Twitter for Manufacturers, Part 2 – What Twitter IS
What is Twitter, really? That’s a question I get a lot since I began my quest to understand social media in the context of the industrial world. Even outside of industry, there are still plenty of people who just don’t understand Twitter. Basically, Twitter is a relationship-building tool, a way to have short conversations with others, and a way to stay connected.
I read an article in which the author likened Twitter to “friend ESP,” letting you know not what people are physically doing, but what they’re thinking about, planning, reading, watching, and paying attention to. Because Twitter is so short, so quick, so instant, and so easily disseminated to mobile devices, it’s the closest thing we have to direct brain monitoring. Pretty useful, wouldn’t you say? No service has ever before been convenient enough and widespread enough to capture this data, and Twitter does it in real time. Incredible, when you think about it!
For those of you who were nodding your heads when you read the first sentence above, here’s a short explanation of what Twitter IS.
Twitter is Social Messaging.
Twitter may have started as a micro-blogging service, but it has grown into much more than simply a tool to type in 140 character status updates. One way to explain what Twitter is to describe it as a cross between blogging and instant messaging, although that simply doesn’t suffice. It’s more accurate to say that Twitter is social messaging. Twitter gives you the ability to follow people and have followers and to interact with them via Twitter from your cell phone and other mobile devices, making it the perfect social messaging tool. Whether you are out of the office and want to coordinate a meeting with a group of people that same day, keeping a group informed of activity at a trade show, or keeping a team posted on the progress of a large construction project, Twitter is a great tool for quickly communicating a message to a group of people – a limitless number of people.
Twitter is a Miniature Blog.
Micro-blogging is defined as a quick update usually containing a very limited number of characters. On Twitter, that limit happens to be 140 characters. There are many other social media sites where users micro-blog. On Facebook, it’s called posting a status update. Twitter was the social media site that made micro-blogging part of our cultural vernacular.
In essence, micro-blogging is for people who want a blog but don’t want to write a blog. A personal blog can keep people informed on what is going on in your life, business, or industry, but not everyone wants to spend an hour crafting a well written post about their theory on why manufacturers aren’t embracing social media. Sometimes, you just want to say something like “manufacturers just don’t get social media” or “I just heard ‘what is Twitter anyway’ for the 3rd time this week” or “Love that my new client is so psyched about their social media campaign” or “just watched American Idol and I think Casey is going this week!” I had to throw in one personal item. Even if your primary purpose for getting a Twitter account is professional, your micro-blog still needs enough tweets about you, personally, that people can see you as a real, live person. The whole point of social media, even in business, is to create connections and relationships. Those relationships will never go beyond the virtual stage if the people you’re connecting with don’t see you as a person they like and trust. That’s going to be hard to accomplish if all you tweet about is your business.
Twitter is Social Media Marketing
Perhaps the most well known example of Twitter’s use to successfully market a “product” was the Barack Obama Presidential campaign. Appealing to a younger, more tech savvy audience, the Obama campaign used Twitter to keep them updated on campaign developments and issues, real time. Obama became more personal to them through social media, and he didn’t just talk at them, he interacted WITH them (well, probably not Obama himself, but staff members who represented Obama.) Twitter is a wonderful way to quickly connect with an audience of infinite numbers.
The opportunities for marketing on Twitter are numerous. Take for example a café with a strong, local Twitter following on. They can tweet each day about their specials or discounts in order to draw in customers. An author can generate buzz about her new book. A sporting goods store can tweet about special promotions they’re offering in conjunction with a major sporting event being held in their city. A mall can tweet about the grand opening of a new store and draw in customers with offers of a free gift to the first 50 customers. Alright, I know what you’re thinking. These are all examples of B to C marketing, and you’re correct. I have to save something for my next blog post, which will go over some of the ways I see manufacturing and industrial service companies using Twitter.
With utilities like Twitterfeed, it’s easy to convert an RSS feed into Twitter updates. Free, web based platforms like SocialOomph.com give businesses the ability to pre-schedule tweets throughout the week, automating the entire process and ensuring a consistent flow of updates. Other free, web based software such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite give businesses tools that help companies find quality followers and monitor conversations taking place about their business, their competitors, and their industry. There are many tools that make using Twitter as a form of social media marketing a breeze.
Twitter is News Reporting
Have you noticed on many of the major news reporting stations, a news ticker is streaming across the bottom of the screen? In a digital world that is relying on the Internet more and more for news, that streaming ticker is Twitter.
Twitter is a great resource for reporters at any large event or conference wanting to keep a huge group of people “in the know. Actually, coverage of any event is made more personal and delivered in real time when Twitter is used. Faster and more immediate than any other form of media communication, Twitter has been embraced by the “new media” of the Internet and is slowly winning acceptance among traditional media channels.
So if we go back to the original question: What is Twitter, really? We can say that it is many different things to different people. It can be used strictly for personal use, to keep a family or group of friends in touch; it can be used by a company to coordinate business activities; it can be used by the media to keep people informed of an event or developing story; it can be used by a retail business to broadcast news of interest, specials and discounts to its customers; it can be used to market an individual, a company, or a service; it can be used by celebrities, politicians, authors, and other public figures to build up a fan base and monitor a reputation; it can be used as a tool to inform anybody – of anything – in real time.
Twitter is micro-blogging. It is social messaging. It is an event coordinator, a business tool, a news reporting service and a marketing utility. It is communications technology available to anyone, any time, anywhere. Simple, right?