Social media Part 3: Twitter

Mar 20, 2011   //   by Andrew   //   Social media  //  Comments Off

What’s with Twitter? Why use it?

If you’re not in to social media, then Twitter may seem like it’s from some alien planet. People conversing in 140 character snippets. Why would you bother?

It’s all about engagement, getting the consumers of your websites – your audiences to start a conversation with you. Your webite will have different audience groups for example  customers, suppliers maybe, the public, your competition etc etc. Generally speaking, small business websites will be broadcast only, that is, you talk to your audiences, you publish – they read. Twitter allows you to have a conversation, more or less in real time, for example you could give service updates – EasyJet does this very effectively with two Twitter feeds.

How does it work?

Let’s take a step back. You need to know about Blogging.  A Blog (or weblog) is an online journal – a ‘dear diary’ written by someone about a specific subject. You’re reading a blog now, mine – I write for small business owners about web related subjects. A individual blog post can be a small or more lengthy article or as in this case, a series of linked articles. Twitter however, is known as micro-blogging because unlike this article, on Twitter, you only have 140 characters (inclduing spaces) per message. Brevity is everything!

If you just go to you’ll see a login page and little else. have a look at

So what benefit is it?

You may be thinking, and rightly so, that what can you do with 140 characters?, well, a surprising amount.

Slightly technical stuff: Lets take a tweet apart.

Here’s a mythical post

@freddo You can #buy the new mycompany #energysaving product at all good shops. It will #save you #money see it here

There is a simple message here but it is in a sort of code and to save you counting, with spaces is 136 characters
freddo is another twitter user. The @ is a way of ensuring that you reply to a message he sent us or question he asked. Its called a mention.

#buy, #energysaving, #save, #money
These are known as hashtags and are keywords (tags) that you can use to ensure that your post will appear to anybody who is searching for whatever is in the hash tag.
To create a hashtag, you simply add a leading has character # to a word which will then become a searchable term.

If I’m interested in searching for who is talking about energysaving, I could easily put this in the searchbox and all those tweets that use this hashtag will appear. This is hugely useful because you can ensure that you appear in other peoples’ searches. Try not to overdo hashtags – it can make a tweet difficult to read. Inthe example above, I’ve probably used one too many. 1 great, 2 ok, 3 acceptable, 4 or more, probably a bad idea. If you spend any amount of time on Twitter you’ll probably see hash-spam, tweets that consist of nothing but hashtags
This is a shortened link. As you only have 140 characters to playwith, then long web page addresses could in themselves be 140 characters or more, this wouldn’t work. So, and others provide url shortening services.
You go to the website, paste in your long url and it will create a shortened version called a redirect which you can use in your twitter post.
This means that you can paste long links efficiently into your tweets.
Real example:
This page that homes a semi live webcam looking at the US volcano Mount St Helens is 64 characters long – almost 1/2 a tweet!
It shortens to which is 19 characters long – must more usable.
When the weather is good, you get a great view but Mount St Helens is 8 hours behind the UK time.

So back to our mythical tweet, we’re telling somebody directly that they can find our product in all good shops, some benefits and what it looks like – which is on our website.

But you say, I’m only talking to one person – there’s no return on investment!

Wrong. By using hashtags, you’re actually tweeting to hundreds if not thousands of people. If you pick them carefully  then anybody who searches for that subject will see you.

Twitter is not about quantity of people, but quality. Effective advertising is all about targetting, the more effectively you target your audience, the more effective your adverts will be.

Simply matching your offer to their needs just like any other form of advertising. Nothing changes on Twitter.
The example so far has been about talking about ‘my product’. Think of all the ways that you talk to your customers
Product news
Service updates
Contract wins
Good news
Press releases
Expressing interest in what your customers are doing

One word we haven’t discussed so far, ‘social’ as in ‘social media’  If you watch Twitter for a while, you’ll notice that it’s quite sociable even on business topics, people ask questions, give you a bit of banter, have fun. This may sound alien in a business context, but just think, when you talk with your regular customers you do this anyway, talk about the football game last night, what they did at the weekend etc etc, Twitter, again is no different.


Twitter is a good way of communicating with people interested in your interests or business type or products. You have 140 characters per message and you can build quite a powerful short message by use of shortened web addresses and hashtags. It is useful in passing on snippets of information or drawing people to your website. Twitter is done in real time, you need to be present on a regular basis.

In the next in this series, we’ll have a look at Followers and Following – building a community.

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