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What's Twitter and Why Should I be Using It?

- Thursday, April 08, 2010

Twitter is not just for teens or trendy tech geeks anymore. Twitter is a genuine sales tool, and if you see it any other way, you and your business are missing a major opportunity. 

What started in 2007 as an abbreviated form of Facebook has turned into a mammoth marketing machine for all businesses, big and small. According to the Pew Research Center, 1 out of every 5 Internet users is on twitter and that number is doubling each year.

So what is it? Twitter is essentially a form of micro-blogging. It’s short, sweet, and easy. While a blog can be quite an undertaking, twitter lets you get your message out without fancy headers, high-resolution pictures and expensive templates. It’s a very simplified way to spread the word.

Twitter users are able to send out short “tweets” from their computer or mobile device, not exceeding 140 characters, to communicate with their followers. Is your business having a promotion? Do you have a blog or article you’d like to promote? Is there a tip you’d like to share about your business? Twitter is one of the most powerful self-promotion tools on the web at the moment. You can communicate with an unlimited amount of people in the blink of an eye.

Twitter also allows you to run searches on user's conversations. Why is this important? Say you are on your way to Asheville and you’re STARVING. You tweet something about food, Asheville, and being hungry. Local Asheville eateries can be searching for conversations involving those keywords. They could then @reply you and let you know they’d love to have you join them for lunch, and add a link with directions to the restaurant. If you’re in the business seat of this scenario, you’ve just sent out a personal invitation to someone to come spend money at your establishment in a matter of seconds!

The real-time search component of Twitter is what makes it such a powerful business tool. Business owners have instant, live access to exactly what people are saying about their service or product. By using this valuable information, and acting on it, Twitter-friendly businesses can grow their customer relationships by leaps and bounds.

It doesn’t stop there though. Building good Twitter relationships with your fellow “tweeps” is crucial and can push your brand harder and faster than you could imagine. When you develop Twitter relationships, your friends will “retweet” your messages, spreading it to their followers. There’s no limit to how many eyes can see your company’s message when you get twitter working for you.

 You’re probably wondering, “How do I even get followers? How do I get people listening to my message?” The answer is simple and twofold. You follow others and you tweet like nobody’s business. In the same vein of thought as blogging, you don’t start a blog with an instant readership of thousands of people. You start with maybe two readers, which are probably both related to you. But you keep blogging anyway, and eventually gain readers. Twitter is no different. Just start following and start tweeting- the process will happen organically from there.

 To get your tweeting off on the right foot, here are few rules of the game.

1) Decide if you want to promote your business or yourself. For some who’s name is synonymous with their business, the lines can be a little blurry.

2) Include a profile picture!! The only people who don’t use a profile picture are twitter spammers.

3) Plaster your brand on your twitter page. You can customize your backgrounds to match your logos and it’s highly recommended.

4) Don’t be too shy to @reply anyone. When you use the @ symbol in front of another user’s twitter name, you publicly send a tweet directly to that person. This is how you build twitter relationships. For example, “ @chickfila I had a great lunch today!” When you @ reply, the username becomes a link, allowing your followers to click on that user and see their profile and tweets

5) Retweet anything you find interesting. Also know as just “RT” in Twitterworld, this is when you copy someone else’s tweet and share it with your followers. This is another great way to build relationships. The user that you are retweeting will see what you’ve done, and probably take note.

6) Direct Messages are as good as a quick email. If you want to send private information to someone, like a personal phone number or address, you can send what twitter slang calls a “DM” or direct message. These are not shown on your twitter feed or theirs. It’s a private conversation between you and your twitter friends.

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