I spend quite a lot of time using social media tools like Twitter and as it becomes increasingly mainstream, I’m often asked about the right way to use Twitter for business.
Of course there’s no one ‘right way’ to use Twitter – how you use it has more to do with what you hope to achieve. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a few minutes to consider what you’d like to get out of Twitter before you dive in.
Twitter as a Networking Tool: Twitter is a bit like a trip to the pub. There are lots of people, having lots of conversations – some of which will be interesting to you and some will not. In a business sense, it’s more akin to a networking event – it offers the potential to connect with people that you might not otherwise have met. If you invest in developing these relationships then they can lead to further introductions and business opportunities.
Like any good networking event, most of the real business ‘on Twitter’ is done away from the event itself – by email, telephone and face-to-face meetings – but Twitter provides the simple platform to make those initial introductions and connections. And for many people who find live networking events difficult, the fact that anyone can connect with anyone else on an equal footing is a huge plus.
Twitter as an Advice Service: For whatever reason, Twitter has attracted a slightly older demographic than other social networking sites like Facebook or Bebo. In fact the site is crammed full of experts and professionals in just about every field imaginable – and for the most part they’re all happy to share their expertise. If you have a question or need a recommendation, simply ask.
Twitter as a News Source: Twitter has gained a lot of media coverage for its ability to break news (like the Hudson plane crash) and serve as an effective news channel (the recent protests over the Iranian elections are a perfect example). Major media sources like the BBC, RTE and countless others all feed their breaking headlines into Twitter – alongside millions of smaller sources and private individuals pointing to news and reviews that you can use in your business. Find interesting news sources – particularly those within your industry – and follow their updates.
Twitter as a Learning Tool: In a similar fashion, Twitter is also hugely effective at pointing to interesting new content, articles and ideas. Many blogs and websites now have Twitter tools built in, allowing Twitter users to easily share content which they find useful. Again, find interesting people to follow (experts within your industry, people you know offline and trusted news sources) and use their updates as your personal guide to what’s interesting and useful on the web.
Twitter as a Customer Service Tool: For larger organisations, Twitter offers an almost unrivalled opportunity to hear what people are saying about their brands and industries in real time. Even for smaller businesses though, Twitter can be a simple, open and effective way to generate feedback and address customer service issues. Use a tool like Tweetdeck or Splitweet to help monitor mentions of your brand and messages to your account.
Twitter as a Marketing Tool: Of course, what most people want to know about is how to use Twitter to attract more business. The first thing to bear in mind is that Twitter is not advertising – people must choose to view your messages. That said, if you use Twitter to interact, network and share valuable information, the natural byproduct will be more followers and more traffic to your website.
In other words, don’t try to use Twitter as a marketing tool – use it in the ways described above and when you do talk about your own stuff, people will be more willing to listen.