This is a guest post by Beth Hrusch. Beth is Senior Editor at Interact Media, a website content  development service.
Companies both large and small are jumping on the social media bandwagon. Some have large marketing budgets, and some—not so much. One of the great things about social media for marketing is that it gives everyone an equal chance to reach their target markets, regardless of the money they have to spend. Twitter, for example, is becoming recognized as a pretty agile tool for businesses of all sizes.
- Find your groups- Once you start your business account, link up with like-minded users with TwittGroups , a tool that helps you find the people who share your interests, and therefore may be interested in your company. A neat feature of this tool is the fact that you can use it to join groups from other social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You can also create a group here—a great way to draw others to you.
- Start conversations. Once you gather together your groups, start engaging with them. This is called “tweeting”. You can share industry news, links, photos and videos, etc. Of course, you only have 140 characters on Twitter, including links, so just include what’s absolutely necessary and shorten your links with bit.ly  or another url shortener.
- Follow and be followed. Twitter allows you to follow anyone you find interesting, and they can follow you back. “Following” is really just a way for people to stay in touch on Twitter, by receiving updates, latest posts, etc. from each other in real time. You can protect your profile, which would require others who want to follow you to request it. Otherwise, anyone can follow you, and you can remove them later if you wish. For businesses, this is the way to communicate with groups and know that those people are receiving the latest tweets.
- Post live updates. Twitter is a handy way to update your followers in real time. Since it is so compatible with mobile devices (remember the 140 character limit), you can send people comments and news from wherever you are. Are you attending a trade show or conference? Use Twitter to tell everyone what’s going on, on the spot. Even the CEO who’s too busy to keep up with the company blog can fire off a tweet from the road and stay in touch.
- Make announcements. Are you a retailer who’s having a sale? Launching a new product or service? Hiring a new executive? Post a note or link to a press release through a Twitter tweet. You can even alert followers when you have a special coming up, or want to entice them with a sneak preview.
- Promote. Business promotion accounts for about 75% of all marketing activity on social media. Post links to your latest blogs, white papers, articles and videos, so others can easily access them. Start discussions about topics related to your industry. Invite feedback. This establishes your authority, which is ultimately the best way to promote your business.
Twitter can be an effective marketing tool if used properly. Even if you’ve never used social media for marketing before, it’s easy to get started with it and become part of a community of potential customers, and even fellow industry thought leaders. Update your account regularly, and take time to build the relationships that lead to sales. Your efforts will pay off in increased exposure and connections that expand your customer base.