Twitter has been around for a good few years now, but many new and small business owners still eye it with some suspicion. If you are a Twitter user anyway, then you may be able to see the advantages of using it to build awareness of your new business, but it can be so off-putting for some, especially when they see their time line cluttered with tweets such as ‘I love cheese sandwiches’, or ‘the car didn’t start today’. Why would anyone want to share such odd information? And what’s with the hash tag before some phrases or words?

When we have our ‘work hat’ firmly sitting on our head, we can often forget that social media posts are not always completely serious, and the key word to remember here is ‘social’. The skill to using Twitter or any other social media site to promote your business or to raise recognition of your brand is through friendly and informative chat.

Taking the tweet mentioned above about cheese sandwiches for example, yes it may seem like a pretty pointless post to most people, but if you happened to be an artisan cheese maker creating wonderful new flavours in your dairy workshop, this could be a perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger about their favourite cheese varieties. Anyone passionate about cheese will be interested to find out about you and your cheese making enterprise, and will be keen to buy your new and unusual varieties, and will also be happy to tell all their friends about you too.

Regarding the hash tag, or #, if you are completely unfamiliar with its use on Twitter, then you are witnessing a trend in action. Trends are fun to take part in, and can help you to connect with virtual strangers. Many charities will use the hashtag with a catchy phrase or word to help raise awareness about a particular campaign and to encourage donations toward the cause.

Trends will appear on your home page, and will contain a list of hash tags or keywords that a large group of people are tweeting about at any given moment. So if there is something big happening in world that all the news and media sites are focussed on, such as a hostage situation, or a royal wedding, then you will see these will feature heavily in the list. The trend section will constantly update so you can follow a story as it unfolds in real time.

Here is where you can take advantage of Twitter trends to give your business a little boost. From your Twitter home page, find a trend that interests you and click through the link. Your screen will now populate with your chosen trend and show all the latest tweets and activity for that trend. Some of the tweets may well come from people you already know or follow, but much of the information on your feed will be from complete strangers – but all with a shared interest of the trend.

You can dive right in there and re tweet any tweets that you like and catch your eye. By doing this you will be interacting directly with the tweeter, which they can see, and they may choose to follow you, check out what you are tweeting and re tweet some of your information to their followers, or they may reply direct to you where you can start up a friendly conversation.

It is very easy to find new people to follow through searching trends. If you like what they post, and they seem to be providing good quality information, then by following them they may follow you back.

If you would like to participate in a trend and get your posts in front of like-minded people, then write your tweet and include the trending hash tag and keyword. Check that you typed the hash tag correctly. Go back to the trending section and search for your trend, your tweet should show up on the page.

If your tweet is unique and written with original content, then there will be a good chance that others will re tweet your post, or follow you if they liked what they read. It is always nice to tweet a thank you to anyone new following you because of your tweet, and follow them back too.

Try to be careful with your trending tweets by not sending too many, no more than five is really recommended. If you are commenting on a very hot topic that is in the top ten list, or is a human interest story in the news, then it is acceptable to tweet more on trends.