In a down economy, it might seem counterintuitive to try experimental mediums such as Twitter for marketing and customer outreach. After all, the more well-established Facebook has a documented 175 million active users, while estimates place Twitter (which doesn't disclose such figures) at around 5 million users.
But while Twitter's user base might seem small, the return on engagement from Twitter fans is substantial, says Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), a senior Forrester analyst who researches social technologies and who writes a blog on Web strategy.
"Most Twitter users are hyper-connected," says Owyang. "They are influencers and really want to share opinions with others. Many of them keep blogs. They are very different than the mainstream Facebook users."
While Twitter's founders have hinted at charging companies in the future for their participation, any business can get started today for free. For most companies, the decision to utilize Twitter will depend on the type of products or services that they offer, as well as the department - or departments - that would benefit from joining the service.
Gathering Twitter wisdom from social media analysts and companies that have enjoyed success via Twitter, we've rounded up the key steps your company must take before it can enjoy a viable Twitter presence. In most cases, companies that started Twittering with clear objectives - or at least listened closely to the Twitter user base after they got started and adapted their strategy accordingly - have reaped the greatest benefits and (more importantly) helped their customers in the process.
Listen and Learn About Twitter
Before you can identify the main objective for your organization's use of Twitter, you first must understand the Twitter community and what they think of your company, says Laura Fitton ( @pistachio), who runs Pistachio Consulting, a firm that helps companies utilize Twitter and other microblogging (also known as microsharing or microstreaming) technologies.
"Get some search tools and start listening to the Twitter community before you do anything else," Fitton says. "Listen to what they're saying about your company and your industry."
Fitton also recommends reading "Twitter 101" stories on the Web. Her firm has compiled a "Twitter for Business" reading list, with articles written by sources that span the Web.
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