The Emergence of Twitter

The micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter is proving it's more than just another dazzling flash in the social media pan. Long a communication and promotional tool of tech aficionados, savvy social networkers and other early adopters, Twitter is becoming a respected tool for businesses to improve communication and enhance brand awareness. More and more companies are utilizing Twitter to interact with consumers and cultivate an online community of brand enthusiasts.

Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has grown from a small social networking service to a powerful global platform that allows users to send communications (known as tweets) to friends, associates, and other followers around the world. The robust platform also provides the ability for desktop and web-based applications to send and receive short text messages, a functionality that has massive implications for future communication.

Twitter is changing the social media landscape by providing consumers with the direct ability to express their thoughts and opinions in real-time conversations. Consumers are empowered to control the dialogue and speak directly with the companies and brands that they use in everyday life. The viral nature of Twitter allows individuals to spread these opinions about products and services with their friends and associates within seconds, creating positive word of mouth exposure that can grow exponentially.

The recent rise of Twitter has been meteoric as powerful business figures and well-known celebrities have touted the service. Because Twitter doesn't release the current number of active accounts, estimates of usage can vary widely, but all suggest phenomenal growth. ranked Twitter as the third most used social network behind social networking giants Facebook and MySpace in February of 2009, and traffic to the website itself increased 95 percent in the month of March from 9.8 million to 19.1 million, according to various estimates.

How can businesses utilize the immense potential and explosive growth of Twitter? One of its biggest advantages is that it serves as an open channel of two-way audience engagement, allowing companies to monitor the environment and gauge how brand influencers think or feel. The information gathered from Twitter conversations can be leveraged to enhance customer service, improve products and build brand loyalty.

Twitter also allows team members and company spokespersons to speak directly with customers, providing a platform for clarifying issues, fixing problems, and spreading information about product benefits and company events. Many brands are getting into the act by utilizing Twitter to receive feedback and recommendations directly from their customers, share company news, and inform consumers about new product lines.

Some tips for getting started: Start really listening to what people are saying about your brand. Be proactive yet respectful about responding or adding to the dialogue. Start new conversations about the company or brand when appropriate. Share things that your customers would really find helpful or interesting, rather than robotic talking points that you want to get across. And above all, be respectful of the Twitter community and be tasteful in your messaging.

Twitter is proving that it is much, much more than a passing fad. Make sure that you are harnessing the potential of this social networking powerhouse by using Twitter to engage with your customers and build your global influence.