The Business of Twitter(ing)

What is Twitter?

The best definition and breakdown we have come across was in a article titled “Can all that Twitters turn to gold amid the gloom?” by Michael Liedtke from the Associated Press (AP) when he defined twitter as:

“….the 21st-century version of the telegraph.  Here’s how Twitter works:  After setting up a free account, people are encouraged to post frequent updates about what they are doing, seeing and feeling.  The messages, known as “tweets”, must be limited to 140 characters and can be sent from a mobile phone or a computer.  Althought updates are available for anyone to see, Twitter users usually set up their accounts to monitor the tweets of people they know and admire.  These “followers” are automatically fed tweets from people they are shadowing.”

Other good definitions we have heard thrown around are the “next generation of a AOL instant messenger away message” or a “independent variation of Facebook’s status update.”

How can Twitter benefit you and your business?

Twitter and Marketing: A General Overview

Twitter is one of the 4 top social media sites for marketing.  There’s been a great deal of articles on how Twitter can be used for marketing purposes and we think most of them can be condensed to the simple aim of tracking and directing attention. Twitter allows you to monitor how influencers think or feel, you can also get into their attention zone via active networking.

For businesses, Twitter is another channel which connects current and potential customers with your product or brand. It allows deeply infiltration into the lifestyles of interested participants, which helps to build brand persistence/loyalty.

In its most obvious form, Twitter can be seen as a traffic generation tool. The placement of links within profiles and conversations can direct visitors to a specific website and is especially powerful if you pitch to early adopters and influencers.

As a lead acquisition tool, it doesn’t always reach the audience you want. Most Twitter users are somewhat web savvy and it is extremely difficult to target a specific subset of the general demographic and determine their level of potential interest.

As there isn’t an option to advertise within Twitter (unlike Facebook), Twitter marketing is a task that involves two-way audience engagement, on the part of the marketer or business owner. In a way, this is a good thing.

The Problem With Twitter

Twitter is not a difficult tool to use so there’s a low barrier of entry; Anyone can pick it up. What really matters is how it impacts your online habits and daily life. For many, Twitter is a distraction, albeit one that is very much welcome.

It saps your attention and pulls your focus away from other tasks. Kathy Sierra goes a step further and talks about the very real fear of being disconnected:

Ironically, services like Twitter are simultaneously leaving some people with a feeling of not being connected, by feeding the fear of not being in the loop. By elevating the importance of being “constantly updated,” it amplifies the feeling of missing something if you’re not checking Twitter (or Twittering) with enough frequency.

The issue here is that effective Twitter usage necessarily involves an investment in time and attention. One needs to be plugged in to a certain extent to reap the benefits that come from using Twitter. Even listening takes an effort.

17 Ways to Use Twitter

Here is a quick summary of all the ways you can use Twitter for both your professional or personal life. Some of these methods go beyond the use of Twitter as a lifestreaming device:

1.        Personal Branding. Twitter is a social media platform you can use to build your personal brand. It has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality that is connected and approachable. As Twitter adoption increases, new users will be drawn towards well established Twitter personas.

2.        Get Feedback. Need an alternative perspective on how a website looks or the right course of action to take? Blast out a message asking for advice and you’ll receive replies from other users. This collective intelligence can be used as fodder for articles or projects.

3.        Hire People. Need a good logo designer, marketer or programmer? Send out a message asking for recommendations. This is a very quick and easy way to hire freelancers or even companies based on familiar recommendations.

4.        Direct traffic. Twitter can be used to get traffic to your websites or the sites of friends. If you ask your friends to tweet about it, the message will spread faster and further as other active users pick it up. There is a viral nature to all types of news, even on a site like Twitter.

5.        Read News. Twitter users often link to useful sites or articles and can be a source of scoops and alternative news. You can also subscribe to Twitter feeds for specific websites/conferences, which allows you to receive and view content quickly. This is very useful for active social news participants.

6.        Make New Friends. Like any other social network, Twitter has a built-in function for you to befriend and track the messages of other users. This is an easy way for you connect with people outside of your usual circle. Make an effort to add active users you find interesting. A Twitter acquaintance can be developed into a long lasting friendship.

7.        Network for benefits. Twitter can be used as a socializing platform for you to interact with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. It can be used to establish consistent and deeper relationships for future benefits such as testimonials or peer recommendations.

8.        Use it as a To-Do list. Use Twitter to record down what you need to do while you are away from the computer. Mark the tweet as a favorite to file it for referencing. Another alternative is to use an Online task management service that is synced with Twitter. One example is Remember The Milk.

9.        Business Management. Twitter can be used as a company intranet that connects employees to one another. Workers can liaise with each other when working on group projects. Particularly useful when certain workers go out often in the field. Updates could be set to private for security reasons.

10.      Notify Your Customers. Set up a Twitter feed for the specific purpose of notifying customers when new products come in. Customers can subscribe via mobile or RSS for instant notification. Twitter can also be used to provide mini-updates for one-on-one clients.

11.      Take Notes. Twitter provides you with an easy way to record important ideas or concepts you want to explore further. Include links relevant to ideas you want to explore. Note taking can also be done offline via mobile applications.

12.      Event Updates. Businesses can use Twitter as a means to inform event participants and latest event happenings/changes. This is a hassle-free way of disseminating information, especially when you don’t have the means to set up a direct mobile link between you and the audienc

13.      Find Prospects. Twitter can be used as a means to find potential customers or clients online. Do a search for keywords related to your product on Twitter Search and then follow users. Tweet about topics parallel to your product and close prospects away from public channels by using direct messages or offline communications. Discretion and skill is needed in this area.

14.      Provide Live coverage. Twitter’s message size limit prevents detailed coverage of events but it can allow you to provide real-time commentary which may help to spark further discussion or interest on the event as other Twitter users spread the message. Very useful for citizen journalism.

15.      Time Management and Analysis. Twitter can simply be used to keep a detailed record of what you are doing every daily. This might be boring for others but this type of usage is useful when you want to analyze how you spend and manage your time.

16.      Set Up Meetings. Twitter can help you organize impromptu meetups. For example, you can twitter a message while at a cafe, event or art gallery and arrange to meet fellow users at a specific spot. It’s an informal and casual way of arranging a meeting.

17.      Acquire Votes. Send a link to your stories you’ve submitted in other social news sites like Digg. Sometimes your followers will vote up the stories because they agree with it. This allows you to acquire more support for your efforts on other social media websites.

Above is the best introduction that we have found on the web to introduce the business world to the social world of Twitter.  I hope it helps you out because we look forward to learning more about your business (and what you ate for breakfast) 140 characters at a time!