Vince Robisch writes premium web content for businesses that believe their site is an extension of their brand. He believes keyword stuffing looks ridiculous and that Twitter can be used effectively by local businesses. You can find him at his personal blog Help Me Reinvent or on Twitter @vincerobisch as he feverishly prepares for the launch of his new site.

With over 100 million people estimated to be using Twitter, its worldwide reach is without question. Companies with an online presence like @DellOutlet and companies with physical locations around the world like @Starbucks have over two million followers collectively who can all be served via their computer or a short drive from wherever they are located. But how does a local business use Twitter? What if you need local customers and can’t do business with people outside of your limited geographical territory?

The answer is that Twitter can still be an extremely effective social media tool for a locally-based business. Regardless of your geographic reach, there are many techniques you will want to understand in using Twitter to grow your business. For a complete understanding of those techniques, you should just buy Kyle’s book, Twitter Marketing For Dummies and save yourself a significant amount of time trying to figure Twitter out on your own.

The goal of this post is to get you startedon a targeted local use of Twitter. This list will take you from creating your Twitter profile to actually converting a sale. Here are the essential Twitter building blocks for a business seeking local customers:

  • Be A Person – People generally like to know who the person is on the other side of the Twitter account. At the very least, use your logo in your profile and have employees of your business be some of your followers. Many businesses have had success by an actual person (president/CEO) being the face of their Twitter account. You can still link your profile to your company website.
  • Have A Conversation – Don’t just spam people with offers and tell them to come to your restaurant or store.
  • Search For Your Company Name – Find out what people are saying (if anything) about your company and respond. Answering questions and responding to complaints can build serious goodwill in the Twitter community.
  • Retweet – People really appreciate it if you retweet something interesting. It not only gives you more to tweet about, it builds a connection with the person you retweeted.
  • Search For People To Follow Using Your Email Contact List – This will tell you who out of your actual customer base is using Twitter.
  • Research Who Your Local Followers Are Interested In And Follow Them – If this is done in conjunction with the previous step, it’s almost like getting a free list of potential referrals.
  • Use Search Tools To Find People In Your Geographical Area You can use the “Find People/Find on Twitter” tool with your Twitter account and search by city or state. You can also use tools like WeFollow, Twellowhood, and Tweepz, among others, to identify local accounts.
  • Follow Local Businesses – Think of the local businesses that you frequent and follow them. They are likely to have a similar customer base.
  • Don’t Follow Every Local Media Outlet – Many local radio and television stations have a HUGE following. The problem is that they also often don’t engage in a conversation. They simply tweet and don’t listen or respond. If you would like to possibly gain some media attention, follow specific individuals associated with the outlet that actually interact on Twitter.
  • Follow National People That You Genuinely Like – It’s not a bad idea to show you have some interests outside of your neighborhood. One thing you might want to consider though is whether following certain people might alienate potential customers. For instance, do you really want to label your business with a certain political viewpoint based on who you are following?
  • Let Twitter Do The Work For You – Twitter’s new “Suggestions for You” tool might make finding followers easier.
  • Use TwitPics – Show some in-store and behind the scenes photos of your business. It gives people in the community a certain comfort level before they ever enter your physical location.
  • Post Events – You might even offer a discount to your followers and tweet a specific promotional code.
  • Promote Your Current Customers To Build Loyalty – Retweet their content or simply tweet something nice about @currentcustomer.
  • Create An Event – Based on your research up to this point, determine the local influencers and invite them in for an event or give them a special offer.
  • Wait Patiently For The Twitter Business Center To Launch.
  • Send Out Instant Coupons – Gauge the responsiveness of your followers and encourage business on slow days.

The possibilities are endless. By now though, you should have enough information to take steps in utilizing Twitter to grow your local customer base. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and tweet your business to another level!