Even though some recently published reports on Mashable stated that Twitter isn’t growing, there have been other rumors bouncing around that in fact this is not the case and it’s been growing a lot in 2010. No matter what the facts are about Twitter’s growth the important thing is that while it’s popular today you must have a Twitter strategy for your design business.

Why Twitter?

It’s amazing how often people still ask me ‘what Twitter does’ and how on earth it could be any use to their business. In my opinion Twitter is one of the best business tools on the web to ever come out, next to email. Why is it so useful? I’ll explain.

One of the main factors in customer loyalty to your business is customer service. If you provide your client with great service (design or whatever it is you do), and then continue to provide them with great support after you have taken their money they will no doubt be in touch with you again the next time they or their friend has more work for you. You might provide that support by emailing lots during and after the project, or you might follow up a week later with a phone call to check that everything is ok. Your clients love to have you keep in touch with them and they want to know that you’re never far away.

So how does Twitter help specifically?

If you have a Twitter account you can keep all of your clients informed with updates to your business every day, and your client doesn’t even need to have a Twitter account – just a web browser. For example, your ‘Tweets’ might involve:

  • Portfolio updates
  • Notice of when you might be out of the office
  • Links to a recent blog article
  • A service update about your server
  • A friendly comment to a client that also happens to promote their website.

Another powerful example is a re-tweeted suggestion that someone may have made for how you can improve your website. This shows that you are not completely arrogant about your design and you are constantly looking to evolve and enhance your work, but also it makes your clients (and followers) aware that you listen to them and want to involve them in your community.

What about other types of business?

For businesses like mine, which is more of a product offering service that people sign up for, Twitter is invaluable. I set up a Twitter account for Project Bubble the day that I uploaded the website and had followers within 24 hours. I now have over 500 followers and the website has only been live for 3 months.

If you run a business like Project Bubble where you are less likely to know your customers (unlike freelancer designers who know their clients), then Twitter is even more useful. You can start to build a community by doing things like re-tweeting comments or suggestions, perhaps even the praise you get. Service status updates are even more useful and necessary. Last week I had to make a few changes to the core functionality of the server, I knew this would result in perhaps 2-3 minutes of downtime and possibly some weird behaviours with the front-end. With Twitter I could tell everyone about this planned update so they knew to expect it. As it turned out everything was fine and the moment came and went with no downtime.

How to build a strong Twitter strategy

I will set up a Twitter account the day I launch a new business and link to it straight away. I don’t want to miss one potential follower. In the case of Project Bubble I linked to the Twitter account prominently on the website, but also in any notification emails that got sent out (for example a sign up form). I would also mention the Twitter account on blog posts, comments and even sometimes in the actual User Interface. I would strongly encourage them to follow on Twitter so that they could be kept up to date with things, but also have a voice in the community about things like suggestions, feedback and development.

Does Your Design Business Have a Twitter Strategy?The Twitter link on the website had to be prominent, and in the ‘global navigation’ (top right). I also wanted it to be clear that it was Twitter by having the bird icon resting on top of the link (people will see the bird and instantly associate Twitter with it).

Other ways to integrate Twitter in to your website is with a jQuery plugin like this one which grabs your tweets and inserts them in to the page with Javascript.

However you choose to do it, make sure that it’s almost impossible for your users to not be aware that you have a Twitter account and that it’s really, really easy for them to click on the link to it.

Real-time

We live in a world where everything is up-to-the-minute and real-time. Take advantage of this and keep your clients up to date with your work as you do it, in real-time. This might be a distraction to some of you, but if you can do it right it will serve your online identity and help you establish a large following. Let’s say for example that you need feedback on a design and you need to know if something ‘feels right’. By Tweeting your design with TwitPic you can get instant feedback from your designer followers (or even old clients) whilst showing off your amazing design skills to the world. You could even set up a Poll through PollDaddy and involve your followers that way, I do this a lot for Project Bubble users.

Your daily bread

Bring Twitter in to your day-to-day routine. When you wake up in the morning and go to your desk (presuming you work from home!) start Tweeting about your most recent creative ideas, perhaps share some inspiration with your clients/followers that you found on Inspired, perhaps mention a few clients in a tweet and check they are happy with your recent work.

If you make Twitter a habit then you will keep your clients/followers happy of course, but you will hopefully also end up getting new followers that could result in more work for you.

I read somewhere that the amount of followers you have is kind of like a ‘social currency’. I like that and I do think elements of it are true, but in reality it’s not about the amount of followers you have it’s about keeping your clients happy and doing everything you can to make your business accessible to those who know about you and those that don’t, yet.

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you already agree that using Twitter for your business is like common sense then why not share your Twitter URLs in the comments and perhaps mention how it has helped you.

You can follow me at @stulogy and you can follow Project Bubble at @projectbubble.