Social media is a must for ecommerce businesses. With well over 300 million users, Twitter is one of the world’s largest social networking sites. No business can afford to ignore that many potential customers. Twitter is especially relevant as it allows for instant communication with consumers. Direct dealing takes some practice, but it’s worth your while. You might even come to enjoy it. Following are some handy tips on how to use Twitter to boost your ecommerce business.

Determine Your Goals

Before diving in, take a little time to determine what it is you want to accomplish. Let’s say you design chic statement necklaces. Are you looking to expand your customer base? Use it mainly for customer support? Establish yourself as an expert in the field? Spend some time exploring Twitter to learn about the top influencers in your sphere, as well as the places and topics your ideal followers are visiting and tweeting about.

Set Up A Profile

Potential followers virtually always check out a profile before following, so yours must clearly explain who you are and what you have to offer. Your Twitter name, aka your handle, should match your brand name. If it’s already taken, add a dash or make some other small change to create something unique but as close to the original as possible. It’s far better to do this than have an unrelated handle. You also need a profile picture and a header image: ideally, your company logo. Also include a few details about your business, such as a website or location. For a consistent, recognizable presentation, the colours, fonts, and images should match those of your website.

Mastering Hashtags & Mentions

To make your business easier to find on Twitter, you’ll want to hashtag your tagline or target keyword. For example, a specialty olive oil vendor might use #gourmet. Mentioning relevant influencers is another effective strategy. If the influencer likes or retweets your post, you’ve instantly boosted your reach with very little effort on your part. Use two — but no more than two — relevant hashtags or mentions per tweet. You must also regularly like, retweet and comment on others’ posts. This will encourage people to visit your page and retweet themselves, also increasing your exposure.

Do Market Research

Twitter offers an excellent way to check out your competition, your target market and your heroes. Research hashtags related to your business and join the discussion. You can find your niche by using an app such as RiteTag to locate the most relevant content in your industry. Follow trade leaders and learn from them. Twitter can be quite inspirational.

Improve Customer Service

Twitter provides an excellent venue for customers to contact you directly. While having complaints aired in a public forum may sound intimidating, when people see you handling the issue in a timely and professional manner, it can actually improve the public’s view of your business. Keep in mind, customers don’t only complain. When you receive positive feedback, thank them, and then be sure to retweet the praise!

Boost Sales

Yet one more reason you need to be on Twitter: the ‘Buy’ button allows consumers to make purchases directly through the site. But the best way to drive sales is to publish quality content. This means regularly posting a variety of tweets that are interesting and relevant to your business. It may include a catchy image, a product video, a contest, or positive customer reviews. Customers are often quite willing to promote their purchases, but don’t necessarily do so without prompting. Offering rewards, such as discounts or other incentives, can be an effective motivator.

Using the above tips, you’ll be tweeting like a pro in no time, and hopefully having some fun while boosting your ecommerce business.

About the author: Sue Seabury has written and edited many books, including Platform Strategy: How to Unlock the Power of Communities and Networks to Grow Your Business. She lives in Baltimore with her family.