12 Practical Ways to Use Twitter in Business

Twitter Support Bird ImageTwitter has been receiving an enormous amount of coverage in the mainstream press.  My 82-year old mother-in-law recently asked me why all of the news anchors on her favorite morning show kept talking about this Twitter thing, and what is it anyway?  Yet most business professionals, marketers and media people still don’t have a lot of personal exposure to Twitter, so many of them are scratching their heads and wondering what all the commotion is about.  Unlike VentureBeat , we think that the fuss about Twitter is driven by more than just its popularity in the press.

I recently replied to this tweet from @dpazour:

looking for three practical things that can be achieved personally or professionally through twitter–so far no luck. HELP!!!!

It was tough to answer in 140 characters, so I decided to expand on my answer.  Without much effort, the three practical things became 12, but I’m sure there are many more that could be added.  Let us know what you’d add to this list!

1. Find out what people are saying about you

Because Twitter is open – most people don’t protect their streams – smart brands are monitoring Twitter to see who is talking about them and what they are saying.  It’s a great way to monitor your reputation, and offers many opportunities to engage with customers and prospects

2. Build an audience

Facebook and LinkedIn are for staying in touch with people you already know.  Twitter lets you meet new people.  You can follow anyone, unless they have protected their profile.  You can engage in conversations, re-tweets, replies and direct message with people based on shared interests.  It’s a great way to build a community that you can tap in many ways for personal and professional reasons.

3. Get answers

The tweet I quoted above is a great example of how to use twitters to get answers to questions.  Build a group of followers that have expertise in a specific area, and you have an instant team of experts ready to give you advice.

4. Provide customer service

Got a gripe with a product you just bought?  Tweet it, and see how your complaint gets a response. If brands are listening, they can wow their customers, and create a great PR case study to showcase their dedication to delighting their customers.  This blog post documents 7 of them.  Or use your feed to answer questions, like JetBlue does @JetBlue.

5. Instant, cheap focus group feedback.

Twittering customers, by definition, are among the most vocal, passionate customers you can have.  They also tend to share their opinions and influence others, both online and offline.  Tropicana found this out, and ended up rolling back their redesign.  Why not get their feedback on new initiatives – before you spend the money to go to market?

6.    Build traffic to your site

Add new content. Tweet. Repeat.  Of course, you’ll get more followers and more credibility if your tweets do more than just promote your content – make sure you take the time to engage with the audience you’re building on Twitter so they know that you’re not just a robot that automatically posts your latest link.

7.    Create content for your site

Ask a question on Twitter. Talk about the results on your site.  Find out what people are talking about on Twitter.  Write content to address those issues.  (Then Tweet, Repeat – see #6.)  This blog post is a great example of that practical use of Twitter.

8.    Get breaking news

Every smart news organization now has an intern monitoring Twitter for reports of news items.  One of the reasons Twitter has been getting so much attention lately is because of its role as an early news warning system for major events over the last year.  The Mumbai terrorist attacks.  The Hudson River jet landing.  The Academy Awards.  People were tweeting all of them, and consumers, news organizations and sponsors are figuring out how to leverage that.  Heck, there’s even a tool that lets you rank your news stories based on Twitter search results.

9.    Live cover an event

Set up a twitter feed around an event. Tweet the event to include people who are not able to be there in person and expand your audience.

10.    Offer coupons

Use Twitter to distribute time-sensitive promotions, either using a coupon tool or by tweeting the offer directly.  Many people use Twitter on their mobile phones, so you’ll reach them while they’re out and about, where you may be able to get them into your store.  Here’s a good post on using Twitter for mobile coupons.

11.    Include your audience

You’re about to interview an important source.  Use Twitter to find out what questions your audience wants answered.   You provide coverage of a big event such as the Superbowl or the election. Add a Twitter feed for instant audience response.

12. Organize

Whether you’re trying to win an election, win a PR battle, or get people to support an event, Twitter has proven to be a highly effective way to mobilize and organize like-minded groups of people.

Your turn.  What are some other practical professional ways to use Twitter?