clicking the star icon on a tweet. Your favorites list is publicly visible on your profile.

People use Favorites in different ways. Some people use it for bookmarking, others use it to send positive acknowledgement to the original poster. By noticing which tweets are Favorited the most, you can get a sense of what is resonating with your audience.

Direct Messages

You can direct message someone if you both follow each other. Direct messages are a private channel between you and the other party. The same 140 character limit applies to direct messages.


When you only have 140 characters to work with, abbreviations become common. Here’s some Twitter shorthand you might see, and the phrases they stand for.

  • RT = Retweet
  • DM = Direct Message
  • OH = Overheard
  • TIL = Today I Learned
  • OP = Original Poster
  • FF = Follow Friday. A list of people you should follow that you tweet out on Fridays. This used to be more widespread than it is currently.
  • FTW = For The Win
  • YOLO = You Only Live Once
  • PRT = Please Retweet

Setting Up Your Profile

Your bio will usually determine whether someone follows you or not. Let people know what they can expect you to tweet about. Be interesting and authentic, not clichéd.

You can choose your background and link colors in Settings > Design. This is great place to use your brand colors.

Twitter Profile Image Sizes

Your profile photo should be a minimum of 400 by 400 pixels. This can be up to 2MB in size. The background image only shows up on your personal view of Twitter; the public does not see it. Twitter recommends your header image be 1500 by 500 pixels, but this also will stretch to cover large screens. Since the header image can be up to 5MB, and high DPI screens are more common, a a 3000 by 1000 header image is even better.

Have a Long Term Strategy

You win at social media by grinding it out — sharing valuable stuff consistently, being authentic. Don’t blast marketing gibberish out, it is generally ignored. Be conversational. Find people who might be interested in the space around your product/service, talk to them. Befriend others in your industry. Follow who you wish. Always be positive.

p>There are many useful Twitter management tools that will help you in your efforts. These are just a few of the ones I have used.

TweetDeck is web application that was acquired by Twitter a few years ago. Tweetdeck lets you view multiple activities connected to your account through real-time column views. You can track mentions, favorites, hashtags, new followers, and other notifications.

HootSuite has very similar features to Tweetdeck, but offers additional integrations. You can schedule posts, and schedule content publishing on other social networks. There are also apps you can purchase that allow you to get analytics on other social networks and Customer Relation software like Salesforce. Many of these integrations are premium. This tool is an overall social management tool. HootSuite great for experienced marketers, but might be a bit overarching for someone just starting out on social media.

Buffer is one of my favorite tools on the web. Buffer allows you to schedule publishing at specific times, or according to a predefined schedule. On the free plan, you can schedule up to ten posts. You can also post on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus with Buffer. The paid plan is $10 a month, and allows you to schedule up to 200 posts on 12 social platforms.

Followerwonk is a premium service from Moz that provides analytics of audience segments and overlap, when your followers are on and who they follow, and side by side user comparison. Followerwonk can automatically set your Buffer schedule to the optimal times to reach your followers.

Have you ever noticed Twitter accounts that tweet out archives posts every few hours, 24 hours a day? If you have, the Tweet Old Post plugin could be responsible. The free version of this plugin lets you tweet old posts every so many hours. The premium version lets you post to Facebook and LinkedIn, and lets you add photos to your revived posts. Both versions give you control over what to include in each tweet.

Click To Tweet is a WordPress plugin that lets you set up short quotes for users to tweet out. For example:

Here’s a list of useful Twitter tools for those just getting started. is a cool site that shows you who’s recently unfollowed you, who’s not following you back, and who you’re not following back. This tool is free to use, but has several additional features in the Pro version, which goes for $8.99 a year.

What tools do you currently use to manage Twitter and your other social media profiles?

How To Get Meaningful Followers on Twitter

Here’s a disclaimer. I don’t have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. But I’m pretty satisfied with the quality of followers that I do have. Having a two-way familiarity between those I follow and those who follow me is important to me. I’d like to share the things that helped me get meaningful followers on Twitter, and if you choose, you can take some of those ideas and see if they work for you.

Common Tactics And Some Philosophy

One tactic I see a lot of people use is to follow a bunch of people, wait for a week to see if they follow back, and unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow back. The targets are usually people who follow similar accounts or interests.

There are a lot of people who have used this tactic to great success. These accounts are usually characterized by large Following and Follower counts. I’m not a fan of this method. Not because it doesn’t generate followers, but because it doesn’t produce the types of Twitter followers I desire.

This isn’t to bash anyone that uses this method. There are many paths to success, not just one. What works for one person may not work for someone else. But this doesn’t fit me.

From a practical standpoint, following thousands of people means your Timeline becomes crowded and hard to keep up with. You can either disregard your entire Timeline and only read Notifications, or mute every profile you don’t want to see tweets from.

If the goal is to gain meaningful followers, then following someone should signify interest in what they have to say. Feigning interest in what someone has to say to get a follow-back seems disingenuous and manipulative.

Growing Your Twitter Following

Here’s something I do recommend. Seek out people in your industry that you want to connect with and follow them. Follow authors of books and blogs that you read. Follow people who publish information that you have found useful. Seek out people at all levels of stature and notoriety: people far above you, those right above you, people on the same level as you, those right below you. Follow people who you respect and like. Some of these people will follow you immediately, many will not — at least not right away.

In Twitter, as in life, you have to give something to get something. If you’re trying to get on the radar of people with a bigger microphone and more influence than yourself, you can start by doing them a solid favor. Find articles that they’ve written that you agree with or that helped you, and tweet those out to your audience. Be sure to put “via @theirname>” in your tweet. This way they will see your tweet in their Notifications. When they notice you are helping them out repeatedly, they will become familiar with your name.

Gaining Access To Others Through Twitter

The biggest names in your industry are more likely to talk to people they know as opposed to someone they don’t. This doesn’t mean you should never reach out to Big Names and thought leaders, but have realistic expectations. Elevating your name on your own is critical to being listened to by those above you on the food chain.

Twitter friends aren’t automatically reciprocal like they are on Facebook. Many industry leaders use Twitter as a water cooler for their homies and themselves. Many semi-famous folks remember the days when strangers didn’t jump into their personal conversations with friends. Fame on any scale, even a small one, requires you to adapt. While you’re trying to get attention from people with a large follower count, they’re wondering who you are, and privately assessing whether you’re a stalker or not.

Levels of Influence

I subscribe to the social theory I call Levels of Network Influence. Everyone in a particular industry network has a different level of overall influence. Let’s say everyone in a particular network is ranked between one to ten on that scale of influence.

If you have a low amount of network influence, it is unlikely you will gain access to Tens. But the people who are on Level Ten listen to the people who are Nines. The Nines listen to the Eights. The Eights listen to the Sevens and Sixes…all the way down the line.

Figure out where you are in this hierarchy. Observe who is directly above you and those who are a few levels above you. Realize that you are a level above many people as well. Be generous to the people at the same level and below you. Reach out and gain influence with the people who are directly above you. By doing this you can indirectly influence to the people who are far above you.

Realize that social media is a long-term game. It is easier to befriend a person on the rise then it is to befriend a person who is already very well-established.

Don’t target too many people all at once. Focus on people whose personal philosophies are similar to your own. Don’t tweet out other people’s material simply because you’re kissing up to them or expect gratitude in return. Disingenuous motives are very transparent. Accept you must give to get — life sort of works that way. The willingness to invest in other people’s success is directly correlated to other people investing in yours.

Produce Quality Content

If you want people to share your content on Twitter, you have to put out some kick-ass content of your own. Make sure your content is focused on the people who you’re targeting as followers: your customers, your audience, your industry. When you share content on Twitter, 10 to 20% should be your own, the rest should be other people’s stuff. If all you’re broadcasting is yourself, you’re not going to succeed.

Share Your Content Repeatedly

Most people will not see the links to your content the first time you tweet about it. You must re-tweet each post several times. When you first publish a post, tweet out the link about four times in the first day, about four times and the second day and taper down after that. If you publish every day, all the better. You should publish something new at least once a week. This builds up your library of useful content, increasing your chances of being discovered and shared.

If you have a WordPress website, you can use the Publicize feature in Jetpack to post to Twitter when you publish. WordPress plugins like Revive Old Post can automate the sharing of archived posts to Twitter. Another tool is use is Buffer, which allows you schedule up to ten tweets at a time on the free plan, with more available on the paid plans.

Offline Strategies

A social media hack that few people talk about is meeting people offline. People are more likely to follow you back if you’ve met in person. Whenever possible, go to places and events where you will meet your key people. Social media connections can be a by-product of real life friendships and alliances.

If you need to start by attending local events, by all means do so. Realize that the farther and more frequently you can travel and meet people, the more memorable you will become.

In the advertising world, it is said a customer must hear or see a brand message at least 21 times before making a purchase. If you are a personal brand, make every effort to make your name heard as often as possible. Get in front of people, both online and offline.


Twitter is like anything else. It takes a lot of work to make a name for yourself. Quality of followers is more important than the quantity, but quantity gives you social proof. Don’t expect instant returns. Have a long-term plan and stick to it.

Being a curator of quality content is just as important as creating it.

Twitter is dominated by people who share links and have a personality. Share other people’s content more than you share your own. Post links more than once, or people won’t see them. Influence is something we all have, the question is how far that reach goes. It is easier to communicate with people on the rise than it is with established stars. Be friendly both online and in person.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

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