Twitter is the second most popular social network online. However, it’s mostly geared towards a younger audience. If that’s who you want to target, then this is the network for you.

Twitter is a lot different from Facebook, and knowing the differences will help you to create better content, which will lead to more followers.

For those who are unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s a stream of micro-content (less than 140 characters). When you follow another user, you will see everything they tweet in your stream. There is no algorithm that shows you specific content like there is on Facebook.

It’s hard to reach people who follow a very high number of people, so engagement is just as important on Twitter as it is on Facebook.

1. Set Up a Great Profile

Just like Facebook, you want to make sure you have a good profile image, cover photo, and description of your organization. That’s all you need to get started. I’ll admit it’s much easier to set up a Twitter profile than a Facebook page.

2. Understanding Tweets

Twitter has its own language, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary. Here’s a brief rundown. You can also read more about this and watch videos on how to get your profile set up and send out tweets here.

Tweet: a 140 character message that you can send to all your followers or only specific ones.

Retweet: taking an existing tweet written by someone else and sending it to your followers.

Twitter Handle: this is your username and begins with the “@” symbol

Favorite: similar to liking something on facebook. All this does is alert other tweeters that you like their tweet.

Hashtag: any word or group of words that start with the “#” symbol; can be used to group tweets or as a punch line to a tweet.

Direct Message or DM: A private message (still 140 characters) that you can send to anyone who follows you.

Mentions: Using someone’s handle in your tweet will notify them that you’ve mentioned them.

3. Create Your Strategy

As a guideline, I recommend posting at least twice a day, but no more than 20 times. That means you will be creating at least 730 tweets a year, and make them all count. It’s great to be able to plan this in advance, but it’s also fun and more engaging to follow trends.

It’s a good idea that you create a marketing plan before jumping on Twitter and writing what you had for breakfast. This is especially important for businesses.

It’s good practice to decide what you’ll be tweeting about before you do. Take a look at your business and figure out what you want to be known for and what kind of value you want to provide your followers. As a pool company, it could be as simple as tweeting out pool care tips, or as a way for your customers to know when sales are going on at your company.

Once you decide what you’ll be tweeting about, it’s time to set up how you’ll use Twitter as a tool and how you’ll get followers.

There are a few reasons I will decide to follow someone or a business. For businesses, I follow those who are tweeting valuable information that I could use right away. For instance, I follow a company called AdSanity because I use one of its products, and its profile is set up so customers can ask questions and get quick help, instead of emailing.

If you go with this model, then you can advertise to your customers that you’re always available to answer quick questions about their pool or hot tub using Twitter. At the same time, you can encourage them to follow by also tweeting special offers to Twitter followers only. Just make sure you’re not using Twitter solely to self promote. You need to provide value for free.

As I wrote in my article The Social Media Mindset, try to utilize the 82/20 principle: 80 percent of the content you publish will be valuable for your followers and 20 percent can be promotional, such as a sale, discount or event.

No one wants to read a Twitter stream filled with promotions, discounts and events. They need a good reason to follow you. So a healthy mixture is a good place to start.

Also, it’s a good idea to start following only other Twitter accounts that you truly admire and want to follow. This will give you a sense on how to use the social media tool effectively.

If you have any questions about using Twitter for your business, write them in the comments below. And as always, happy swimming!