What is Twitter and Why is it Important?
If you aren't familiar with Twitter, then you are in the minority.
For the last 12 months, Twitter, as well as other social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, has become more and more popular, not only for individuals, but for corporations and non-profits. Twitter was the 2nd highest rated search term in 2009 for Bing.com, right behind Michael Jackson. It was #4 in Google. According to twitdir.com, there are over 5 million accounts registered with Twitter. Facebook has grown to over 350 million.1
In case you aren't sure what Twitter is, here's a brief description from Twitter.com's Business Guide:
Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company.2
I use Twitter. It has replaced my RSS feeder in many ways. In a normal day, I follow news sites, both locally and nationally, other designers and developers in my industry about new trends and ideas, and local companies and people to find out about upcoming sales or events, product launches, and what's relevant to their interests.
But, it's not just about following. Just like e-commerce has given me an excuse not to pick up the phone to order a pizza or drive across town to push through a crowded store and stand in line for hours to pick up my Christmas gifts, Twitter allows me to communicate directly and openly, not just with businesses, but with other people who share similar experiences with me. And, that's not a new thing, nor is it something that's going to go away any time soon.
Simple example: When I have a problem or a question on a product I just bought, or a service I use, normally, I do a Google search. Those searches will forward me to an FAQ section or a support forum, or even other users who may have experienced the same issue. I'd much rather go through that process to get an answer to my problem, then call a 1-800 number, sit in a queue listening to an unbearably awful smooth jazz version of "Smooth Operator", and maybe - just maybe – talk to someone who speaks English.
It's a hassle to through the traditional channels anymore to get answers. I'll avoid it if possible and, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Mainly because, after the frustration of sitting in queue, talking to multiple people (or phone-bots), I've wasted more time and energy than anyone could have possibly wished upon me.
But, with Twitter, I can send a tweet about my experience with the product or service, and within a short amount of time get a response. Maybe by the company's technical support department or by another user who had a similar issue. Just with a tweet, I've started a conversation.
A few weeks ago, I finally received my Google Wave invite. I signed in, started to look around and immediately got stuck on something. So, I posted my problem on Twitter and within 5 minutes, someone gave me the answer I was looking for. With Twitter, it's easier, it's instant, and it's convenient for everyone involved.
But, that's just a user's experience. If you have a company, you've got a message to deliver. How do you get that message across? Normally, you'd advertise.
In advertising, you have many different choices of how to get your message across. Whether that's buying ad space on a billboard or in a magazine, running commercials on TV and Radio, creating a website and email newsletters, or even leaving business cards at the local café. But, when you do this, you are placing the ad with the hope that your customers will see it. Unfortunately, there's really no way to guarantee that people will open up that page in the magazine, or keep the radio on when your commercial airs, or look up at the billboard when driving down the highway. All you have to bank on is hope.
Why try and reach your customers where you think they'll be, when you could reach your customers where they are. Again, there are over 5 million users on Twitter and over 350 million on Facebook.
Unlike traditional advertising, Twitter, much like most social media, is a place for open conversation. It's not just a one-sided message, but a way for you to build a relationship with your customers.
How can you get involved in these conversations? Say you make a computer program. Search for your brand on Twitter and it's quite possible you'll find people talking about their experience with your product. If they are having a good experience, you can share tips with them to help them get an even better experience. Other users can do the same, sharing their experiences while continuing the conversation. Or, maybe they're having an issue using one of your programs, or talk about ideas they wish your programs would do. You immediately are able to talk with them about how to fix the issue, or even thank them for their suggestions and add them to the list of modifications in your next software update.
With that direct connection to your customers, you have a greater ability to not only keep them happy, but keep them loyal. You can offer coupons, post links to your site news and blogs with information that your customers will find relevant or even post about new developments or new events happening within your company.
Does using Twitter to connect to your customers really work? According to Dell Outlet, they can accredit more than $3 million in revenue to its Twitter posts.3
It's not going to work the same way for everyone, but there are plenty of case studies on Twitter's business site that may give you some ideas of how to utilize it for your company and your needs.
Why A Business Should Use Twitter Now?
Okay, I know. This is probably getting really old. It's easy for me to say that Twitter is the route to go for all businesses. Actually, anyone can say anything about Twitter or any other Social Media platform and what it can do for your business. Some "gurus" even go as far as saying you can make thousands in 30 days. That's not what I'm here to say.
At Aztek, we are a company that develops websites for our customers. One of our main focuses during every phase of our process is deciding the best way to help our customers be found on the search engines. From the coding, to how your content is worded, to how your content is organized, or even how the site is designed, it all plays a factor in your reach-ability. And, talking with many of our clients, being found in the search engines is one of the most important parts of their web sales initiative because those search results are major sources of traffic and the generation of leads.
Globally, Google is used for about 80% of all internet searches while Yahoo reaches 6%.4
How does this all relate? Last week, both Google and Yahoo incorporated Twitter and Facebook in their search results reach.5 Not just as static results, but in real-time. When someone makes a post on Twitter or Facebook about your company or your product, it automatically appears in both Google and Yahoo in a real-time stream.
Now, when someone searches for your brand, they won't just find results to your site, but they will also have a live look into your product and your customers' experiences with it. Why shouldn't they also find content contributed by you and your company? You have a chance to be a part of those conversations, but without taking part in social media, you're being left out when, in some cases, your customers need you the most.
So… should you start using Twitter?
We aren't an advocate for any specific social media platform. Nor are we claiming Twitter will make you thousands. But, with the integration of Real Time search results, streaming from both Twitter and Facebook (and most likely many other similar services in the future), it should cause concern that your search engine traffic might be misdirected from reaching you because of it.