Twitter Talks Business

Twitter recently released a tutorial specifically focusing on how to use Twitter if you are a business. So far there are six sections of the “Special Guide” and each is short, sweet, and salient. The six sections are:

• What is Twitter
• Getting started
• Learn the lingo
• Best practices
• Case studies
• Other resources

I’ve been on the fence about Twitter because I initially saw it as public texting and I really only text with my sons. I didn’t think the public really would be interested in my illuminating words such as “whr r u?” and “dinner now.” However, the attention Twitter has received from recent international incidents and some gentle prodding from some of my friends on the West Coast has me looking more closely at Twitter. As a person who is interested in communications and marketing, Twitter is a pretty fascinating subject. Did you know that Twitter had 4.42 million unique visitors in December 2008 and is on pace to hit 50 million in December 2009? Can you believe that growth? Just to compare, it took the top four television shows combined in last week’s Nielsen ratings to hit 50 million viewers. That’s a pretty nice space to be in at no direct cost for a business.

Here’s a quote from Twitter 101: A Special Guide for Business that captures why you may want to look at Twitter for your business even if you aren’t all that interested in it personally:

“Twitter is a communications platform that helps businesses and their customers do a number of useful things. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great–or disappointing–experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.”

The key reasons a business might add Twitter to its overall communications portfolio are:

• Instant connection to customers and prospects. You can see who is already mentioning you, you product, or your business and respond.

• Customer feedback and real-time market research. What you hear in a focus group is helpful, but observing and being a part of what is really happening is even better. And on Twitter, you get unvarnished reactions and feedback on things that customers may not have even bothered to tell you in a survey. In addition, you can easily see what other companies in your field are doing. What sort of content are they putting out on their tweets? What kinds of offers, coupons, and announcements are they using Twitter to disseminate? How are they responding to their customers?

• The opportunity for an informal, conversational communication tool with the chance to build a relationship over time. There is low commitment on the part of those following you. They don’t feel caught up in a marketing mechanism; they just add you and your business to their list of people they are following. Offer good information and they will stick with you.

• A way to tap into the short attention span of today’s market. Communicating in 140 characters takes some getting used to, but today’s world is about headlines. Twitter serves up the headlines.

What I don’t think we think enough about is what it takes to dive into Twitter or any other social media pool. The platform may be free and the amount of time to write and post a 140-character tweet is not all that time consuming, but the overall strategy of how and why to use Twitter for your business is not so simple. If you read the Best practices and the Case studies sections of Twitter 101, you’ll see that you do need to take a little time to set yourself up properly, learn Twitter norms, and think about who you want your business to be on Twitter. How often will you tweet? How personal will you be? Who are you going to follow? How many people from your company will be tweeting? Bottom line, whether you are a sole proprietor, a small business, or an international conglomerate, Twitter is on the radar and you need a plan. This initial tutorial from Twitter is a good place to start.

Yes! You can use this article in your ezine, blog or website as long as you add the following bio box: Barbara Demarest received her MBA from the Babcock School of Management at Wake Forest University and her BA from Duke University. After 20 years at the Center for Creative Leadership, Barbara launched an executive coaching and marketing consulting practice to help people and organizations who want to share their management and leadership expertise with the world. You can find Barbara’s profile on