Almost every week I am asked by a social media sceptic why I spend so much time on Twitter. For many, Twitter is seen as just a time sucking site to provide useful updates about your cat’s acrobatic prowess. However, for those of us who use the service on a daily basis it can be so much more.
In fact, I believe, and have often stated, that Twitter is whatever you really want it to be.
Here are the main reasons I use and benefit from Twitter.
Becoming highly active on Twitter is possibly been the most beneficial thing I have done for my business. I see Twitter as the modern Chamber of Commerce, without the boring meetings and bad coffee. It has grown my circle of contacts, opened doors, generated publicity and delivered many, many business inquiries. Twitter delivers significant traffic to our company websites, which more than compensates for the time cost of being online.
Twitter can be a wonderful tool for PR. While we regularly hear about the faux pas of celebrity tweeps and the bad PR it brings them, the opposite can actually be true. Brands who monitor Twitter have the golden opportunity to address complaints and quickly enter a direct dialogue with customers. Twitter can be a great place to generate excitement and community for new products and services or to allow customers to have their say and contribute to a brand story. Organisations can choose who they connect with and be quite strategic about it. There are Twitter lists for everything these days so its not hard to track down the groups who best suit your strategy.
This could be seen as an extension of the first two points. Twitter provides a small business the opportunity to build a string profile with a relatively targeted audience or community for very little investment, Ie Time. A consistent approach to publishing useful material, engaging key people and generally being friendly and helpful can pay unimaginable dividends down the line. Our own small agency has been fortunate enough to receive significant media coverage and speaking opportunities largely due to the profile we have steadily grown on Twitter. Anyone can do this.
I have used Twitter over the years to quickly resolve problems with organisations who have typically had a reputation for being impenetrable. Several Telstra and Bigpond service debacles were quickly addressed after I sought them out online rather than suffering through the dreaded automated phone service. Similarly, a recent gripe with Commonwealth Bank that was going to see me move my business elsewhere was satisfactorily addressed with the help of a CBA executive on Twitter. A long as you are reasonable and polite, I believe you can be treated fairly and, potentially, rapidly via organisations on Twitter.
Being connected to a large number of people on Twitter means that you have instant access to answers you might need. From the “Dear lazy web…” style questions to more specialist advice, Twitter can be a wealth of information.
An extension of the “answers” on Twitter is the ability to generate recommendations on any number of topics. I regularly use Twitter for recommendations when I travel, like dining, sites, events etc. I usually get fantastic suggestions from locals that I would never have found otherwise. Likewise, asking for business recommendations like suppliers, venues, and information can be extremely handy.
These days I probably discover more news on Twitter than I do through traditional news sources. Often this is news as it happens, via first-hand accounts. Twitter is news in real-time.
Social networks are all about community and anyone who loves Twitter appreciates the amazing benefits of this extended community. Building a strong community and being a good citizen of that community can result in all the benefits I have detailed above. For many, the community itself is the greatest benefit. Being able to create friendships at local, national and international levels is something that cannot be underestimated.
I can claim many new and genuine friendships that have grown out of the Twitter community that I value greatly. And that reason alone is enough to explain why I tweet.