Tweet Tweet: The Time has Come to Start Using Twitter for Your Business

First it was LinkedIn. Then it was Facebook. Now it’s Twitter. While the idea of signing up for and utilizing yet another social media tool may seem daunting, Twitter is one social media tool that business professionals utilize to promote their business in a way that is very much short and…tweet.

What is This Twitter and How Does it Work?

According to the official Twitter FAQ, “Twitter is a community of friends and strangers from around the world sending updates about moments in their lives.” Really, though, the possibilities are endless. Using 140 characters, friends can use Twitter to remain metaphorically close while geographically far away. People use Twitter as a micro-blogging tool, as a way to spread breaking news, or as a venue for a Twitter haiku…or two. Some people have even met their mate in the Twitterverse. Most of all, however, Twitter is the latest social media tool that can help grow your business.

As of March 2011, Twitter reported that an average of 500,000 people set up a new account each day, and, at present, 200 million users are generating over 200 million tweets every day. For your business: that translates into a lot of opportunity.

Twitter allows you to post updates, which are called tweets, as often as you’d like, using those 140 characters or less. When you follow other people on Twitter, you see their tweets. When they follow you, they see your tweets. Bottom line: Twitter is a constant stream of communication, which can be turned on or off as often as you’d like.

Everybody’s Doing It
Like Facebook, Twitter doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. Celebrities, comedians, news media outlets and even the President of the United States are all on Twitter. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, said, “We’ve found that Twitter has been a great way for us to connect on a more personal level with our employees and customers. We use it to help build our brand, not drive direct sales. In the long term, Twitter helps drive repeat customers and word of mouth, but we’re not looking to it as a
way of driving immediate sales.”

Bestselling author David Meerman Scott said, “I have personally connected with hundreds of people I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I booked an interview on NPR and a big daily newspaper using Twitter.” Twitter allows you to connect with your customers in a compact, quick, almost grassroots way.

Ways Twitter Can Help Your Business
Twitter can be used as a way to share ideas. Often called “micro-blogging,” some people use it primarily to share personal information, but many people use it professionally, as a venue to share great tidbits you’ve discovered as they relate to your business, such as a great article, a new Web site or an interesting idea. Whenever possible, include a link so your followers can view the awesomeness of your discovery along with you.

Another way to share ideas, and show your respect for others in your industry, is to “retweet” something interesting somebody else has tweeted. Twitter practically does the work for you. Select the retweet icon, which will start a new message, complete with the original user’s Twitter handle, marked with an @ symbol before it. You will either have the option to retweet the message as is or inject a tiny commentary in response to what you are retweeting. In addition, retweeting is a good way to keep generating activity on your account, especially when you’re short on time to come up with original things to tweet about.

You can also use Twitter to get your customers more engaged and involved in your business. Use it to run contests, solicit feedback and thank customers for supportive messages. Along the same lines, use Twitter to provide customer service. Make it an additional outlet to field and respond to complaints and to keep customers updated on the status of any problems you are fixing.

Tools to Help You Tweet
Twitter has a variety of support applications available designed to make your life easier while also maximizing the service to get the most for your business. Here are a few:

• TwitterFox: Firefox offers a web browser plugin that allows
you to view Tweets via a popup menu within your web browser. This very handy tool eliminates the need to constantly go to Twitter.com.

• HootSuite: This service is labeled a “social media dashboard” that allows you to schedule tweets. It also helps businesses use the social web to launch marketing campaigns, identify and grow audiences, and distribute targeted messages across multiple channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and, of course, Twitter.

• Twitter for Facebook: If you are also on Facebook, this application forwards your Twitter updates directly to your Facebook Wall.

Twitter can be addicting, but it can also be intimidating. It’s fast paced and, for some, difficult to grasp at first. Stick with it. Try it out and do what you can until you get the hang of it. Many get tripped up on the notion that you have to read every single tweet that pops into your Twitter Feed. Don’t. The social media tool is supposed to be helpful, not overwhelming. Just let the tweets flow past you like a stream.

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