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Twitter – what is it and could it help your business?

October 6, 2011

If you thought ‘You Tube’ was annoying, or ‘Facebook’ was vacuous, now’s your chance to enjoy the charms of the web’s latest phenomenon – ‘Twitter’. In this light-hearted piece, we also discuss if it is likely to benefit small businesses in anyway.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a rapidly growing web service, in which people can post small SMS-size snippets of information about anything they like. Via the web, or their mobile devices, a number of celebrities now use the service to provide an almost voyeuristic view into their lives.

Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, amongst others, have been entertaining the public with quips and alike for several months now. Even Barack Obama, the man of the moment, has a ‘Twitter’ address.

Once you’ve signed up to the service, you will receive a web address, such as www.twitter.com/bytestart (our ‘test’ twitter address). You can then tell people ‘what you are doing’ – in no more than 140 characters.

You could tell your audience that you are ‘going to the gym’ (as Jonathan Ross does), or post a link to a web page you think might be of interest.

As with so many other social media sites, there is a ‘popularity’ element. You can choose to ‘follow’ people who you think might post insightful updates, and more importantly – you hope people will also follow your updates. Every Twitter member has the number of ‘followers’ listed next to their Twitter name.

You can also send and receive messages (one of the key uses of Twitter) – these can either be shown publicly, or you can use a ‘direct message’ to communicate more privately.

Make sure you keep on ‘tweeting’ if you want to keep your audience interested. You can even have Twitter ‘remind’ you if you’ve forgotten to provide an update for some time.

Twitter for Businesses?

Now that Twitter has reached that ‘tipping point’ and is now growing exponentially, could the service actually be of some use to small companies?

Essentially, Twitter is a consumer-facing tool, rather than a business networking tool (such as linkedin). It’s main benefits are likely to be in public relations, and branding.

Twitter is a great tool for asking questions (about a new idea, product or service) and getting feedback from potential clients.

However, many cynics would suggest that, like Facebook, the service could become addictive. You can get distracted from ‘real’ work, especially if you gain a lot of followers.

Success involves developing a conversation with prospects and building a buzz round your business – not simply pumping out a load of ‘buy me’ messages. Small businesses who are aware of this are far more likely to succeed in this new interactive world.

Twitter could well be an exciting addition to your marketing armoury, but is probably best used in tandem with a number of other web activities

Why not read our guide to creating your own DIY digital marketing plan, and gain new customers without handing over lots of cash to an agency.