Twitter is one of the fastest growing social networks, with 190 million users sending 65 million tweets each day, as of June 2010.
Twitter is a real-time information network that empowers its users to share and discover interesting content through status updates (or “tweets”). Twitter is often referred to as a microblogging service because it limits your status updates to 140 characters. But the brilliance is in its simplicity and brevity.
For businesses and organizations, Twitter is one of the quickest ways to get a message out to people who may be interested in your activities, ideas, products, services, or events. You can also use Twitter to get real-time feedback from customers, members, and event attendees.
Like Facebook posts, users can share your tweet with the simple click of a button. This is called a “retweet,” and it is the feature that makes Twitter such a great word of mouth platform that can help your message reach an entirely new group of prospective customers. (Hint: You should pay attention to people who retweet your message as that is a good indication that they are listening to what you say, and may be one of your best influencers. Your influencers are your best friends because they can help you attract new followers and prospects.)
Twitter is a public site, which means anyone can view your tweets. However, users can choose to “follow” you on Twitter to
keep track of your tweets. The follower relationship is not two-way; you don’t have to follow someone for them to follow you, and vice versa. However, when you follow someone on Twitter, you’ll see his or her tweets in real time on your private Twitter feed, including updates from everyone else you follow. (If you follow many people, this can create a bit of “noise,” especially if those people are heavy users of the site.)
While you can only send private “direct messages” to people who follow you, you do not need to follow a user to send a public message to them; just include the handle (@username) in your tweet and it will show up in that user’s feed. This is called an “@reply” or “mention.”
You may discover that customers are already talking about you on
Twitter by indexing your name with the “@” symbol or the “#” symbol.
Twitter is a great way to get real-time feedback from your customers and to discover what people are saying about you, your competition, industry, or any keyword that is relevant to you. You can see what people are saying about any topic in real time using Twitter’s search tools (http://search.twitter.com).
For more information on Twitter, check out the “Twitter in Plain English” video, created by CommonCraft.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o). In addition,you can use a site like http://listorious.com to discover interesting people to follow on Twitter by category or subject matter. You can also use this site to discover a list of people to follow by category.
What’s good about Twitter?
• The “Timeline” (or the Twitter feed) is public, which can help to give your business or organization greater exposure in web search results.
• The site is like a public forum, so it’s easy to build a community of potential customers you don’t personally know.
• Customers and members can “follow” you without you having to reciprocate.
• There is a quick way to share links to content to help spread your message to a wide audience.
• Users are very vocal, so if they are happy with your business or organization, they’ll say so.
What’s not so good about it?
• The site is text only — pictures, video, and other multimedia content is shared through links.
• It’s sometimes challenging to create a meaningful post in only 140 characters.
• Lots of “noise.” With so many identical looking tweets, it’s hard to make a single one stand out in the crowd.
• Spammers are increasingly targeting the service.
• Users are very vocal, so if they have a problem with something, they’ll say so.
Twitter’s greatest strength is its vast reach. The more engaging and relevant your content is — whether it’s an article you’re sharing, a link to your newsletter, or words of support for the local high school football team — the greater the chances it will be passed on and retweeted to a whole new audience.