Forget 140 characters, describe Twitter in 1 word!

Guest blog by Paul Allen

You often read just how effective Twitter is at driving traffic to the destination of your choice, but I guess I never realised just how good it could be!

Rightly or wrongly, it appears to me that businesses using Twitter in the UK are using it in one of two ways, either as a giant networking tool or more frustratingly, as a platform to broadcast constant sales messages.

Intrusive?

For my business, Twitter has been a revelation. In addition to highlighting opportunities that I never knew existed, I have made some interesting contacts, met some interesting people and yes, even won some business! Interestingly, when demonstrating Twitter’s potential to clients I often see a similar spark of excitement in their eyes when they realise what it can do for their business.

When talking to businesses about prospecting, I have often said that I loved the “intrusive” nature of Twitter, but following my first meeting with new twitter friend (twiend?) Linda Cheung she challenged my use of the word.

Linda was uncomfortable that the word implied unwelcome almost sinister. On reflection I agree with her, but if not intrusive what would be the correct adjective to describe the power of Twitter?

Engage

I love the fact that when you engage with your community, the message seems to spread far wider than you would expect and I love the fact that people often respond immediately. I can recall two recent examples that illustrate the power of Twitter. Recently a friend rang me asking if I knew a photographer who would be free that evening to take pictures of an event. I tweeted the request and within the hour had the name and number of a local photographer who went on to do a great job. Similarly, I used Twitter to demonstrate to a potential client why they needed a Social Media profile for their business. During the appointment, I sent out a tweet asking if anyone could recommend an office cleaning company on the Hampshire/Berkshire border. Within minutes three replies listed each of their main competitors!

Community

Similarly, over a period of time I became aware that in the tweeting process I was unwittingly segregating my followers into sub groups who would be interested in particular types of messages. I assumed that when talking about Social Media, I would be reaching one particular profile of person (Tweep?) and when chatting about football or similar personal interests I would be talking to a different section of my community. What I learnt very quickly was not to trust my intuition, or try to second guess my followers! Furthermore it was amazing to see just who and how many were happy to introduce me to others who they thought would also find my tweets interesting and informative.

Interaction

Several weeks ago I was working intensively on Twitter and Facebook activity with one of my clients, an interior designer. We had taken a long hard look at her customer base listened to the reasons why they used her services and defined her target market. We began to build and engage a following of people likely to be interested in her & her work. To support the engagement principle we devised a large number of helpful design hints and tips designed to not only assist homeowners with their own efforts but hopefully to spark an online debate. Each tweet contained a link to her Facebook page which we had populated with photos and videos of her recent work. On studying the analytics after just one week, we were staggered to see that just 15 tweets had driven 222 visits to her Facebook page which also resulted increased “likes” to the page.

Innovation

As a former broadcaster, I constantly compare the development of Twitter with the great days of UK radio back in the 1970’s. It was true that communities built up around particular broadcasters and programmes. The best broadcasters developed two-way communication with their audiences (Noel Edmonds “Dingly Dell”) and as a result great things were achieved often in the name of charity, but the difference here surely is the global power of the Twitter community?

So if the adjective to describe the power of Twitter is not “intrusive” then what would it be, perhaps it is without comparison? Certainly, as its popularity and influence grows, it continues to surprise and amaze and I guess the message here is if you properly engage with your community then expect the unexpected.

Paul Allen is a social media marketer helping businesses engage with new and existing customers via new media. He is also matchday host at Reading FC.

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