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Let's start with a confession: I'm prejudiced.

I may be on FaceBook (I like to know what my kids are up to), and I may be on LinkedIn - business users rather than social apparently, though I rarely do anything positive with it: just maintain a presence.

But for the life of me, I cannot get Twitter. It's not the arguments which are frequently employed in its favour, in terms of its usefulness in building a profile, reminding people of your existence, or whatever (see opposite for the full monty).

It's the concept of being able to communicate anything useful, worthwhile or interesting in 140 characters (why 140, by the way? Who set the bar at that particular height and why? Oh dear: now I'm going to get loads of explanations and justifications. Try and keep them to 140 characters, will you?

Every day, I have a conversation with someone extolling its virtues, yet each time I see an example of the 'art' - really, I shouldn'y be gilding it with such high-falutin language - it always turns out to be, at the very best, a paragraph which would not be out of place in The Sun. The sort of phrase you use in the street to people you don't know well enough to say anything deep or meaningful to, about the bloody weather or the price of fish.

I've got nothing against The Sun: I often buy a copy to pass an hour on the train, to keep myself up to speed with the zeitgeist, and to amuse myself at the fabulously simplistic language - an art in itself. It is not, however, my first port of call when I'm seeking some serious information or debate on any subject matter.

And so it is with Twitter: the reduction to sloganising every aspect of our largely not very interesting lives.

Marketing Tool - or Emperor's New Clothes?

So I asked a proponant to give me an idiot's guide to why Twitter should form part of your online marketing effort. I assume I don't have to justify the inclusion of digital marketing in your activity plan - but then the assumption that everyone out there actually has a formalised marketing plan is probably widely over-optimistic, And 'assume', as we all know, has a tendency to make an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'. Here is what Darren Moloney of All Things Web in Wiltshire says:

We all hear people who continually harp on about Twitter: how great it is for their business, the leads they generate because of tweeting, and the contracts they win.

Yet as you dig deeper, you begin to suspect their claims, believing it's just a huge case of snake oil sold by web marketeers to generate further services for them.

So for the cynics and the not yet converted amongst you, here are 10 reasons why you should consider Twitter, and how tweets could help benefit your business:

  • Twitter increases traffic to your website - if you follow an audience which is conditioned to help you, then you will be onto a winner when it comes to them promoting your website. Be careful to avoid too much self-promotion though, or you will risk alienating your audience.
  • Twitter can get you industry news before many others - I've found that by following others in my industry, I can keep up with items of interest and react to them before they become common knowledge across a broader community.
  • Twitter gives you another medium to keep in touch (with others who are already on Twitter) - you might be surprised who already has a Twitter account amongst your business contacts. When you find them, send them a personal message and strike up an interesting virtual conversation.
  • Show your caring, human side - Twitter is a wonderful platform to post personal tweets, so people who follow you can get to know your character and your interests.
  • Instant polling - I've found that by posting a question to my followers, I can get results within minutes - an absolutely superb way to test new ideas.
  • Twitter lets you track your company name and/or brand - if people talk about your business, Twitter lets you see what's being said.
  • Twitter trends - when you log on to Twitter, you can spot the trends that are listed, allowing you to keep up with all the buzz and information across the planet.
  • Share knowledge - by tweeting with others in your industry, you have access to a huge bank of knowledge which you can dip in to, or even add your own knowledge to the pot.
  • Help others with your expertise - set yourself up as an expert in your field on Twitter and answer other peoples questions: give good answers and tips, and you'll soon see an increase in followers.
  • Set easily achievable Twitter follower targets by sticking to a defined plan: follow others across a broad spectrum of subjects, re-tweet others' tweets, follow those who follow you, unless they are clearly spammers, etc. Set goals you can reach - first week 5 followers, second week 20, and so forth.
  • On the whole, using Twitter can benefit you and your business, but do remember Twitter can have its downside: for some, it can get a little addictive, and spending too much time on Twitter can be unproductive when you have other things to do."

    Convinced? Or still skeptical? Answers in no more than 140 characters please!

    For more information, or to arrange a no-strings-attached initial meeting, contact:  

    David Croydon

    Hilltop Consultancy
    Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire