Got 5 minutes? This short guide explains Twitter & how to use it for business

When a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday 11th March, there were extensive power outages and the mobile phone system was knocked out.

But Twitter provided an alternative means of communication during the disaster, a practical resource – the number of Tweets coming out of the country topped 1,200 a minute in the first hour.

As well as letting friends know they were okay, users also shared the tsunami’s estimated time of arrival on US shores, before the official government warning was released.

What made the social network so valuable was its users.

So what’s it all about?  Here is a 5 minute introduction to the micro-blogging platform that’s punching above its weight in the world of social media.

Twitter is simply another means of communication

Twitter is simply another means of communication that can work with your other marketing tools

Twitter is a means of communication

In addition to email, texts, blogging and Skype, Twitter provides another way to share content.  You have 140 characters for your message, whether that’s a link to your latest press release online, the announcement of a new product range, or a question to your customers.

Whatever you type into that little box at the top of your profile page shows up on the pages of your followers.

Today, “Michael McIntyre” is one of the most common phrases being tweeted in the UK (he’s presenting Comic Relief on BBC1).  But companies find plenty of things to tweet about that don’t relate to what’s on TV.

Things to tweet:

  • What’s going on in your business (new products, office moves, staff changes, new customers,
  • What’s going on in the lives of your staff (social media means showing you’re human)
  • Links to resources that your followers might find useful (free downloads, ebooks, industry reports)
  • Discount vouchers

Find people to follow on Twitter

Find the right people to follow & listen before you start tweeting everything that pops into your head

Want to make it work for you?

Find the right people to follow (Mashable have provided a great guide on this).

Follow people who fit the profile of your target customer, people with businesses like yours (see how they use it), and Twitterers who your customers may follow and be interested in.

Then plan your strategy – without an objective, Twitter can become a very time consuming hobby.  Do you want to research what your customers want?  Build your reputation?  Spread the word about your new product range?  Find more potential customers?

Be clear what you’re trying to achieve and plan your tweets with thought.  Invite followers to an exclusive preview, offer discount codes, share insights (a hotel may tweet about the weather, or the surf conditions), links to podcasts and relevant tips.

And if you’re still not sure what the fuss is all about:

  • Twitter was valued at $7.7 billion in February 2011
  • there were over 100 million new users in 2010
  • you can’t ignore it forever

There – was that 5 minutes?  Are you any clearer what Twitter’s all about?  If you’re just as confused as ever, add your questions in the comments below – no question is too silly so be honest (trust me – if you’re thinking it, someone else will be thinking it too).

And check out my Twitter page:!/thorntonlucy and follow me when you’re set up – I’ll follow you back and watch you grow from a fledgling blue chick to a giant blue eagle.

PS Need inspiration?  Need focus and drive to get your business moving?  Download my latest ebook to get step-by-step guides, ebooks on blogging and customer loyalty, checklists and more: