Twitter Demystified

Twitter VAHave you “tweeted” lately? Do you like knowing what people think and aren’t afraid to ask? Both of these questions have to do with Twitter www.twitter.com, the social media phenomenon. Here’s a whirlwind tour of Twitter, for those who’ve been wondering.

Twitter, in a few words, is a “microblogging” community that tracks the frequent (sometimes constant) updates its members around the globe are posting. These members are able to “follow” each other and know instantly when someone they’re following writes a “tweet”. It’s much more immediate than other Web 2.0 sites like FaceBook, with small, 140-character snapshots updating someone’s status.

What does that have to do with business? Think of Twitter, and other social networking sites, as vast pools of members who share information, ask questions and otherwise communicate quickly.  The idea of sharing who you are and what your business does should be enough to have you signing up.

Twitter’s also a great way to survey thousands of people at once, by posting a question and watching for replies. Here’s a survey example wrapped in a status update, “Attending VA marketing forum 2pm CST. What svcs RU using VAs for?” Anyone who is following your tweets, or who searches for “VA”, will see your post and can reply. That brings up another great use for Twitter.

The search functions built into Twitter let you look for what others are saying about topics related to your business. There are actually three separate ways to look. TweetVolume www.tweetvolume.com lets you search for up to five words or phrases at once and ranks them by volume. Summize www.search.twitter.com lets you find all postings with related keywords and TweetScan www.tweetscan.com searches Twitter and similar sites for specified content and will even send updates by email.

There may be questions posted that you can answer, or conversations you can lend your expertise to. That’s the best way to build your reputation on Twitter. Nobody likes a hard sell-build relationships and watch for ways to meet people’s needs.

In his blog on community and social media, Chris Brogan gives 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business http://www.chrisbrogan.com/50-ideas-on-using-twitter-for-business/. Follow his instructions for getting started, then experiment with several of his ideas this week. A word of warning: Twitter can quickly become addictive, if you let it. Set a schedule for posting, searching and following Twitter activity, just as you would any other market research tool.

We don’t have to chase every new phenomenon to be successful on the Internet. We should, however, learn what’s good and put those to work for our companies. Twitter, used in the right context, could turn out to be one of the best for you.

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