Today is Twitter's birthday. It's been seven years since the popular social network was first launched.
In honor of the milestone, we've compiled this list of tips for how entrepreneurs can get the most out of Twitter for their businesses:
1. Ensure your Twitter account reflects your brand.
Believe it or not, some companies don't take full advantage of Twitter for branding purposes. When setting up your account, create a handle that's related to your brand name and use your company logo as your Twitter picture. More: Building Your Brand on Twitter
2. Keep photo size in mind.
When choosing images for your profile, be mindful of the type of image you're selecting and the size it will appear. Profile pictures, for instance, are small: 81 x 81 pixels. Your header image should measure 520 x 260 pixels. More: How to Size Images on Social Media: A Cheat Sheet (Infographic)
3. Go beyond general, impersonal marketing messages.
Of course you want to use Twitter to spread the word about your products and services. But if that's all you share, and if you share them frequently, you can bore your customers and turn them away. In addition to your marketing, sprinkle in unique, personalized messages that engage consumers one-on-one, as well as links to interesting, useful articles online. More: 10 Things Entrepreneurs Should Be Tweeting About
4. Don't ignore customer service.
An increasing number of your customers are most likely taking to Twitter to voice their satisfaction -- and potentially their problems -- with your products and services. Don't ignore these messages. Monitor Twitter for mentions of your brand and respond quickly to any questions or concerns. You might also consider creating a secondary account specifically for customer service. More: 5 Tips for Using Social Media as a Customer Service Tool
5. Use hashtags wisely.
You can use hashtags -- a word or series of characters preceded by the # symbol -- to categorize messages and can make it easier for other Twitter users to search for tweets. But remember that you can't control what your followers and others on Twitter will say using hashtags you've created. Some of those comments could be negative or otherwise used in ways you didn't intend. More: What You Need to Know About Using Hashtags on Twitter
6. Play nice.
You might be tempted to talk politics on Twitter. Or bash your competition or voice personal opinions about sensitive topics. But if you wouldn't say these things in front of clients, it's probably best to keep them off your branded social media accounts. On Twitter, adopt a tone that reflects your company's image and keep your personal opinions to yourself. More: The 5 Biggest Twitter Marketing Fails of 2012
7. Try creating a Twitter contest.
Help spread the word about your products and services for free. When a third party spreads positive comments about your products or services, it gives your company credibility and helps sell your products. More: How to Create a Successful Twitter Contest
8. Track analytics to develop more effective marketing campaigns.
Although Twitter doesn't really offer an internal analytics program for standard users, tools such as Tweriod and Followerwonk can allow users to track things like the geographic distribution of followers and the hours your followers are most active. Understanding this type of information can help you plan more effective marketing campaign and schedules. More: How to Mine Social Networks for Valuable Customer Data
9. Clean up your account.
On Twitter, one of your primary goals should be to interact with followers. Consider unfollowing low-quality accounts including spammers and people who don't follow you back. FriendorFollow is a popular service that makes it easy to see and disconnect from any non-followers. More: 3 Steps to Streamlining and Improving Your Twitter Account