If you have yet to hear about Twitter, I might ask you if you have been living in a cave and for how long. The micro-blogging platform that few knew about a year ago has now gone mainstream with over 6 million users - a number that is growing daily. Even major news outlets such as Fox News, CNN and others are using Twitter on a daily basis to get viewer reaction and create discussion around breaking stories and issues.

This leads me to question whether Twitter can be useful for business or is it simply an outlet to waste time and be counter-productive?

As a small business owner, I have found Twitter to be extremely beneficial for business. Sure there are times I have found it to be an incredible time-waster (depending on what it is keeping you from accomplishing such as actual work, spending time with family, etc.). However, in this post, I'd like to focus on how Twitter can be useful to businesses and will cover five functions it can serve. I will then invite comments from others on additional ways they have used Twitter for business.

1. Puts a Human Face On the Company

We already know that blogs are very useful tools to put a face or name to the company - in other words allow the company to become more personable. The problem with blogs is that they require one to actually write.

Twitter on the other hand is like blogging but has a 140 character limit for each entry you make. You can therefore "say" something without having to write up a lengthy post.

Furthermore you do not always have to say something that is important or of any real value. You can tweet (term used for adding entires to Twitter) things like, "currently at airport awaiting flight," or "enjoying a fine bottle of wine right now," or any other random aspect from your personal life. While tweets such as these may seem trivial, they show that you are a real person behind the corporate entity.

2. Community Outreach

Twitter is a great tool for reaching out to a community of people. I have seen it used to broadcast Amber alerts, bring attention to charitable causes (when Twitter users turned their avatars pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month), connect with people at specific events (i.e., conferences, parties, local gatherings, etc.), and discuss breaking news to name a few examples.

How can this be useful for business? Keeping in mind that you should work to build a community around your products and/or services anyway, Twitter is a great tool to help in this process. By setting up a Twitter profile for your company and then making sure you invite your active customers and prospects to follow you, you now have a direct connection to them.

And while newsletters, e-newsletters, and even blogs are effective ways to reach out to your community, Twitter offers a way to reach out by saying very little. Let's face facts - not every client is going to read through a lengthy newsletter or visit every blog post you put out. Short tweets on the other hand are very easy to read and can even call for more action such as inviting clients to read a post or bringing attention to a new product.

3. Product/Service Promotion

Once you have a decent amount of followers, announcing new products and/or services, upgrades or even promotionals becomes a breeze. Also consider that many Twitter users will use specific search queries to locate topics that interest them. Therefore by associating the right keywords along with your tweets, you can attract those that aren't even following you.

While product/service promotion can be an attractive use of Twitter, I caution you to make sure it is not the only thing you contribute. Just as in any web forum, blog commenting system or chat environment, if all you ever do is to "toot" your own horn, you may find yourself doing more harm than good.

Companies such as Southwest Air, M&Ms, and Comcast are just a few examples that are well-balanced in their use of Twitter for a variety of purposes, including product/service promotion.

4. Brand Management

With so many people using Twitter, there are bound to be occurrences where your company and/or products will be discussed. Twitter's search function can be an excellent resource for monitoring brand names - when and how they are being discussed.

Simply enter various search terms related to your company brand and product names and see results in real time. Better yet, save each search as an RSS feed and add to your reader. That way anytime someone begins talking about your company on Twitter, you will be notified via your RSS reader.

5. Polls/Surveys

This is one of the most useful functions of Twitter - the ability to gather feedback via polls, surveys or even by asking a simple question. As a small business owner I have utilized this function many times to locate tools used in my business, find a solution to a web site issue or even learning business sense from those more seasoned than myself.

Using polls and surveys on Twitter can also help you to gather useful intelligence on your products and services. Just be ready for criticism which if you make good use of, can be utilized to improve your product and/or service offerings.

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These are just a few ways businesses are using Twitter. I'm sure there are many other uses and would love to hear from other business owners either on how they are using Twitter for business or possibilities they have yet to explore. Please use the comments system below to share your ideas. Oh and finally if you would like to follow me on Twitter, I'm right here.


December 11, 2008





David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.






Comments(19)

It's great when I see companies on Twitter. Right off the bat it tells me they want to reach out to me!

Nice article David. I definitely see the potential Twitter has. ALOT of people seem to be taking note of how powerful it can be. It will be interesting to see how Twitter continues to grow.

I also think it's great when companies use Twitter. This shows that they are trying to be up-to-date with the Web 2.0 culture of today. In my opinion, this is a good thing. :)

Really great article on Twitter.

As a book author, I have found it is a great way to keep up with fans.

http://www.twitter.com/mike_stelzner

Hey david,
totally agree with you on this.."If you have yet to hear about Twitter, I might ask you if you have been living in a cave and for how long "
u just need to know how to play with the different applications of twitter and yes results will come..
shikz

You may like Yonkly, too. It's the first "create your own microblog" that integrates with twitter: http://yonkly.com

Do you see companies utilizing the social networking space from inside, or do you see them looking to an agency to help them navigate the SN waters? Does anyone know of any companies offering to do the actual work of setting up the accounts and monitoring the content?

@Robert Mendez - I think it is both. It is a service that we offer to clients, both the setting up and monitoring if they don't have time to do so themselves.

That being said, I think it would be more beneficial at least with regards to Twitter, that someone within the company utilize the service. It's more personable that way.

Good article related to twitter that shows the importance of twitters.iam here to quote some advantage that shows how twitter is useful for bussinees.It allow readers to get to know you better, to Share and receive useful links and timely information.Mainly provide live comments during conferences and events and to learn more about friends' and colleagues' interests which leads to a good running business.I really appreciate for the effort you made david..Thanks.

Twitter is good to all websites if the admin is dedicated enough or has fund to pay other people to do it... My twitter page which has a pr of 6 has been a ground for many advertising offers...

It's a good question about whether Twitter is actually good for business or just a time consumer. I have personally only been using Twitter for a few month and I think it's similar to most other social mediums. Like blogging or Stumbling or whatever other social platform it's going to require some time to develop properly but if done correctly can be a great tool. I have personally done some good networking and made some good contact via Twitter. It's also a great way to let you follows know when you have new blog posts.

If one can enter twitter knowing what you want out of it and what they are going to measure, then I think it becomes a lot easier to manage.

Great post I started off using Twitter a few month ago an have forgotten all about-Thanks for the refresh-Need to start taking it more seriously

HOW an a POLL be created on Twitter? What are respondants using a a survey tool?

Great article. I use Twitter to give visitors to my site updates for when I post new recipes to the site and to connect directly with other culinary/food enthusiasts and just some people wanting to know how to make this or make that, or just to ask a question.

While I don't sell any services or products yet - traffic has gone up since I started with Twitter and AdSense revenue has doubled.

It's a great way to connect with visitors/customers if there is interest there.

Can someone explain Twitter to me? I can understand about sending short messages (though I can't understand why anyone would care if you're standing in line waiting for your latte), but is it email, text messages over the phone, what? If I sign up to follow someone, am I going to get endless texts (or emails) about how he's waiting for a cab, etc.?

I don't have texting enabled on my phone because I don't want to have to pay for every spam text that'll come my way. Or am I wrong in my thinking about how texting works?

Can anyone give me a good and specific and detailed example of what you're talking about? I go to this David Wallace's twitter-page and see not much more than pointless blather.

So please -- can someone lead me to the light?

As a fairly new tweeter, I must say I love it! I have already learned a lot from following other people's tweets. Might add that it also offers a window into the "life and times" of people in some demographics I wouldn't normally be privvy to, which I really appreciate.

I'm curious where you found that figure of 6 million users. I'm not surprised, but it is significantly higher than other numbers I've seen floating around.

While I definitly agree that twitter is a must for any business owner, I have to point out how frustrated I sometimes get with it. Ok, it's "social media", so you want to be social, and it's not that I have a problem with that. My issue lies in the fact that, I assume, a large portion of twitter's users are there to promote their business, and yet, I feel like If you mention it people will be turned off. I've even had people tell me not to follow people until I've put out at least 500 tweets! What are your thoughts about how often you should discuss business on twitter? I'm curious whether some of these other people are the norm or exception.

www.datexmedia.wordpress.com



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