Using Twitter for Business

When I first heard about Twitter–a tool for instantly broadcasting the stream-of-consciousness minutiae of your life to the world–I was pretty sure it was a cross between a complete waste of time and navel gazing on crack.
Turns out I was right.

A quick peek at the most recent posts–called “tweets”–include information on what people are having for breakfast, laptop woes and depressed thoughts over last night’s home team loss. (Plus a bunch of foreign-language tweets that may range from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again.)

Twitter users–often called Tweeple (or worse) can update their status using 140 characters or less, the aforementioned “tweet.” If you join Twitter you can “follow” other tweeple, which causes their updates to appear on your home page. In turn, they can follow you as well, a form of permission-based marketing. You can also converse with them through Twitter, but always in 140 characters or less.
It’s kind of like an IT haiku.

Within this expanding base of exhibitionist navel gazers are a growing number of people who are using Twitter for business. And I’m not just talking about aggressive Web marketers who tweet every blog post they make and create links to all their online activities.

Rather, there are professionals who are using Twitter as a communications tool. (Imagine that!) Here’s how you can use Twitter for business:



Followindustry leaders who post links to important resources and influence conversations.
Post questions for quick answers and answer others’ questions to establish your credibility and expertise.
Keep up on the buzz in your industry.
Network with like-minded people.

To find these interesting tweeple in the midst of all that noise, you can use the Twitter search box that will search matches in others’ profiles, but not on individual tweets. Here are a couple of 3rd party tools that allow for more advanced searches:



Who Should I Follow?: Finds and suggests like-minded people based on your tweets.
Summize: Allows you to search tweets for keywords and offers lots of customization tools.

The more people who follow you on Twitter, the more influence and networking opportunities you have. Thus, it makes sense to try and build a following. Here are some ideas on getting others to follow you:



Follow them. There’s an almost kneejerk reaction to follow people who follow you.
Post some good tweets right before following someone else. I find that if someone follows me and they only tweet abouthow hungry or tired they are, I don’t follow them back. The same goes for people who haven’t tweeted in a while.
Reply to people you are following, especially if they’re not yet following you.That’s a good way to engage someone and get them to follow you, even if they didn’t follow you immediately. Remember, though, some people have thousands of followers, and may not be able to respond to every reply.

While the rules and guidelines of Twitter etiquette are still evolving, guidelines from other social media sites can used:



Treat others with respect
Participate in the community
Do more than promote your own agenda.

Professionals and consultants have had the most impact at Twitter; most businesses are still trying to figure out how to use Twitter as a communications tool. If you’re not a one-person shop, here are a few ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:



A restaurant tweets their daily specials
A ticket agency tweets about-to-expire tickets
A realtor tweets new homes on the market
A chamber of commerce tweets local events and promotions.

For more ideas, or just to engage me in conversation, I invite you to follow me at Twitter. I promise not to tell you what I had for lunch.
Unless it’s really good.


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