Do you tweet?

February 18, 2009

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I’ve had a Twitter account for about a year but just recently started to pay more attention to it. I’ve been making more of an effort to post comments and links and I have increased the number of people/organizations I’m following.  Why? Because Twitter is starting to become mainstream and organizations are finding interesting ways to use it. I admit that when I initially set up an account, I questioned the idea of another social network I had to attend to. Twitter, though, is proving to have staying power.

For those who don’t know, Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows users to post comments, notices and links using a limit of 140 characters. That length restriction means that posts (or tweets) are short, to the point and only take a moment to absorb. Users can access Twitter on a computer or via a mobile device. Twitter post topics and user names are searchable so it’s relatively easy to find users with specific interests to create a relevant network.

I had an experience using Twitter a while back that convinced me that this social network has staying power and a huge potential reach. Frustrated with the bookkeeping software package I was using, I posted a tweet stating, “It’s official , I hate (name of  software)!” I thought nothing more of it. In the span of about 1/2 hour, I received three direct tweets from the software company’s competitors inviting me to check their product out as an alternative. I also received a tweet from an employee of the software company in question. It said, “Sorry to hear you’re having trouble Deborah, anything we can do to help?” Wow. We now have a whole new channel for customer service.

The corporate and nonprofit worlds  are exploring the Twitter opportunities. These include:

  • Disaster relief agencies using Twitter to update followers on recovery progress
  • Nonprofit fundraising campaigns using Twitter to direct follows to specific appeals
  • Authors publishing poetry or short stories via a series of tweets (Yup, really)
  • News agencies using Twitter to post breaking news items

Nowhere was the gaining influence of Twitter more clearly demonstrated than the recent aircraft landing on the Hudson River in New York City. Before any news outlet could get clear pictures, a Twitter user on site took a photo with a mobile phone and uploaded it to a Twitter application called TwitPic. One of the survivors on board also used Twitter to advise followers of what happened, reporting that he and all others were okay.

As with any other social media tactic, just because it’s what all the cool kids are doing doesn’t mean it’s the right tactic for your company or nonprofit. If you’re not exploring this platform and at least monitoring it, you won’t know its potential. As an experiment, go to Twitter and use its basic search function to see what’s posted on topics related to your industry or cause. Bet you’ll be surprised to find more than you expect. To get a feel for just how Twitter works and how people use it, see the TwiTip blog. It’s filled with very useful tips and has become a must-read for me.

So, do you tweet? If you do, how have you (or your organization) chosen to use it? Please post a comment.

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