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I don't understand Twitter - Help!

“I don’t get Twitter”, is often a phrase I hear from business owners, marketing execs and the average man in the street. And it doesn’t surprise me. Twitter can be quite tricky to get your head around. However once you do, you will find it can be a valuable resource both personally and commercially.

Originally created by Jack Dorsey in 2006 as a mechanism of using an SMS service to communicate with a small group, Twitter has grown to over 175 Million users, and due to it’s abbrevity and real time nature – has become the source of many breaking news stories (think when Kevin Rudd got ousted for example).

Firstly some basics regarding Twitter. To receive messages via Twitter you need to “follow” a person or a business. When this person or business posts a message (a tweet) you will receive it. Ideally you want people to follow you (so that when you Tweet they receive your message).

In previous articles I've mentioned that social media is all about "engaging with the audience".  If you post information that users find compelling – they will continue to follow up. Conversely if you post boring / repetitive information people will stop following you.

Some good ideas to Tweet about:

  1. Post links to sites or popular articles, which you feel are of interest to your followers
  2. Float ideas, ask questions about your products / service
  3. Offer exclusive deals / coupons on Twitter
  4. Provide a behind the scenes look at your company / staff. Or show sneak previews of new products / services on offer.
  5. If you like a particular tweet or comment, consider “re-tweeting” it. The original user who posted their message, will appreciate it – and it’s a good way of sharing ideas.

A tweet can only be 140 characters, so you will need to be succinct. If you are tweeting a link to a website (and this is address is quite long), you can use a service such as TinyURL, which will shorten the link for you.

In a previous article I used an example of a a business called “Sydney mechanics”. This mechanic could use their Twitter account to follow manufacturers Holden, Ford, Mazda and Toyota. This would help the mechanic keep abreast of what these companies are offering. Remember the messages can only be 140 characters long, so the mechanic can glean relevant information very quickly.
For their followers: the mechanic could tweet about safety recalls, specials on offer, links to photos of cars they’ve worked on, or re-tweet messages from companies or their own followers.

Many companies are also using Twitter to have conversations with their customers and resolve customer complaints. A user might tweet “@CompanyXYZ on hold for the last 30 minutes. This is ridiculous”. CompanyXYZ will receive this tweet, and can then respond accordingly (this is better then the customer simply changing providers).

Some tips regarding interacting with customers:

  1. Trust your staff, but set boundaries. If a staff member is unsure how to respond, tell them to seek advice from someone further up the chain.
  2. The human factor is important – users want to feel that a real person is giving them real advice, not the standard “corporate line”.
  3. Make sure get back to people quickly. Users who tweet expect a reply, usually the same day.