Using Social Media – Twitter

Twitter is one of several social media networks that is currently growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. While most social media sites are not designed with businesses in mind, Twitter is one system that can be very beneficial if you have an online business.

Twitter was started in 2004 and is officially referred to as a “microblogging” site. What that really means is that Twitter is a web-based text messaging system that allows you to send short messages to anyone who voluntarily signs up to receive your messages. While the actual numbers are guarded by Twitter, there are an estimated 30+ million USA users. Nielsen reports that the largest demographic segment is 35 to 49-year-olds, which make up 41.7% of users. That is an ideal age range if you have a retail store or offer online services and are looking for active Internet purchasers.

Twitter is a natural fit for celebrities, politicians and news organizations. It can also be a good fit for online stores to use to get their advertising message out to people who sign up to read your messages and respond to coupons, sales and special offers.

Here is how it works:

A user signs up for a free Twitter account. The account allows the member to send “tweets” to anyone who signs up to be a follower. You cannot sign people up to be followers; they must voluntarily sign up. When an member sends a tweet, it is sent to the Twitter accounts of all of the member’s followers, who can view all of the accumulated messages on their Twitter home page. The interesting part is that any follower who receives a tweet and likes what it contains can re-tweet it to all of their followers. The beauty of Twitter is that a business can send a tweet out to 500 followers. If the message is interesting or contains a special deal that is worthwhile, any follower can re-tweet the message to their followers. A percentage of those members will re-tweet the message to their followers. It is therefore possible for a message that was originally sent to 500 followers to be sent to hundreds of thousands of followers by the end of the day.

You can also send a “direct tweet” to any one follower that you wish to communicate with. When you send a direct tweet, only that follower will see the message. Messages can be sent via the web, a cell phone or via instant messaging.

The main limitation with Twitter is that tweets are limited to a maximum of 140 characters. That is because the concept was originally based upon cell phone text messaging, which is limited to 160 characters. The twitter founders shortened it to 140 characters to allow for a signature, which tells a follower who you are.

You can include links in tweets. Free URL shortening services, such as bit.ly, tinyurl.com and others, can convert long URLs to very short URLs that are then re-directed to the intended destination URL. URLs longer than 25 characters are automatically run through a shortening services by Twitter.

One problem is that it can be difficult to accumulate a substantial number of followers who are interested in the products or services that a web site offers. The best way to do this is to simply set up a Twitter icon on a web site and invite a site’s users to sign up as a follower.

The best part with using Twitter is that is is easy to learn and is completely free. There are no incremental costs for sending messages. The only investment is in the time it takes to send tweets and accumulate followers.

If you have a Twitter account, feel free to sign up as one of our followers using the Twitter link in the right column on this page. If you need to sign up for a Twitter account, simply click on the Join Twitter link when you arrive at the Twitter site and follow the instructions.

There is one important tip to offer when you sign up for a free Twitter account. During the signup process they will ask you to provide your e-mail password so that they can import all of the the e-mail addresses in your account and invite them to become your followers. If you feel comfortable with this, then go ahead and do it. Personally speaking, I would never provide any web site with my e-mail password. There is a link at the bottom of the page that allows you to skip that step.

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