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Using twitter as a marketing channel

A recent article in marketing magazine announced that twitter was planning to charge brands for commercial use.

How they are planning to do this at present is unclear, although some experts have suggested it could charge advertisers for display advertising or for access to consumer information.

However the plan to commercialise twitter it does raise some interesting questions, the biggest of which, to an online marketer at least, is: what are the marketing opportunities available on twitter?

First of all, a brief introduction:

Probably the simplest of all the social media marketing channels, this 'micro-blogging' phenomenon gives users 140 characters to describe their thoughts to their followers via 'tweets' - all sent and received via the www and via mobile phone.

Similarly, as a follower, you can create a stream of information from the people you follow. you can also directly contact and follow people you know as well as those you don't.

There may also soon be an option to group users which, for instance, would allow you to keep work-related followers in a different category from your social followers. probably for the best for some of us! ;-)

A tweet on its own can seem dull, out of context and irrelevant. however, with many 'twitters' sharing links to things they’ve found on the web that they’d like to share (or promote) immediately as well as tidbits of personal and/or business information, over time, tweets can in fact offer a greater insight into the 'twitter'.

So what sort of commercial opportunities for businesses and brands are there on twitter right now?

> promoting (often time-limited) special offers: http://twitter.com/woot (US)
> property market: post new properties the moment they come on the market
> spreading your politics: http://twitter.com/BarackObama
> spreading the news: http://twitter.com/bbcnews

It's certainly not for everyone but, whatever your plans for twitter, if you are seriously considering using it for commercial purposes it's a worthwhile exercise (as with all marketing communications) to keep an overall objective in mind as you decide what kinds of personal information, links to useful resources and promotional content you are going to post.

Here's a useful and succinct list of do's and don'ts from Carlos Granier-Phelps (http://red66.com/2007/10/using-twitter-as-a-marketing-tool/)

1. Do use Twitter to sell your products, ideas, offers, insights, etc.

2. Do publicise your Twitter account on your website, business card and marketing literature.

3. Do create a conversation. Add your users to your Twitter account. Let those who listen to you, talk to you.

4. Don’t spam. Really. You don’t have to post everything to Twitter… your important messages will get lost amid the junk. If yours is a high-volume Twitter channel, let users know beforehand.

5. Don’t rely on Twitter 100%. Twitter’s service has been down a lot lately. Use Twitter as one more tool in your social media toolbox.

n.b. if you are going use twitter commercially and 'tweet' links, make sure you keep an eye on who clicks on them and when using a tool such as tweetburner (http://tweetburner.com/).

My final thought on twitter, for now at least:

'Tweeting' (in my opinion) is a great opportunity for social media-savvy organisations wanting to extending their reach if they already have a blogging strategy in place, and want to deepen or further ties with their community. With this in mind, don't start microblogging until you've explored 'blogging proper'. You'll undoubtedly learn a lot of important social media-related lessons utilising the wider blogosphere - even more so maintaining your own blog.

follow me via http://twitter.com/jamesvanderzee

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