When it comes to advising small business owners about getting the most out of Twitter, Lisa Barone lays it on the line in “Be Loud on Twitter or Don’t Bother Trying,” which recently ran on Small Business Trends. Twitter is noisy, says the VP of Strategy at an East Coast web design and development firm. To effectively use Twitter, which is the second most popular social network, according to Nielsen and NM Incite in their  Social Media Report 2012, you need to rise about the noise level. Essentially, it’s not just how much you Tweet, but what you Tweet that makes your company and brand stand out.

Being memorable – in a positive way of course — is a goal of any marketing effort. It’s more challenging today because any company can easily and cost-effectively jump into the social networking conversation. That’s why your Tweets – or any of your social media posts for that matter – need to strongly convey your message. You also need to be sure not to disappoint your followers with useless or irrelevant content.

Here are a few of Barone’s Twitter suggestions:

Use characters wisely: You have 140 characters to get your message across. Make sure they count. Also consider that Twitter users are looking for quick nuggets to encourage them to click on your link or something to re-tweet to share with their friends. Grab their attention early on in your message to get followers to act.

Personalize your content: Keep in mind that people who follow you have decided to do so because they value your input. If you share a link you find useful, add your commentary to it or pick out a line from the post and use that instead of the title.

Find ways to engage:  Be proactive. Don’t wait for people to come to you; insert yourself in the conversation. Search to find out what people are saying about your topic and jump in. Find conversations related to your business and introduce yourself. Connect with users who retweet your content.

And as you are planning or revising your Twitter strategy for the New Year, here are few things to AVOID:

  • Don’t repeat Tweets excessively: There are a lot of Tweets out there and yours may be missed.
  • Don’t repost a Tweet repeatedly throughout the day. A few times is acceptable.
  • Don’t retweet a compliment: Retweeting comments or compliments about your company and brand is frowned upon by Twitter users. If you want to thank someone for a comment, better to reply directly.
  • Don’t post generic questions: Find something more relevant to ask than “How was your weekend?”
  • Don’t overuse hashtags: Make sure your use of hashtags makes sense and is relevant.
  • Don’t forget links: When you refer to an article, make sure to include the link. Do add a meaningful comment to the post, however.

Plan for trial and error as you build your Twitter following. See what content is helping to raise your brand visibility and customer engagement by virtue of retweets, site traffic and comments on your blog. Keep in because something doesn’t work, don’t discard it. Try rewording your Tweets to see if they can be more effective in being heard and shared.

Suggested reading: Five Ways Twitter can boost your small business marketing