06/22/2015 08:35 am ET Updated Jun 22, 2016

Spend an Hour a Day to Win Customers on Twitter

The marketing playing field was leveled when social media became widely available to small business owners. Entrepreneurs can now easily engage with customers and prospects like never before. However, we know that time for a small business owner is a precious and limited commodity. Focusing on one platform at a time is the best way to reap real benefits from using social media to market your business. As many of you know, I started with Twitter because it was fast and a great way to keep your eyes on conversations taking place in your industry and forging relationships with targets. As with any effort in business, if you don't have a plan, you'll wind up wasting time, energy and money. Here are five ways to take just an hour a day to win customers on Twitter

Have a goal.

Make sure you have goals in mind when beginning your Twitter marketing program. This could be to attract followers, drive traffic to your website, or generate sales. You could also make it goal connect with three influencers a week or find five great articles to retweet. Your goals may change and evolve as you see the results of your efforts.

Automate your posts.

There are many services that will allow you to streamline your Twitter marketing experience. Some social media management systems will even suggest specific posts to retweet. My favorite scheduler tool is Sprout Social. It is important to keep track of topics, industry leaders, or new sources that can provide alternate sources of information relevant to your customers, so that you are not a duplicate parrot in the Twitter tree.

The best advantage that social media management systems offer is the ability to queue your posts in advance, so that your updates can spread out around the clock rather than in a narrow burst if you published them manually. Spending just a few minutes scheduling your tweets on one day can net you activity all week.

Respond to mentions or hashtags.

The temptation to not engage is a serious one when every second counts, but social media is inherently social, so it is important to look for mentions or use of your custom hashtags and reply. While some social media all-stars will say "hi" and "thanks" for every follow and retweet, it is better to look for authentic engagement that reflects the fundamental mindset of your business.

Stay focused.

On social media it is easy to get swept up in the fray. Avoid voicing your opinion on every brouhaha of the moment (unless that is part of your brand). Keep your tweets consolidated to topics related to your field or industry. Stay on task so that you can actually accomplish something on Twitter in 30 minutes a day.

Starting with a strategy for building a customer base on Twitter will ensure that you don't squander your time tweeting. Go ahead, set a timer and see how Twitter can help your business grow.

This article was originally published under the title Engage Your Customers on Twitter in Just 30 Minutes a Day at

Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady  is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, which is syndicated through The Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.