As the numbers we shared yesterday told, small business owners are increasingly moving their budgets from offline media to online. They\u2019re investing less in local directories and more in Web sites and social media. And one social media channel that many small business owners are especially trying to leverage is Twitter. As a SMB owner, you want to make sure that you\u2019re getting the most bang for your buck with whatever platform you\u2019re using. Just because that Twitter account is free to create, doesn\u2019t mean there\u2019s not a cost involved with getting set up, managing it and using it. To help keep Twitter as cost-effective as possible, below are 5 ways to better use Twitter for your small business marketing. Don\u2019t Ignore SEO Value Because Twitter is thought of as a social media tool, SMB owners often forget to apply SEO best practices when they engage there. As a rule, anything that exists on the Web can (and should) be optimized for search. Just because Twitter nofollows the links shared, doesn\u2019t mean they can\u2019t bring value to your brand or that you shouldn\u2019t be trying to collect as much SEO value from your Twitter account as you can. Some best practices we recommend: Use a Twitter handle that reflects the product or service that you offer or the experience you\u2019re trying to create. Optimize your Twitter bio, using important keywords + a link to your site. Use hashtags to categorize your tweets to make them easy for like-minded users to find and follow. Integrate Twitter into the rest of your site to encourage others to share your content and to build awareness. Tweet links to your blog posts, product pages, Web site to expose them both to users and the search engines. With the search engines increasingly integrating Twitter data into the SERPs, taking care to optimize your engagement there can pack a pretty effective punch. You don\u2019t want to leave anything on the table. Follow Better People Your Twitter experience is directly tied to the users you choose to follow. If you flood your account with lots of random people who will never have an interest in your brand, then you\u2019re really wasting your time. Use tools like Twitter Search, Listorious, WeFollow and Twitter Grader to help you find like-minded Twitter users and people who have an interest in what you\u2019re all about. For example, doing a Twitter search for a popular industry blog or topic will you help find folks who have the same interests, mining Listorious (or lists created by other Twitter users) for categories related to what you do will help you find users who identify themselves similarly. Participating in Twitter chats is another great way to find people to connect with. What you don\u2019t want to do is get blinded by Follower numbers and lean toward only engaging with A-listers. Instead, focus on locating real-life customers or people who could become customers. For more tips, you may want to check out Amber Naslund\u2019s post on how to build a Twitter community with substance. Enhance Your Tweets Sometimes it\u2019s hard to spark up a conversation with people you don\u2019t know in real life. If that\u2019s the case, why not start off by creating or sharing something worth talking about? Enhance your tweets by incorporating different types of media and something worth a conversation. For example, maybe you want to post: Photos of your business, your product, what you\u2019re having for lunch, etc. YouTube links of your favorite artist, a tour of your office, a recent presentation you gave, etc. Links to surveys or polls to get user feedback. Links to reviews, discussion questions, etc. Product coupons, links to promotions, special Twitter deals If you\u2019re having a difficult time getting responses from people, it may be time to spice up your tweets. Distribute Wider Twitter should be integrated into the rest of your business activities to help you distribute your brand message much further than to just the folks who follow you. Because while you\u2019re followers are great, you want to make sure your content gets in front of as many eyeballs as possible. What can you do to cast your net a little wider? Depending on your business objectives, it may make sense for you to sync your Twitter account with you Facebook or LinkedIn profiles (careful with this one \u2013 different audiences require different messages), to put a Twitter widget on your homepage to build awareness to current customers and search traffic, actively encourage followers to RT your message, use automation sparingly to manage your account, etc. You don\u2019t want to get too aggressive but you should always be looking for new ways to smartly cross-link accounts and get your message to as many people as possible. Track it I really think most people would see a much better result from Twitter if they only took the time to track it. If you\u2019re just haphazardly throwing content out there then, yeah, it can be hard to know what\u2019s working, what\u2019s not and where you have to go back to the drawing board. Instead of running around in the dark, start monitoring which tweets or content pieces attract users, if your Twitter traffic is going up or down, which Twitter calls to action get the best response, which users are most useful to your brand, etc. None of this is difficult to find out, but it could give you valuable insight to the effect Twitter is having on your brand and what you can do to improve it. Those are just a few ways I think small business owners can do a better job leveraging Twitter. What have I missed?