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Friday, 1 May 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Twitter - where business is going wrong

Russell Hirst, Tangerine PR

Twitter has today rolled out its real-time search box and trend links across all user accounts. I was actually lucky enough to have this installed on my account a few weeks back (I’d like to say it was because I’m so important, but in reality it was just luck that I had one of the beta test interfaces!) and I’ve found it extremely useful.Basically, the search box does exactly what you’d expect – it searches all tweets for whatever term you enter. It’s real-time too, which means that something tweeted just a few seconds earlier will be displayed in the results.

The trends are simply text links of the most popular things being said on Twitter – today they include ‘Swine Flu’, ‘Happy May Day’ and ‘Wolverine’ – thank goodness ‘Susan Boyle’ has now dropped off!

Firstly, it’s quick – which is no mean feat when you consider how many people are now Twittering – but more importantly it gives results in real-time. You can save your favourite searches so that a text link is added to your navigation bar which means that the next time you log-in, just one click will bring you the latest results for your search term.The fact that all of this is free (for now!) means that businesses have a wealth of information at their fingertips that won’t cost them anything apart from their time.

And that is where people are going wrong with Twitter and other social networking sites. We’ve all done it at some point – seen a cool site in the news or overheard it being mentioned on the telly, signed up, used it for a day or two and then very swiftly forgotten all about it. That fact was cemented this week when a Nielsen Online survey claimed that 60% of Twitter users stop using the site after just one month. I think the reason behind this unusually high fall-off rate (which interestingly is much higher than Facebook’s) is because lots of people still don’t ‘get’ Twitter – or, they just can’t see how they can make any money from it. However, in reality it really is very straightforward – here are two uses that will take just a few minutes of your time:

Benefit from your competitors’ poor service!

Search for your rivals’ brand names - if you find a tweet from somebody who is complaining about poor service at one of your competitors, reply to them and suggest that they use you instead – it’s cheeky, but they’ll probably appreciate that you’re on the ball and take that as an indication that you’re good at what you do.

Keep up to speed on general opinion.

Find out what people are talking about and use it to your advantage – for anything from planning your latest shop window display or deciding what to blog about that day. You’ll look savvy and on-trend (literally!).

There are of course many more benefits to Twitter, however the financial ones (however indirect they are) are the most valuable to businesses who use the service – especially with the current financial climate where businesses are doing their upmost to attract (and retain) customers. I really do hope that businesses embrace Twitter for more than just an initial week or so – even if a member of staff spends just 15 minutes a day checking the current trends, responding to appropriate tweets and looking at what is being said about their brand (and those of their rivals) then the benefits can be huge.

GM Chamber will be releasing a free white paper written by Russell detailing how you can use free social media tools to both increase your sales and protect your brand later this month. For your copy, email Matt Hall or just subscribe to the GM Chamber blog by clicking one of the icons to your right!

Russell is Head of Digital at Tangerine PR in Manchester, handling digital PR campaigns that embrace social media, viral, buzz and word of mouse actvity for a variety of B2C and B2B clients. You can email Russell at

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