What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service which enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has amassed more than 100 million worldwide users.
Twitter’s growth numbers are not to be ignored. By the end of 2007, about 500,000 tweets per quarter were posted. By the end of 2008, 100 million tweets per quarter were posted. By the end of 2009, 2 billion tweets per quarter were posted. In the first quarter of 2010, 4 billion tweets per quarter were posted. In 2010 Twitter has recorded a 1,500 percent growth in the number of registered users.
So how does Twitter benefit the small business?
Twitter is increasingly being used as a business promotional tool. One of the most famous business Twitter users is Dell, claiming that $9m of its 2009 sales came directly through Twitter and Facebook combined. It has been said that smaller businesses also benefit from using Twitter, since they can compete on equal terms with larger businesses within the Twitter community.
One of the great benefits of Twitter is the real time information being shared. Twitter can provide an un-edited snapshot of what consumers are thinking at any given time. This gives the small business the benefit of preemptively managing customer concerns and the foresight to see where the market is heading.
Another benefit of Twitter is the ability to protect the company’s reputation by addressing complaints immediately. The response can be addressed to the individual complainant and posted on the company’s site. This diffuses the situation before additional negative press can be disseminated.
The trend of business self-promotion through Twitter is the subject of a new book by Joel Comm titled Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time
There are many reviews for this book over at Amazon.com One of the many tells the readers “…good comprehensive overview…Comm is at his best when discussing how to use Twitter as a marketing, PR or promotional tool.” (B2B Marketing, July 2009)
To further tout the benefits of Twitter, I leave you with the following list by Susan Ward, About.com Guide
Top 7 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Use Twitter
Your small business should be using Twitter because:
7) Everyone else is doing it.
The guy who runs the convenience store down the street. The landscape architect. The shoe store owner. And lots of big companies, such as Dell, HP, AT&T and Microsoft. Having your business on Twitter is hot.
6) Twitter is good optics.
Using Twitter is evidence that your small business is participating in this whole social media thing and obviously a “with-it” kind of outfit that people might be interested in doing business with. It’s just not enough to have a website anymore.
5) Twitter is a fast way to get the message out.
Assuming your potential and existing customers are on Twitter, you can instantly let them know your news, whether it’s an announcement or a new product, a special deal, or an upcoming event they may be interested in.
4) Twitter will help you stay on top of your industry and/or market segment.
Twitter lets you hear what other people are saying. Using http://searchtwitter.com Twitter Search you can find out what people are saying about a particular topic, enabling you to keep your ear to the ground about your company and the competition.
3) Twitter will help you refine your brand.
By participating in Twitter (that is, using it to communicate with others, rather than just spamming product announcements) you can present and develop the kind of image that attracts your potential customers, and refine your brand. (Remember; communication is a two-way thing.)
2) Twitter is a great networking tool.
Being on Twitter will give you opportunities to meet and talk to oodles of people, some of whom you would never get the chance to talk to otherwise. And some of those people might be the very business contacts you’ve been seeking, people you want to start projects with, source product from or even hire.
1) And the most important reason your small business should use Twitter – because Twitter lets you engage your customers.
Posting information about your products and/or services is the obvious use. But Twitter also gives you another channel for listening to and finding out about your customers – what they like or dislike about your company, how they feel about your brand, what suggestions they have for improvement, what their favorite products are and why… all kinds of nuggets that you can use to make your business more successful.
So there you have it. In a nutshell, Twitter can provide your small business with another channel to inform and engage your current and potential customers – and every opportunity to do that is worth exploring.