There's only a small chance you've never heard of Twitter, reports Peter LaMotte of GeniusRocket, but, he told us, the chances are much higher that you have heard of it, but have never used the social-networking service. If you have yet to dip your communications and marketing toes into the world of Twitter now is the time and Peter has prepared the following "Twitter 101" piece to get you started.
First things first, what exactly is Twitter? Twitter is a 140-character statement or update, sometimes referred to as a microblog. If you use Facebook, think of a whole application that revolves around your status update. However, unlike Facebook where you need to accept a friend, people on Twitter simply follow you and can read your updates. Conversely, if you want to read a users updates or “tweets” you simply follow them. Twitter users follow friends, companies and influential people in their fields and industries.
So why use Twitter? Consider these numbers, every day over two million conversations are taking place on Twitter, and according to Compete.com over six million people are using the service. The good news is that there is a tremendous opportunity to benefit your organization’s image into this growing landscape. The bad news is that you are not going to be the first one talking about your organization - you will be joining a conversation, not starting the conversation. That’s the key aspect of social media - you can’t control the conversation, you can only participate, learn and act.
There are quite a few ways to get your organization involved on Twitter. Here are three of the most important.
First, you should monitor conversations about your organization or brand since people are already talking about it. Twitter is a great way to find out about what is being said and act upon it. For example, Comcast uses Twitter to immediately respond to customer service problems. Services and applications Twitter Search and TweetDeck can automate your searches.
Second, participate – but don’t confuse participation with solicitation. Twitter is best used as a two-way conversation where people are sharing relevant information. The CEO of Zappos, the online shoe retailer, is well known for his conversational abilities online.
Finally, promote and educate - it’s perfectly acceptable in interject relevant information that concerns your organization. For example, twitterers will welcome a blog post from your site if it is relevant to their interests. Take Marriott for example, their posts educate followers about hotel deals, travel information and even their green initiatives.
Signing up for Twitter is as simple as going to twitter.com and creating an account. Look to companies like Southwest, Marriott, Zappos and Whole Foods for examples of how to do it right.