How Twitter can work for your business
In the five years or so since it launched, Twitter has had a profound effect on our lives. It has contributed new terms to the common vernacular, like tweeting, tweet, twitterer and twitterati.
It supports a huge range of third party websites and apps that allow us to manage our Twitter accounts, monitor Twitter trends or tweet on the move. And it has given us a new metric to judge the popularity of celebrities (number of Twitter followers).
There was a time when the idea of publishing what are basically texts on the internet would have seemed absurd. Now Twitter permeates all levels of society from individuals tweeting about their breakfast preferences to politicians trying to connect with the electorate. Last year, the Twitterati sent a combined total of 25 billion tweets.
If Twitter success is defined by number of followers then the world's biggest micro-blogging website is a celebrity-fest. Of the five most-followed Twitter accounts globally, four are celebrities. Only Barack Obama has the Twitter pull to compete with the likes of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears.
But while 5 million plus followers might require a major record deal or the keys to the White House, Twitter can still be a valuable tool for your business:
Promote your content
A lot of businesses use original content to drive traffic to their websites. Twitter provides a great platform to share this content with existing and potential customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Spamming your followers with special offers will be a bit of a turn off, but if you're publishing relevant, original content on your website or on third party sites then you can use Twitter to point to it and attract more visitors.
Learn about your market
Twitter can help you learn more about the market you operate in. Using the various Twitter apps and dedicated sites at your disposal, you'll be able to find Tweeters and lists of Tweeters relevant to your business. A bit of Twitter research can help you discover new competitors, potential customers and people you can learn from or do business with. Once you've built a large, relevant Twitter following, you have an audience with a wealth of knowledge to tap into.
Make your business more social
Such is the popularity of Twitter it's a fair bet that a good number of your employees use it or are at least familiar with how it works. As well as a corporate Twitter feed, having key employees build their own following can enhance your brand. Personalised accounts can feel a little softer and friendlier and they also present an opportunity to have multiple feeds sending traffic back to your website. You can also use Twitter or a similar platform (check out Yammer) to help your staff communicate with one another.
Most followed Twitter accounts (Twitaholic.com, January 2011)
Lady Gaga (steak modeller) 7,716,781
Justin Bieber (kid rocker) 6,669,359
Britney Spears (toxic singer) 6,578,663
Barack Obama (former community organiser) 6,306,286
Ashton Kutcher (punker) 6,197,137