The Wall Street Journal published a survey in January revealing that just 3% of small business owners polled believed that Twitter had the most potential to help their companies. However, 60% of those small business owners believed that social media was important to their companies. I believe most businesses do not understand the way to use Twitter. Most think only about sales leads, rather than thinking of the other important purposes of Twitter.
What social media did small businesses prefer? LinkedIn was preferred by 41% of the respondents, 16% picked YouTube and 14% chose Facebook. About 14% of the business owners surveyed said they use Twitter. That figure matches with research released last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that about 15% of all online adults are Twitter users.
In Defense of Twitter, I think that many businesses do not understand the strengths of Twitter and how to use it. So here are some of the strengths of Twitter —
1. Research. Because of the amazing topics covered on Twitter, you can use it for research, listening to customers and competition, and discovering new topics of interest. The multitude of interests covered can help you stay informed on a wide breadth of topics. You are exposed to an amazing array of thought, wisdom and insight. One company learned a new use for their product just by listening to their Twitter users. Twitter is often a quick way to get a response to a question, find out about referrals or get comments on new ideas.
2. Customer Service. Twitter is a wonderful customer service tool. Everyone from airlines to local restaurants sue Twitter to connect with customers to offer information, assistance, updates or apologies for poor service.
3. Real Time News. This is where the real breaking news is – across all topics – across the planet. Citizen journalists across the world come to Twitter with news bulletins for almost any topic. Even Twitter users in countries that are war torn or in rebellion have used the media to get their message out.
4. Syndication of Your Content. Your content is news on Twitter. Twitter is an effective tool to share blog posts, pictures, videos and others relevant content. Some groups hold Tweeting Parties, giving a way for groups to interact.
5. Grow Your Circle of Influence. As you find people who are of interest to your business, you can follow up to 2,000 Twitterers without any limits. This service allows you to interact with potential customers, current customers and peer groups. It’s a great way to meet people that complement your services and to learn from others. Twitter is very democratic. You can converse with business contacts online that you might not ever be able to meet otherwise.
6. Search Engine Optimization. Activity on Twitter will boost your search engine visibility.
7. Strut Your Social Savvy. Depending on what business you are in, it might be embarassing if you do not participate in Twitter. I always advise clients to check out the social activity of potential marketing partners to see if they practice what they preach. It’s amazing how many don’t.
8. Public Relations Opportunities. Since journalists troll Twitter, it is a great place to be seen and potentially picked up and to add to your authority.