In today's on-demand society, news travels fast. In fact, according to social networking tool, Twitter, news travels at about 140 characters at a time. Twitter is the most widely used micro-blogging site and has become an essential PR and marketing tool. When the medium is being talked about by mainstream media staples such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, PR folks need to be paying attention.
More and more companies now use Twitter to communicate and create close relationships with reporters, customers and prospective clients. No matter what industry you work in, Twitter is a tool that needs to be on your radar. At the very least, your company should be monitoring Twitter and figuring out the best way to utilize it.
Twitter can be thought of as a short form subscription tool. One of the major benefits of creating a corporate presence on Twitter is that it is spam free, which makes it more inviting to subscribers. The 140 character limit requires tweets to be clear and concise, which forces users to make each interaction meaningful. Once a regular conversation is established through frequent tweets, your profile has the potential to attract a strong following.
PR and headline news
From a PR standpoint, Twitter is a great way to seek and create media opportunities. Reporters are now proactively tweeting to inform their followers of upcoming projects to help find spokespeople. It's also a valuable tool to help monitor key trends, breaking news, and find out about reporters' interests. Whether it's green initiatives or the recession, Twitter users are able to quickly stay on top of what's “hot” in their industry. In this way, Twitter has opened up a new level of awareness that hasn't been available to PR professionals, and one that other social networking sites have not been able to offer. Companies that don't pay attention to Twitter are potentially missing out on extremely valuable media opportunities.
Customer service and CRM
Twitter can also be a great way for companies to stay on top of customer service. Many companies have set up Twitter accounts in an effort to improve their reputation and increase customer loyalty. For example, customers might tweet about product issues, glitches, and other problems that arise. A company that monitors tweets closely can provide solutions and answers quickly, directly to the customer, in order to build trust and strengthen the relationship with their customer base.
Engagement, interaction, and viral marketing
Another advantage of Twitter is that users are able to insert themselves into conversations immediately, which can be a major marketing tool, especially at events. Companies can now offer exclusive content through tweets from the conference floor at trade shows and events. By engaging potential customers in conversation before, during, and after an event, Twitter allows companies to get a leg up on their competitors. Twitter can also be used to launch and maintain viral marketing campaigns. Brands can encourage users to follow them on Twitter to receive exclusive updates and news.
Immediate gratification and distribution
What makes Twitter so powerful is how quickly users are able to communicate with large groups of people. There is no limit to how many people a tweet can reach at virtually no cost. Twitter has become one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available. Business leaders can use Twitter in a number of different ways, but, as with any social networking tool, it is important to understand the medium, the culture and the unwritten “rules of the network.”
In public relations, new tools are constantly emerging to give practitioners an edge. Twitter is an important social networking tool that has shown no sign of slowing down. Get involved today at least by listening to the conversation, even if you're not ready to join in just yet.
Sandra Fathi is the founder and president of tech-focused boutique PR and marketing firm Affect Strategies. She blogs at techaffect.com, and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @sandrafathi.