Spring is upon us (even if Winnipeg’s recent snow says otherwise), and for us that means housekeeping time! Whether it’s spring cleaning, filing your taxes, or planning the upcoming business year, spring’s a great time to look ahead to the potential growth soon to come.
In honor of this potential, we’re going to talk about Social Media – in particular, a few of the platforms that businesses use to grow awareness. This week, we’re talking about Twitter.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a short-content social network, with origins in SMS (text messages), that’s often been described as a “micro-blog” format – though this fails to represent what the platform is capable of now.
Users of Twitter can post short updates – up to 140 characters of text – with attached videos and photos, or links to websites. These updates show up in a feed, both on the user’s profile, in the combined news feeds of any users who are following them, or through applications designed to present Twitter feeds elsewhere online.
As well as posting your own updates, users can interact with each other by “ReTweeting” (or forwarding) posts from another account into their feed; by replying/mentioning (using the @ symbol before a name, such as @hello_websites) other users in posts, which leads to a notification being sent to that user; by including hashtags (phrases beginning with the pound symbol, such as #winnipeg) to organize content and make it easier to search for.
Twitter relationships are an asymmetrical model – that is, for example, if our Twitter account is following yours, we’ll see things you post… But the system doesn’t force you to follow us in return. It’s this asymmetry that’s allowed for some amazing growth in visibility for both individuals and companies using the service.
How is it usually used?
Even though it’s a fairly simple service in theory – just post some updates every so often and read your stream as it comes in – Twitter’s usage over the years has been sharply varied. One theme runs consistently through Twitter’s history; conversation.
Twitter isn’t about simply publishing the way Blogs or news media tend to be. Even when throwing out jokes and one-line commentary, Twitter users can expect some form of response, whether by replies, retweets (with or without added comments), inclusion in hashtag-based discussions, or even direct messages from those they’re associated with. There’s an expectation that discussion happens, that it’s what the platform is for.
People have built some amazing practices out of the very limited tools available on Twitter. One example is the idea of tweet chats – scheduled events, organized around specific hashtags. Moderators, or community leaders who have created these events treat the hashtag like a temporary panel, and invite those in their streams – and those in their followers’ streams, and so on – to participate simply by using that hashtag for a period of time, and discussing a pre-decided topic. Want to learn more about blogging while using Twitter? Mack Collier’s #BlogChat – which has been going on regularly for something like five years – is one such hashtag-based chat.
Where is the business benefit?
Twitter can be used to make direct sales – and has been for some time. As early as 2008, Dell famously attributed over $1 million in sales to Twitter alone. However, selling on social media is a murky subject – people haven’t really given you approval, until they’re interacting with you, to ask them for money. Even if they’re just following your accounts, there are better ways to go about generating revenue than broadcasting sales messages.
As such, Twitter is best used…
- For visibility, by regularly publishing new and interesting information. This is the most basic level of involvement with the network. Follow others, encourage them to follow you. Share links to your own site, media related to events or products, and even passing on news about your industry – simply being part of the conversation around your business is important. After all, showing up to the party is the first step to being the life of that party.
- For advertising through accepted, expected means such as Promoted tweets. Twitter users may be adverse to direct sales messages, but like nearly every free social network, advertisement is an important part of Twitter’s ecosphere. The company provides a number of tools for businesses which point in this direction, and rightly so.
- For identifying potential – and existing – customers in need. Twitter’s search functions are very important. Just about anything – anyone, any product, any need you can imagine – can be found in the highly stream-of-consciousness world of Twitter. Even if it’s not marked by a hashtag, you can make some guesses about what people need by searching – and then responding quickly with helpful information.
Of course, this just scratches the surface. Twitter’s still growing, even a decade into its lifetime, so what works and what doesn’t with the community is growing as well. Whether you’re new to social media, or experienced with other platforms, it’s well worth exploring what Twitter has to offer.
Next week, we’ll be looking at another social network. If you have any suggestions for networks we should tackle, or questions about Twitter, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment here.
Source: Hello BLOG