Twitter marketing strategy is the strangest of beasts. For the new small business it will seem strange that you have a limited amount of space on a site such as Twitter to write your thing, about the same size as a text message. This is a challenge for Twitter purists who prefer messages to be 140 characters, but your social network marketing profile can stretch to the . It also makes it hard for businesses to tout their wares. You can buy a minute of an ad break on TV to scream "You buy one, you get one free" in a pirates outfit, but how do you put it in just 140 characters?

Twitter Logo Bird White on BlueCredit: Twitter.comThe real starting of a social media marketing strategy for small business will depend heavily on what your target market is. Are you targeting your active customers to get them expanding to your Twitter brand or are you bringing new customers in? Well the two actually go quite well hand in hand as long as you have something useful (and sensible) to write; and if you are able to get one on following your brand's account then there is a better chance that you can meet the other.

  • Get your first Twitter followers the easy way

    If you have a core brand already then pushing customers towards your Twitter account will be easy. Offering your customers an incentive to follow your small business Twitter account is the quickest way to get established customers to sign up; whether it is free post and packing or even money off using Twitter to post a link to a dedicated webpage or special code will encourage this.

    BE WARNED: You must ensure that your account is only made up of posts that contain links or look automated. As I have been reminded below, this is a breach of the Twitter Terms Of Service.

    Your customers might send your tweet on or new customers might stumble across your tweet by chance; but it will still be reaching a new social media audience.

  • Get your followers the hard way 

    Starting a Twitter account for a brand new business is going to be difficult to get followers. You may be followed by your great-grandmother and your dog; but your Twitter presence will not enhance your business standing nor vice-versa. Being active on your Twitter account and interacting will build your Twitter account, where building your website and pushing your Twitter account there will help the other way.

In reality having and managing a Twitter account is really easy. There are a few basic - and not necessarily online centric - marketing strategies that could help you to build both your small business and your Twitter account :

1. Follow your target market on Twitter:

If you are going to be a tech start-up writer, follow the Twitter accounts that blog about tech start-up's and the companies that are tech start-up's themselves. When you follow them they can see that, they can follow you back as well; that's the hard part done because then they automatically (in most cases) see anything you tweet and you are already then advertising to them.

Twitter actually helps you with its "Who To Follow" and "Find Friends" pages. These are found on the Twitter web interface and might not appear on all third party Twitter applications.

2. Schedule Tweets :

Just because you are up at 2 am writing your blog, it does not mean that you can not tell the world while you are snoring at 6am! Many of the social networking applications (such as Hootsuite or other social media dashboards I tested) let you pre-schedule tweets.

3. Don't Mix Business with Personal:

GoldenBlock on TwitterI have a great example of this in my Twitter feed. There is a small hobby-company in Guildford that deals with knitted products and have their own Twitter account. Problem is that the owner also talks about their private life on there. Is that really a great idea that your customers know you are hung over the next morning, or the tax man is investigating you?

4. Use Twitter Features to Your Advantage

Twitter users make extensive use of a number of features to find each other and discuss the features of the day. The most popular of these is the hashtag # ) and the idea behind this is that keywords within a conversation or trend are preceded by a hashtag in so that people can find each other.  Hashtags have even infiltrated the UK Government during budget speeches and even the Home Office bowed to a Twitter hashtag that went viral, using it in their official press release[3591] on broadening online surveillance.

Twitter users are also able to reply to tweets regardless of whether they are directed at them, or even following. Replying to like-minded tweets or even celebrities may elicit a response, exposing you to their own followers and gaining the chance to gain interest if you are talking about your product or service.

To maintain interest the small business should make sure that a Twitter presence is maintained. The problem with some sole-trader companies is that this will take some time and to do this takes some dedication. If you do not have someone who can offer a customer service role as well as advertising on Twitter (possibly alongside their current role?) then you might find it more effective to base your social network presence elsewhere.

If I have already scared you away from the idea of Twitter marketing - and it's not right for every small business anyway - then remember that not everyone is an online target market. There are more traditional and cost-effective methods of advertising such as on local radio and that is certainly a consideration if you intent to pay someone to manage your online Internet presence.

But taking things forward you have to make sure that you are able to support your strategy. Once you have developed a following that is bringing in something of a trade, you should make sure that you have spare capacity to match any new lines of demand. Some customers may decide that an effective method of communication is to contact you via Twitter. Depending on their business savvy this might be either via the publicly visible timeline or via the Twitter Direct Message system.... the latter is more secure. When this starts to happen, you must make a conscious decision about how you are going to deal with these customers, remembering that Data Protection is a major factor. We digress, but if you take the plunge and start marketing on Twitter though, lets hope it is not too far away in the future.