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Awhile back, I posted my thoughts on the hot topic in the Internet marketing world for that week, namely Twitter. Although I jumped the gun with assumptions about the course this fad would take, I maintain my general position on the matter. I came across a post containing a bunch of reasons to use Twitter, and this sparked my motivation to post yet again about the topic. I must state that the following is only my opinion, based on my experience in the Social Media Optimization world.

While I don’t intend to mention all of the reasons along with my opinion of each, there are a few I’ve chosen which, I believe, the writer is directing toward businesses, rather than individuals. As I failed to make clear in my previous post about Twitter, my opinion was concerning the use of Twitter for business Internet marketing efforts, not those of one person or a small group of people.

Competitive – to track what competitors are doing and thinking (watch their tweets, who they’re conversing with, and so forth). Gain insights!

This is a good idea, but why use Twitter? While the idea behind competitive intelligence is to learn secrets, many companies may overlook that which is out in the open. A lot of companies utilize Twitter to market special deals, new products, and more. This is valuable information that may not be available through more conventional CI practices – information that may help other companies figure out how to market their products.

Employee Tracking – See where your employees are, and even what they’re doing. eg. If you’re a service company with contractors on the road, some have used Twitter to reveal where all their contractors are around a city, which indicates how close they are to their next service call.

Most companies that require this kind of information to operate will likely have a method of tracking already. Whether it’s a “push-to-talk” cellular service or a computer system networked into handheld devices which employees carry on them at all times, there are plenty of ways that businesses track their employees, and other things, which can carry far more responsibility than Twitter can. However, some businesses may find it beneficial to utilize Twitter for simple tasks, such as those mentioned above. It all depends on the company and how they run their business.

Branding – To build awareness, trust, and possibly loyalty. If a company Twitters good information routinely, and isn’t overly self-promotional, the profile will gather followers. The profile is then associated with quality industry news and integrity. Frequency and quality of posts then breed familiarity, and eventually trust.

While the effort put into regular Twitter posts would may be more effectively spent on blogging, there is an advantage to the micro-blogging that Twitter offers. In many cases, posting to Twitter to a loyal following makes it easier, not just for the business to get the information out there, but for all of those potential customers to find it. Utilizing Twitter broadcasts and feeds on company websites, blogs, and other SM profiles make it easy to put that information in sight of thousands, instantly. However, any company planning to use the Twitter service to reach users should be careful of how often they post, and what they post about. The key here is regular, consistant information. Like anything in the social media realm, offers go a long way, and good information is priceless when compared to the mundane onslaught of Twitterers posting about what they ate for breakfast.

Reputation Management – to learn about issues and problems people are having with your company, so that they can be corrected. I’m a firm advocate that every problem is an opportunity, when viewed from the right perspective.

Again, the effort put into reputation management would likely be better spent on other means, but a company large enough to have a lot of Twitter users bashing it’s good name might do well to solve the problem before it leaves Twitter. However, the last thing a company needs for its reputation is one who supposedly represents the company arguing with a group of Twitterers about whether or not they were correct in their opinion about said company. Opinions are out there, and always will be – while a company cannot correct every false one, they can make efforts to put the right one in as many places on the Internet as possible – and Twitter is one large group of people to which it makes sense to get the word out.

Twitter is a valuable tool for friends, families and aquaintences to utilize in order to keep in touch and up to date, as well as it can be for businesses. We should never forget that there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere that have been proven to be effective, but where appropriate, Twitter can be used effectively. Just don’t push those boundries too far, or Twitter may eventually suffer the same fate as SM sites before it’s time. The target audience for your business marketing efforts on Twitter is made up of users, not other companies, so if companies abuse the Twitter service like many have been abused before, users are likely to switch to the next big micro-blogging site, and leave the companies to re-tweet themselves.

As the writer of the aforementioned article states: “…the key is in showing restraint in the initial months so that one does not ‘burn out’ on the experience.”

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