On the 21st March 2006, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of a little communications service called Twttr (a play on words inspired by Flickr) made the very first ‘Tweet’
Who would have thought that just seven years later Twitter, as it was renamed, would be such a global phenomenon?
It is not just used by celebrities and the general public announcing what they had for lunch. It has become a key communications channel during major political events and natural disasters.
It is so powerful that businesses now rely on Twitter for marketing, PR and customer service.
Completely different to any other communications service, users find it utterly addictive. That is why you, as a local business, should be tapping into that power. This article will give you a quick, easy to understand tutorial on how it works.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a messaging service with over 200 million users and counting.
Users send and receive messages called ‘Tweets’ that are no more than 140 characters long. That means that they are really quick and easy to write and read.
Tweets are public so everybody can see them, making it very easy to communicate and meet new people on Twitter.
Members of the Twitter community choose who they will ‘follow’ and read their Tweets, so you have to be interesting or people will choose not to read your messages.
You can send Tweets from your mobile phone, PC, websites and desktop programs and because they are instant, people can read the messages in real time, as they happen.
For a business owner, the power of Twitter is virtually limitless:
- Provide you with a lot of FREE traffic
- Create additional sales through well-crafted marketing tweets
- Enter into conversation with your customers
- Let you see what other people are saying about your products and services
- Allow you to provide the best customer service
The most effective use of Twitter is to tweet quality information. You can do this by demonstrating your knowledge on a particular product or service.
If you consistently provide this kind of value and information, you will not only have a loyal following but you will also get a lot more sales.
The most effective way to use Twitter is to view it as a tool to build a relationship with your customers and potential customers. When you build the trust up with them, and they see that you are committed to providing great customer service as well as a fantastic product or service, they will want to visit your site and buy your products. They will feel much better about their decision to buy from you and will be more inclined to do so in the future.
Many people use Twitter to find answers to questions so they can make an informed decision on whatever they need to, from which hotel to choose in a particular city to what washing machine to buy. They trust the responses they receive through their social circle in the Twitter community more than by Googling the answer or just reading a website. So it is vital that you interact with them.
How Twitter Can Help Your Business:
From a business perspective there are a number of compelling reasons why you should use Twitter:
Twitter enables you to create an online brand that is not only professional but also personal.
You can build up a great relationship with your Twitter followers. Twitter allows you to connect with existing and potential customers in an intimate way that builds trust.
There are over 200 million users of Twitter and it is growing every day, so it is a very powerful traffic source.
Gaining followers on Twitter is like building a social media mailing list. This can be very lucrative if you build up a rapport with your followers and provide great customer service.
Many tweeters are open to the idea of taking part in surveys, so it is a very effective way to conduct market research.
Essential Twitter Commands you should know:
Most of the Twitter jargon and ‘rules’ have come from the users themselves rather than from the company. The language that they use is no exception. In fact the word “tweet” is a perfect example of this. It was a term created by users and Twitter didn’t incorporate the term “Tweet” into its site until three years after the service started.
So let’s consider some other terms that will be helpful to you:
In the beginning there was no way to send a message to any particular individual on Twitter. You just had to use the system for posting updates.
However, pretty quickly, people found that they wanted to hold public conversations on Twitter. So users started to adding the @ symbol to the beginning of account names as a way to send a public message or refer to somebody on Twitter.
After a while, Twitter decided to incorporate this feature into the Twitter model. An @ symbol followed by an account name is a link to that account page. This is very useful because any @messages are now a vital tool for networking on Twitter, helping you to discover and communicate with new people.
Top Tip: If you want see @messages to you or that mention you or your company, simply head to your Twitter homepage and look at the @mentions tab. This is not an automated service and you won’t receive notifications when anybody does mention you, so you need to do this regularly, but it is still a great tool nonetheless.
Although messages on Twitter are public, the system does have a private message option.
Private notes on Twitter are called “direct messages or DM messages. The only disadvantage is that in order to send a DM, the recipient has to be following you. Weirdly, if YOU are following somebody who isn’t following you, he can DM you.
To see any DM’s or send one on the Twitter website, simply head to the top of the page and click Messages (Despite the fact that users call them DM’s, Twitter officially refers to them as ‘Messages’.
A quick word of warning: It is actually very easy to send a public message when you intend to DM somebody, and it’s also very easy to DM the wrong person, so be very careful.
To eliminate any risks, use the New Messages button, which prompts you to pick a recipient from your followers. Double check everything before hitting ‘Send’. Just like sending a text message, double check to make sure the message is going to the right person.
Twitter has a feature that sends you an email when somebody DM’s you. You can find this by going to ‘Settings’, then ‘Notification’. It is a good idea to leave that setting on, because the Twitter site doesn’t notify you in any way when you have a DM. It saves you having to constantly check your account.
A reply is any update posted by clicking the “reply” button on another Tweet.
After reading the tweet, click on ‘reply’ beneath the tweet. You enter your message and click on the ‘Tweet’ to send it. Easy!
Retweet or RT
This is one of the most important of the terms that you need to know on Twitter.
Retweeting is simply a way of reposting somebody else’s helpful, funny or thoughtful tweet with your followers but giving them the credit.
Retweets are incredibly viral and help important messages work their way round Twitter. They also add credibility and kudos to the person who made the original tweet. In fact, if you find that your tweets get reposted, it shows that you have some influence on the Twitter community, which is great for your business.
New users on Twitter find hashtags the most confusing, but it is actually a very simple and useful feature and worth trying to understand.
The hashtag is simply a way for people on Twitter to categorise messages. So if somebody adds a hashtag (#) before a post, basically what they are saying is “all of these messages are about the same thing”.
For example, if you are watching the X Factor finals and want to enter into discussions about the X Factor as it is happening, by adding the hashtag before X Factor (#XFactor) or before the contestant you want to talk about, you will find all of the other conversations talking about the same subject, e.g. #SimonCowell
As you have probably realised, this has many other great possibilities. By adding the hashtag you can find conversations relating to the kind of product or service that you provide, and make useful posts to encourage people to want to know about your business.
Hashtags will also allow you to follow certain trends and popular discussions.
Top Tip: When creating a hashtag, you cannot use any blank spaces between words or this will inactivate the hashtag. So to create a hashtag subject that is two or more words long, like the Simon Cowell example above, you will need to join the words together. However, instead of typing it like this: #Simoncowell, which is quite hard to read, you can differentiate the words by adding capital letters like this; #SimonCowell, which has the effect of separating the words, even though there are no spaces between them.
Give Twitter a try for a month and feel the love
If you just dip in and out of Twitter once or twice you probably won’t get it. The real value of Twitter becomes evident only after you have followed a few accounts for a while and get a feel for how it works.
If, despite reading this article, you are having trouble seeing what all of the fuss is about, try this simple tactic:
Follow at least 4 or 5 accounts that you particularly like. It could be a celebrity, friend, politician or workmate. Then for the next 4 weeks, log into Twitter on a daily basis. Catch up on messages and click around for five to ten minutes.
Every few days, check the trending topics by using hashtags.
Finally, spend 30 minutes one day running a few searches about your product or service to see what you can learn from the discussions on Twitter.
At the end of the 4 weeks you’ll have spent a good five or six hours giving Twitter a go and hopefully you will be convinced that it is the most important new communications tool we have seen since email and how it can be hugely beneficial for your business.
If you still need convincing or some help on how you can use if for your business, contact us and we can show you how we can drive traffic and new customers to your business using Twitter.