10 ways to use Twitter as a business tool

I’ve been consciously avoiding posting articles about Twitter recently, simply because mentions of it are so ubiquitous these days.  However, having just taken the plunge and joined up myself, I wanted to revisit it with you, because I think it really can be a useful tool.  Here’s an article from OPEN Forum listing ten ideas for making efficient use of your Twitter account for business.  Click here to read it on OPEN Forum, or scroll down.

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Twitter’s the most talked about, still misunderstood, business tool going these days. It is indeed a great tool to create connections, promote your brand and generate traffic to your web site, but there’s much more to it for business if you dig a bit. Most of these tactics rely on the search.twitter.com function and 3rd party tools such as tweetdeck that allow you to set-up and monitor twitter activity from your desktop.

Monitor your brand

Well, this one’s not earth shattering, but still not everyone gets this. Using the search function built into twitter you can easily monitor every mention of your brand, products and people. Staying on top of mentions, good and bad, is essential in the social web world. Of course, this is also a great way to monitor your competitors and some of the challenges they may be experiencing.

Narrow tweet for leads

By employing the advanced search functionality of twitter each of your sales people can mine the twitter stream for specific phrases (network down again, anyone know a good . . .) in very targeted geographic boundaries (within 50 miles of Buffalo) and effectively create a list of potential leads.

Give referrals

Lots of folks jump on twitter with the intent of connecting with potential referral sources, but the most effective networkers know that the best way to generate referrals is to give them. Twitter is not different in that regard. Learn to search and listen on twitter with an ear and eye on referring others when people ask and you’ll find that this public display of helpfulness can pay richly – karmic and otherwise.

Serve your customers

Lots of companies have moved customer service online and specifically onto twitter. As twitter becomes part of the every day business life it makes a great platform to help your customers get answers.

In addition, the public display of your organization’s cheerful customer service acts as a measure of proof that you deliver as promised in your marketing materials.

Test your harebrain ideas

Because twitter is simple and built for quick responses, feedback for your ideas is abundant and immediate. While you might not choose to rely on a tool like this to help you make major business strategy decisions, it can be very helpful for shaking out an idea, getting feedback on several logo designs, or testing article titles.

Of course it’s also a great place to ask a quick technical question, get software shopping advice, or travel tips for a city you’ve never visited.

Gain insight into your customer’s lives

Any salesperson worth a lick will tell you that the more you know about a customer or prospect the better the chance you can connect and help them get more of what they want out of life.

Your customers and prospects are going online everyday and offering real time glimpses into their everyday business and personal lives. Using twitter, not to stalk, but to gain insight into the lives of your customers is just plain smart business.

Stream to your team

If your entire team doesn’t have the time or need to read the 100 blogs and websites that you find yourself reading everyday, then set-up an account or select hashtag and use it as a way to bookmark the stuff you want your entire team to take note of.

Hire it done

Need a logo, web design, VA, copywriter, or IP attorney. Twitter has evolved into a great way to find good suppliers, vendors, and partners ready to go to work today. As with any search for a business relationship a bit of caution is in order, but this is true with someone introduced to you at the Chamber meeting. I think you can learn more about a potential vendor through tweet streams and others on twitter than you might in other platforms.

Live business coverage

Twitter makes a great tool for creating live coverage of an event or product launch. With the proper use of the hashtag and search functions you can keep attendees and non-attendees alike in the loop.

People can attend different sessions and still tune into to what was discussed in another session. The 140 character limit actually helps facilitate snack sized announcements that can lead to greater excitement around an event than any four page press release ever crafted.

Analyze what works

Because of the immediacy of the tweeting environment it makes a great platform to help you understand what messages resonate and create immediate impact and what ones don’t.

When you employ tools like cotweet, hootsuite or objective marketer you can analyze every message, book mark and retweet you make and gain incredible insight on trends, wants, and hot buttons of your target market.

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