Up until last week, I had never had much use for Twitter. To me, it was just another inane example of people sharing far more than anyone wants to know about them. Then I stumbled across a fantastic use of Twitter and started having second thoughts. I still can't see the sense in letting the world know who is hanging out in your hotel room, but I am thinking there could be some unique applications for it.

That's why I was pleased to see the new Big Juicy Twitter Guide being put together by Caroline Middlebrook.

Caroline writes:

I first encountered Twitter at least a year ago. I loaded it up and watched the activity on the main Twitter page. All I saw was a seemingly pointless stream of tweets that literally documented every movement of people's daily lives down to the unnecessary detail of what they were eating for dinner! I tried sending a few updates but nobody was following me so I was just talking to myself. I played with it for a couple of hours and then ignored it for a year or so.

Twitter is now being recognized as a valuable marketing tool and I'll explain why in the upcoming sections of the guide. But here's the thing - you don't have to listen to the incoming noise! You can ignore it if you choose to. Unlike email, Twitter is just 'fly on the wall' communication. On the other hand, if you have people following you, you hope they are listening so you can get your message across.

She's got three parts up so far. Check them out:

Part One: What is Twitter?
Part Two: Socializing with Twitter
Part Three: Using Twitter Properly

Caroline has four more parts planned covering tools, mashups, APIs and marketing your feed. They should be interesting reads. (You'll be able to get to all of them from her Big Juicy Twitter Guide page.)

Caroline's series has me thinking about the various uses for Twitter. I'm not sure I agree with her in terms of sending "no more than one tweet per hour" and using it to build up rapport with folks. (I can't see myself subscribing to any Twitter feeds that came more than once or twice a DAY.) That said, I can think of a few ways a good Twitter feed would improve my life.

So off the top of my head...here are a few Twitter style feeds I'd subscribe to:

1.) A subscription to FedEx, UPS or DHL that sends me a message letting me know a package will be arriving today. I work from home but leave the house at least once a day to run the kids someplace or to go work out. It's not uncommon for me to get packages I need to sign for. If I could get a notice on my cell phone telling me a delivery was coming, I'd make sure I was home. Otherwise, I end up driving 30 miles to go pick up the package myself.

2.) A super ultra-discount notice for my favorite stores. Let's say Amazon allows me to sign up for a Twitter feed. They then use the feed to send me a notice that says "for the next hour, products from Company X are 50% off." I'd subscribe. ;) I'd even put up with some regular ad messages from them in exchange for having a jump on super discounts. (Woot! does this)

3.) Ticket notices from a site like Expedia. I hate the game of "how long can I wait before that flight sells out?" Yet I play it all the time. I'd love to be able to subscribe to a Twitter style feed that lets me know when flight seats reach a certain threshold.

4.) Breaking news. I already mentioned this in my post about finally finding a use for Twitter, but it bears repeating. When natural disasters strike, people want updates. If a news company used Twitter responsibly, (Britney's custody case is NOT breaking news) I'd subscribe to a feed that sent me notice of important breaking news. (CNN and others do this)

Basically...anything that I want quicker than e-mail (because let's face it, I'm not always at my computer, though I do always have my phone with me) would be worthy of getting Tweets.

This will leave me doing some brainstorming. I've written Twitter off as inane for quite some time, but the concept is starting to win me over. How about you? How could you use Twitter for your business? What types of tweets would make you sign up?

October 29, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Interesting! I've never heard of twitter and it looks to be a pretty decent social media site. We will see how long it takes to get a profile going.

Twitter has really started to take off...I know I have been hearing more and more about it. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get my twitter on!

I thought I didn't have much use for twitter until Vanessa Fox blogged about how great it was. Then I KNEW I didn't have a use for it!

Actually I can see there being some use for it but from what I hear about people getting tweets on their phones constantly throughout the day... sorry, I just don't need that distraction. I got enough as it is via email, rss feeds, etc. I don't know how any work gets done in this digital age!

Twitter is one of the world's greatest time wasters. I like watching the main page and clicking on links that others are sharing, as well as going to a particularly intersting-looking avatar's profile and checking out his website or other links s/he's shared. It's great for getting a zeitgeist of the day.

I knew twiter just from socialposter, but nothinh more. Whai the main purpose of twiter is?

I used Twitter to build an SMS bot for a local search site I am building in Prague. That way, I can send an SMS message to my Twitter bot with the name of a place (e.g. a bar or restaurant), and about 30 seconds later it sends me back an SMS with the address, phone number, etc. I can also do more general searches like 'greek food near the Hotel Intercontinental', etc. I think SMS is still easier than loading the web browser on a smart phone and trying to use the web interface to find local businesses.

What I can't quite figure out is how Twitter can justify the cost of all the SMSes they are sending and receiving. I looked into various SMS gateways, and the best price I could find for sending SMS from a web application was about $0.05 per message. With Twitter's traffic, that would add up fast.

Well - a lot of the stuff you are talking about - like Discounts, Expedia, News - can be got over Email and there does not seem a big difference between getting such things over email and phone.

And if you want real-time updates (like looking at stuff on the move) - gets a phone that supports email.

So, now its back to square one I guess

You say "Basically...anything that I want quicker than e-mail (because let's face it, I'm not always at my computer, though I do always have my phone with me) would be worthy of getting Tweets."

Why don't you simply have all your emails forwarded to your cell phone when you are are away. I do this with my Treo. The emails are also available on my computers.

Thanks - this perspective is helpful.

I can see using Twitter to advise members of a private online community (membership site) of new posts.

Well explained.

I've been trying to get my friends and colleagues on the twitter bandwagon for quite some time... it's hard to explain! I will be forwarding this article to everyone in my address book.

Everything I want to know?????

Joined Twitter today. This 'Guide' just confuses me.
Why not EXPLAIN how to do things?

Just vaguely referring to things such as 'receiving tweets' without definition or instructions is NOT how to write a Guide. I would be grateful if someone tackles that task in a more professional manner.

As a beginner I know I can enter a short note of my activities for friends and relatives to read, should they be interested. I can read their notes but why should I trawl through an unsorted heap of notes from everybody?

What else can be done? And HOW would I do it?

I joined Twitter not too long ago and frankly haven't figure it out, much less how to use it. So far it seems pretty inane, with silly comments posted by people I don't know or care about. But there may be a use for it in my business, and if I every get some time I'll check it out.

I have a twitter account but the problem is, I don't even know how to use it properly, I'm following bloggers just to get updated with their new post, and its the only thing I do on twitter.. but thanks for the great tips, I'll try to gain followers of my own using those info!

in our marketing company we consider twitter as a reliable tool to increase our exposure and visibility to other people, although we only have a few words to put in our twits, just by putting interesting and catchy twits we can get our followers attention..

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