Twitter can be used as more than just a platform for saying what's on your mind. I talked about the power of real-time search with Twitter in a previous post of mine.
Simply having a Twitter account will do nothing for your company or brand. In order to use Twitter effectively and gain the benefits it can provide, you need to engage with your users and give them a reason to follow you. What's great about Twitter is that anyone can do it and most importantly, it's free. Conan O'Brien knows this all too well.
1. Monitor Your Audience
What are people saying about your brand on Twitter? If you don't care, then you should leave right now. Twitter gives you unfiltered access to what people are saying and feeling about your brand RIGHT NOW. No amount of research or focus groups will give you this kind of data.
You can use http://search.twitter.com to search what's happening in real-time on Twitter. Let's say I'm Canon since I'm a Canon fan (P.S. - Canon, if you're monitoring this, feel free to send me free stuff. I REALLY want the 7D). In this example, I'm doing a quick search on the word "Canon."
If I'm Canon and I'm monitoring Twitter like in the search above, I have a great opportunity to reach out to @krrrsten who tweeted that she isn't sure about her new Canon SD1400is. I could offer to help answer any questions she might have or provide her with some links to great reviews about the model.
Now let's see what people are saying about my competitor Nikon.
Looks like Nikon is where it's at according to @pointlessramble. They obviously have some passionate followers.
You can also see what people are saying directly to you. Canon has an official Twitter account with @Canon_Camera. Twitter users can send messages directed to Canon by adding @Canon_Camera in their messages. Unless you are following someone, you won't be able to see any messages directed at you. So you'll need to find them by adding "to:" in your search. For Canon, you'd search for "to:Canon_Camera."
We can see that @ugogalassi is showing love for Canon. Word-of-mouth advertising is in full effect here.
2. Engage Your Audience
Twitter also gives you an opportunity to engage with your audience directly.
If you've ever flown on Virgin, you know it's a unique experience. Mood lighting, extra amenities, and great customer service are just some of the perks you'll receive.
@Virgin America extends their service on Twitter and does a great job with its customers. It's constantly active, responding to customer questions and offering special deals and tips on flights.
3. Sell and Promote
If you haven't heard of Kogi BBQ, you're probably watching too much Dancing with the Stars. Kogi BBQ is enormously successful, and sells a fusion of Korean and Mexican style tacos and burritos from taco trucks that drive around Los Angeles. What made Kogi BBQ unique was that it was one of the first well known cases that effectively used Twitter to help their business grow. Each day it announces the locations of where it will be, providing daily updates and announcements to its customers.
Dell Outlet has been a huge success story for large companies using Twitter. It uses Twitter to sell excess inventory at major discounts directly to customers. At the end of 2009 revenue had reached $6.5 million from sales through Twitter.
Keep in mind that users are following you for a reason. They want special offers or incentives. Give them a compelling reason to follow you.
Companies have also been using Twitter to provide support for its customers. Comcast is a good example of what is possible by communicating and responding to customers.
This is where we start to dig in deeper into the advanced tools that Twitter offers within its search.
Search by Location
Let's say you're a camera shop in Anaheim and you want to find out who your potential customers are. Since every Twitter account has a location field in its profile you can search for any tweets on photography within, say 25 miles, of Anaheim by typing "photography near:92802 within:25mi."
You now have a target market who you can reach out to with people that are interested in photography within your area of business.
Search by Keyword
Every Twitter account also has a Bio section where you can enter information about who you are.
So let's find all the people who say they are photographers on Twitter. For this, you'll need to use Google to search within Twitter by typing "intext:"bio * photographer" site:twitter.com." This will search the entire Twitter site for the word "photographer" in the Bio section.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other ways to use Twitter, but these tips should help you get started. If you're curious to see how other brands and companies are using Twitter, check out Clever Accounts which is run by Twitter's Communication department. Interesting and clever use cases of Twitter are posted by their team.