We all know that social media is changing the way we do business.\u00a0 Twitter is one of the fastest-growing social media sites, and with good reason.\u00a0 Not only is it easy - but it can help grow your business.\u00a0 Here is some information on Twitter, and how you can use it for business. What is it? Twitter is a free service that allows anyone to say (write) anything in 140 characters or less. How Do You Sign Up? Go to www.twitter.com and create a profile.\u00a0 One tip:\u00a0 create a username that brands either you or your business.\u00a0 For instance, JoAnn Hines, the Packaging Diva, uses "packagingdiva" as her Twitter name.\u00a0 I use "mzfisher." What Kind of Messages Do You Send? This is the heart of the matter, and can make or break your experience. Top 5 Types of Twitter Messages, to Grow Your Business: 1.\u00a0Thank you - make sure you include the "@" sign before the Twitter name:\u00a0 For example:\u00a0 "Thanks @indiebusiness for being a terrific guest on our teleseminar on 'How to Use Video to Grow Your Business.'"\u00a0\u00a0 Why this works:\u00a0 You are thanking someone, which always helps strengthen a relationship; you are showing others that you know and have a relationship with another person that they might think highly of; and you are subtly promoting something you offered in your business at the same time.\u00a0 In addition, the person you are thanking, if you include the "@" symbol, will be able to tell that you thanked him or her (even if they aren't on Twitter at the time, they can search on Twitter for any mention of "@" and the Twitter name to see who is talking about them).\u00a0 You can also let that person know through a DM ("Direct Message") that you mentioned him or her. 2.\u00a0Useful information (non-promotional) - if you have a way people can save money, or learn something interesting, share it.\u00a0 Why this works:\u00a0 You are helping others, for the purpose of providing information, with no ulterior motive (such as trying to sell your products or services). 3.\u00a0Kudos - one of my personal favorites.\u00a0 Did you read a great article that featured someone you are following?\u00a0 I do this often, with folks like Guy Kawasaki and Tony Hsieh of Zappos. A typical message:\u00a0 "@zappos - Amazing idea on recruiting in Inc. Magazine." Why this works:\u00a0 You are offering sincere congratulations - always welcome - and strengthening relationships. You are also showing that you know these folks, which means that others who respect them may follow you. 4.\u00a0Personal - one of my favorites, but this one is tricky. The key is to connect with others in some way. If you send personal thoughts, make sure they are meaningful. If you send messages like "Going to have a ham sandwich for lunch," it's a waste of people's time.\u00a0 Something like "Getting ready to walk in the Relay for Life for ACS" is a way to potentially connect with others with similar interests. Why this works:\u00a0 You're showing your human side, and people connect with people. 5.\u00a0Re-tweets - this means that you are forwarding a message from someone else.\u00a0 The way to do this is to put "RT" before the message.\u00a0 Why this works:\u00a0 This shows that you respect an idea of someone else, which strengthens your bond with that person.\u00a0 It also shows that you know this person, and his/her followers might follow you because of that. Why Didn't I Include Promotional Messages in the Top 5? It's really easy to include promotional messages in Twitter, and I think most of us (including myself), do this too often. An occasional "sign up for my teleseminar" or "free shipping ends today" are okay, but they usually won't endear you to your audience. Social media is really about the relationship, not so much about the hard sell. Quick Twitter Tips: Include your photo in your Twitter profile.\u00a0 People want to connect with people. Include your business and personal interests in your profile description, so people can find ways to bond with you. Use the DM\u00a0 ("Direct Message") feature.\u00a0 If you and another person are following each other, this is a way to connect with that person directly, outside of the public Twitter space. It's a way to build and strengthen the relationship. Tweet during business hours.\u00a0 I learned this from JoAnn Hines, @packagingdiva.\u00a0 This is the way to make sure that the most people will see your tweets. Use www.tinyurl.com to save characters on Web site addresses.\u00a0 You enter a Web site address or link into TinyUrl and it makes a smaller-sized link, which is important, since 140 characters for Twitter messages can make it hard to cover all of your information. Download a mobile application or other applications, such as TweetDeck, to make access to Twitter easier when you're on the go or doing other things, so you can participate more easily. Final Thoughts. Used properly, Twitter is a great way to create new and strengthen existing relationships.\u00a0 And, after all, that's how you grow a business! * * * * * About the Author: Margie Zable Fisher is the President of Zable Fisher Public Relations, a small business public relations firm, and is the publisher of Women Business Owners Digest (www.wbodigest.com). She offers free award-winning Public Relations tips at www.zfpr.com.