Ever since its star turn in the US elections, social networking site Twitter has been billed as the internet’s rising star. It might have worked for Obama – but what can Twitter do for your business?
With every visionary from Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee hailing social media as the future of the internet, there is intense interest these days in what the next big social online networking platform will be. While the staggering growth of the major sites like Facebook and YouTube shows no sign of slowing down, there’s now a new kid on the block: Twitter.
Social networking and microblogging application Twitter has been steadily building in popularity since its launch in 2006 and, after receiving a major boost thanks to its use by US presidential candidates earlier this year, it now looks set to have its ‘hockey stick moment’ of exponential mainstream growth. Tech savvy entrepreneurs and executives might have been among the first wave of Twitter users, but most businesspeople out there still have little understanding about what Twitter is, or the value it could add to their business.
The good news is, Twitter has incredible potential as a business tool, and only takes a few minutes to get your head around. The Twitter basics are relatively simple for anyone familiar with blogs and social networking sites. Essentially, you sign up to create your Twitter profile, then search for contacts (called ‘followers’) who will receive you short-form posts (called ‘tweets’). Tweets are limited to 140 characters (hence the term ‘microblogging’), similar to status updates in Facebook.
One of the key points of difference between Twitter and other social networking sites is that you can follow someone (i.e. receive their tweets) regardless of whether they follow you. This makes Twitter a great way to follow your business heroes, or anyone else who is too scarily famous to approach directly! Likewise, if you or your business attracts a large following, you can opt out of receiving every message from all your contacts.
Three key factors make Twitter a very powerful tool for your business. Firstly, because tweets are public and fully searchable, Twitter is an incredible tool for market research. You can set up alerts when certain keywords are used in tweets, to monitor what the public are saying about you and your competitors’ brands.
Next, because so many industry leaders have adopted Twitter as communication platform, it’s a great place to follow the experts in your field. You can passively follow their daily tips and messages, or make contact and start a conversation.
Lastly, you can use Twitter to communicate with your audience directly. This might be a matter of tweeting regularly to direct traffic to your blog or sales website. Or you might promote special events or offers to Twitter followers. The possibilities for building your online profile are endless.
There are plenty of other business uses for Twitter, and more are developed by the Twitter community every day.