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Is Twitter for the Birds?: How to Determine if “Tweeting” is Right For Your Business

Sep 13, 2010 | posted by Shea Bergesen

The current enthusiasm for e-mail-based marketing and do-it-yourself websites has some consumers feeling like true customer service has met its end. Technology has taken away a lot of what is so valuable about the interface between company and client. Oddly enough, it is technology that is bringing it back.

A transformed level of communication is blooming in the form of social networking. President of the International Social Media Association Mari Smith explains, “We can be more intimate with our marketplace, customers and peers. Consumers are re-developing the expectation that companies are going to be more available and respond more quickly– that people are listening.”

Still, many business owners are apprehensive about using sites like Facebook, MySpace and especially the seemingly teen-driven Twitter because they fear it will alienate their older audience and prove a waste of time. The truth is that more and more people of all ages are joining these sites—for the past six months, the average number of sign-ups for Twitter was 6.5 million per month– and studies indicate only 11% are aged 12 to 17. Does that mean you should create a Twitter profile for your business? Not necessarily.

What’s Twitter all about?

Twitter allows users to broadcast 140-character messages, known as “tweets” that other users can subscribe to or “follow.” The service’s users range from publicity-seeking celebrities to family members sharing their schedules with each other. Many enterprising users have found ways to earn money and promote their business by tweeting info on products, services and upcoming events.

Twitter updates are 140 characters maximum. (To give you a frame of reference to how quick and to- the-point a typical ‘tweet’ is, this parenthetical message is 137 characters long.)

To determine if you should be promoting your business on Twitter, ask yourself the following questions:

Who is your audience?

Do the research. What percentage of your ideal clientbase is actively using Twitter? Yes- ‘Tweeting’ information on your products, upcoming events, etc. is an impactful and inexpensive way to keep clients aware of you and your brand—but only if they’re present and listening.

What is your goal?

Too many (or vague) goals and objectives can lead to confusion and wasted-time: It’s much easier to hit your target when you know where it is. Determine what specifically you want to accomplish by engaging customers and colleagues on Twitter. Try to identify one primary reason and a couple of secondary ones to focus on. If you do this, your Twitter marketing plan will be much clearer, including:

•    What you should ‘tweet’ about
•    Who you choose to follow and interact with
•    The type of keywords to track
•    The language you use to communicate with fans
•    The decision of whether you broadcast news, casually converse or both

Twitter is a playful and fun medium; there are many ways to express yourself and promote your business—but don’t forget to clearly define what you want to achieve.

Why is this activity more beneficial to your business than other marketing strategies?

There is no point in signing up for Twitter unless you’re going to use it. Just as you must set aside some time for answering e-mails, making phone calls, etc. you must also allow yourself time to post engaging and impactful tweets. Determine if you have the time available to dedicate to consistent communication with your followers– or if it would be better spent on other marketing endeavors.

If you’ve decided ‘tweeting’ is right for your business, Twitter has a great ‘Get Started’ guide for business owners using the site as a marketing tool. Twitter 101.

Also– Try to learn from the best. By researching how the most successful companies are using Twitter, you’ll recognize strategies and techniques that you can utilize in your social media plan. Check out the Twitter pages for Starbucks, Whole Foods and Tony Robbins.

You should also read through Bestselling Author and Marketing Expert Chris Brogan’s 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business for lots of great experience-based advice.

Social networking is growing– and may prove to be a transformed but powerful vehicle for authentic customer service– but before you go all-in promoting your business on a networking site, be sure to weigh the benefits and come up with a plan. The strongest Twitter pages are just like any other marketing campaign—designed to present relevant, valuable information to your audience and become their trusted resource—all while doing something creative and different.

Twitter Terms

DM: Stands for Direct Message. This is a private message sent to a particular Twitter user, not the entire “Twittersphere.”
Follow: On Twitter you can choose to “Follow” people so that their tweets will show up in your newsfeed.
Hashtag: a keyword or term preceded by a “#” symbol that is assigned so searchers can find all posts on that topic
Retweet: Taking a twitter message someone else has posted and rebroadcasting it to provide your followers with valuable and/or entertaining content.

For more information on the language of Twitter, go to http://twittonary.com/.

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