Twitter for Business - An Introductory Guide

  Most people who signed up with Twitter for the first time didn’t know what to do with the micro-blogging tool. What would you do with th...

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Most people who signed up with Twitter for the first time didn’t know what to do with the micro-blogging tool. What would you do with the 140 characters? How could you use Twitter for business?
The fact that Twitter asks “What are you doing?” on your update page doesn’t help at all. Personally this misleads a lot of people into thinking that it is to broadcast about your activities to your spouse or anyone who cares to know.

If so, how is Twitter related to business?

A Shift in Paradigm

Essentially Twitter allows you to publish anything within 140 characters easily. The limitation of 140 characters (hence the name micro-blogging) is there because it has to fit into one SMS. Because you can tweet with instant messaging, SMS, web and many popular Twitter clients, it becomes a much more useful tool.

I find it is much easier if you never try to answer above question. If you shift the paradigm from “activities” to information sharing, you will see how Twitter can be a very flexible publishing medium to satisfy demand.
It is different from a blog because a blog post tends to be longer. Twitter post, on the other hand, is concise and to the point. You can share any piece of information quickly with Twitter.
Twitterers are able to follow friends and create streams of messages they care to read. Add to the fact that many Twitter tools are available to enhance and make use of the information, Twitter becomes very useful application for research, communication, brand recognition and relationship building.

So, What is Twitter?

Understanding Twitter through a definition is hard, mainly because it has so many facets to talk about. After using it for months, some people may not be able to tell exactly what it is. And if they could, usually the definition is very limited to their perspectives.
I mean if a blogger uses Twitter to network with other bloggers, she tends to define it as a communication tool among peers. While there is nothing wrong with it, the definition is quite limited if you compare that to what it is able to do.
According to Twitter.com:
Twitter is a service for friends, family and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?
As part of the service, whoever follows you will receive whatever you tweet. It will be available via the Web, through Twitter client applications or even SMS. The latter if your followers (friends or whoever interested) activate this feature.

How Do People Use Twitter for Business?

Twitter Traffic

The early adopters of Twitter tend to post about personal stuff but now it is possible to have an account and mostly talk about your business.
No longer you are able to jump on the Twitter bandwagon without a strategy and expect to get a crowd of followers, unless of course, you are some kind of celebrity. I mean, a celebrity certainly has an edge but still she has to own a strategy to carry on with Twitter.
How could you use Twitter for business? This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it should get you started in getting it and find more ideas about what is actually possible.
  • Access information. As much as people like to broadcast their messages, one of the most useful ways to use Twitter is to access opinions, ideas, and other types of content by following other Twitterers and monitoring what’s being said about you or your customers.
  • Become resourceful. Although Twitter is a partly a broadcasting service, people choose who they follow. Social media generally is about control. You can build your followers and deliver your messages, but being resourceful makes people want to follow you. While doing so, you automatically turn into an expert in the topic you tweet about.
  • Convey your opinion. Again, no one will follow you unless you have proven to have something worth listening to. In any niche, twitterers may become thought leaders because of their fresh and new perspectives about something.
  • Promote products or events. Generally it is not possible to use Twitter merely as a promotion medium unless you are able to provide unique deals that are on demand. Combining promotions with informational posts is the way to go. If you have loyal followers, your promotion is going to be just another resource / recommendation.
  • Market research. With Twitter Search and other Twitter tools, it is now possible to tap into people’s mind through publicly available messages. By monitoring conversations, you are able to gain insights straight from your audience.
  • Extend your reach. Followers are not limited to end-users. They may also be influencers. As more people are actively using Twitter, it is becoming an effective online networking tool, just like a blog.
If there is a pattern, it should be that Twitter is a broadcasting tool but at the same time it has to be personal and useful to a group of people. The keyword is interaction.

Conclusions

Don’t get me wrong. Using Twitter as a way to tell people about what you are up to certainly has its place, but the use has extended beyond that especially for business applications.
People have mixed feelings about Twitter. If you don’t control it, Twitter may overload you with far more information than you care to handle. It often becomes an unproductive activity that eats most of your precious time.
On the other hand, Twitter is an excellent micro-publishing platform of its own. It is not a replacement for email, instant messaging, blogging or even SMS.
Knowing how to use Twitter properly for your business means reaching a whole new group of audience who may as well be your customers or future partners. It also allows you to access information in a way that you never experienced before because it was simply not available.

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