Of all the online platforms, Twitter is sometimes the hardest to translate to a traditional marketing process. The service itself is so untraditional that this is not really surprising; the uses that Twitter has seen have taken even the inventors of this service by surprise. It has been used to discuss the most frivolous things, and has been used in emergencies as a way of getting real time information.

It is unrivaled in spreading information quickly and in as close to real time as you can get, and it is for the most part very democratic. If the people don’t find the message holds value of any sort, it won’t be widely distributed. If you send too many of those, people will just stop listening altogether

Twitter itself is taking strides to make it friendlier to business with promoted Tweets and promoted accounts and trends, and they are looking at other methods of monetizing their sites potential as well, but the main marketing benefit comes from the circle of followers you build.

In the instance of promoted accounts and trends, Twitter will search for people who are using terms that describe your business and place an ad in front of them, with the idea that they will start following you. Promoted Tweets are much the same thing; they search language used, and put the Tweet in front of the people who may have a higher interest.

With promoted Tweets it is most effective to use them as a specific sales point; you get something extra for responding to that Tweet, or free shipping on a product you order, or a free game of bowling – this could be anything depending on your business, and is a great way to get in front of a lot of people.

Hash tags also make certain things much easier to find, but you don’t want to over use them. Tying a hash tag to a specific event can be very effective; if you are a music store, for instance, and are planning a spring concert battle of the bands, you could use #springbandbattle for any Tweet that had anything to do with that event, and build awareness of it before traditional advertising is put into play.

Bands and people that have an interest in that event can then easily be updated by watching the hash tag you set up for it; this is also a great way to get new ideas from your followers about what they think of certain things or what events and specials they would like to see. For instance, #pickthenextconcert could be set up, and people in your area could vote on which local bands should be featured at that concert.

This interaction is very important to your Twitter efforts. Interaction is what it is all about, and when you can tie specific benefits and privileges to your Twitter followers you will earn their loyalty and their retweets.

Links are also very important. In the previous example, with every Tweet with the #springbandbattle you could add a link that takes you to the music store’s website page where the bands sign up and can send in demos online. Once they are on the site, they will more than likely explore it before they leave, and this holds true for nearly any type of business, not just music stores.

While Twitter should be a part of your online marketing strategy, it is much more a two way street, especially for the smaller business. It does not matter whether it is local or internet based or a combination of both, looking after a Twitter account properly usually means listening and responding more than simply setting information out.

The true power comes from that involvement. You want to be seen as a positive force, so make many of your Tweets not about yourself; retweet something good that someone said, or respond to a question or a problem. This takes more effort, but the main point of Twitter is that it is an excellent way to build a community. You can’t just talk about yourself and expect that to happen.

And that way, when you do send out something about your company, a sale or a new product or news on an event people are more likely to respond to it and /or retweet it. Always follow the golden rule, though – read the message you are sending and ask if you would want to get that. Only then should you Tweet it.

Find and follow your best potential customers. Following anyone with no regards to who they are is counterproductive, but Twitter allows you to search and follow people who may have a higher interest in your product or service. As part of this brand building strategy it is essential that you respond to these select customers. Comment on what they Tweet, send a relevant link back to them and retweet those things you think are worthy.

And, just as you can search these people out using local areas and keywords, keep in mind that people will be searching for you with keywords as well. Draw up a list, and try to work them naturally into your Tweets. You don’t want to overdo this, but it is a good idea to keep these keywords in mind as you compose your Tweets.

With many businesses, all this is more than one person can handle, but there are companies that can provide critical support and advice to incorporate Twitter into your online marketing platform. Twitterz.net and other can provide a whole range of professional services, from getting that first critical mass of real users to follow you to devising a strategy that will work for the particular world which Twitter has built.

You can build a very effective marketing tool out of Twitter, and develop a community that you can also reach out to and help. A well run Twitter account can more than make up in goodwill and business, and do it in a way that traditional advertising could never even dream of. If you don’t have a twitter account, or are not used to social networking, talk to an SEO or online marketing business about how these new technologies can help improve your image and your bottom line.

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