According to Twitter.com, Twitter is “a real-time information network powered by people all around the world that lets you share and discover what’s happening now.” Often referred to as a micro-blog, twitter users post updates that are 140 characters or less (roughly equivalent to a sentence or two) – much like status updates on Facebook.
Twitter’s Impact and Ability
When it comes to Twitter, it is more than just a fad. At first, Twitter was used to relate what a user was doing at any given time and to see what others were up to on a moment-to-moment basis. Although the “what are you doing now?” aspect is still pretty central to Twitter’s culture, the site has since evolved into a news sharing, brand-building and information-gathering tool.
We can see twitter’s impact and ability to share information from the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Eyewitnesses sent an estimated 16 tweets every second. Twitter users on the ground helped compile a list of the dead and injured. In addition, users sent out vital information such as emergency phone numbers and the location of hospitals needing blood donations. CNN called this “the day that social media appeared to come of age” since many different groups made significant use of Twitter to gather news and coordinate responses.
In addition, by using this micro-blogging service, you can find talented future employees and promote jobs openings. Many job searchers are now using twitter to get to know their potential future employers and look for interesting employment opportunities. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to helping brands and candidates connect via twitter. Here at Yodle, we dedicated our Monday twitter postings to promoting all of our open jobs and hiring events.
Among social networks, Twitter is unusual because it began as a tool used mainly by adults. But that has changed somewhat: at the end of 2008, thenumber of people under the age of 25 using Twitter was about 20%; at the end of 2009, that number rose above 30%. Still, there is a significant “older” demographic when compared to other social networks.
Additionally, the average household income of a Twitterer tends to be on the high end. According to statistics compiled by Website-Monitoring.com in April, 2010, 28% of Twitter using households have incomes in the -100k range, and 30% exceed 0k, which is roughly twice the median American income.
While all kinds of people use Twitter, there is a rough profile one can draw. Twitter users tend to be media savvy early adopters who are upwardly mobile. Whether or not you should use Twitter to promote your business, depends on whether the type of person that uses the micro-blogging phenomenon is a good potential client. If that person is your target demographic, it might be worth the time investment.
How to Start Twitter
Once you’ve decided that your customers might be the type of people that use Twitter, you may want to go about getting started. The service is free, and signing up for Twitter is pretty simple. All you have to do is log onto twitter.com, provide an email address and password; and think of a good handle (screen name). Using your name or your company’s name is a good start. In Twitter, you can find a great list of business best practices for brands and companies as well as some good examples of companies using twitter.
On your Twitter account, you will find “followers,” people that are following you, and “following,” people you are following. On your home screen (depending on which Twitter application you use), you will see a running feed of updates from all those people you are following; your followers will, in turn, see your updates. A “retweet” is the reposting of a tweet that a tweeter sees in his or her newsfeed. If a tweet is particularly interesting, it could lead to several retweets and sometimes will result in several new followers. It’s part of what makes Twitter so viral and differentiates it from other social networks.
What to Use Twitter for
Twitter can be a great tool for listening to conversations and identifying potential customers when they are talking about a need or looking for a service that you can fill. That is why most companies use Twitter to promote their company directly to current or future customers. It is also a great way for local businesses to send real-time information to customers in need and share discounts and deals with current customers. Twitter’s culture, partly because of the casual word abbreviations that the 140 characters limit creates, is very informal. Be careful not to be too blatant a marketing vehicle or you will turn people off.
Twitter is also used for inbound signaling. You can use Twitter to see what people are saying about you, your competitors or your industry in general. You can enter search terms to see who has been tweeting about that particular term (in Tweetdeck, you can dedicate an entire column to feeding you information about that search term). There are also services available to help you keep track of trends on Twitter like twendz.
Using a Twitter application like tweetdeck, or another desktop twitter application, is a great way to organize your followers, messages, etc. For example, on the original version of Twitter, you have to manually shorten URLs by using services like TinyURL or bit.ly whereas Tweetdeck shortens the URL automatically.
Finally remember, your aim should be to share interesting information that you think your followers will appreciate. Twitter is not a short sell, instead, it’s a long-term process during which you consistently share and interact (make sure to retweet; tweeters appreciate the shout out and are more likely to retweet you in turn). If people like and appreciate what you say, if feel that you’re genuine, they will be that much more receptive when you tactfully tweet about your company, products and services.