By Malcolm Graham, @malcolmcgraham, www.limetreeonline.com

Almost everyone must be aware of Twitter by now, even your grandmother? Twitter has become a media phenomenon and has many celebrities using it regularly such as Stephen Fry, Russell Brand and Piers Morgan. This article will explore how or if Twitter can be used for business. Here are some common perceptions of Twitter:

1) Just by being on Twitter I can get rich!

2) Everyone on Twitter is real and genuine.

3) I am already well-known. Being on Twitter will help me?

4) Twitter is dangerous for my brand.


I will address these perceptions one by one:

1) Just by being on Twitter I can get rich!

With just Twitter and nothing else - Unfortunately not! Even if you were a very early adopter and you get a lot of followers you would also need a range of other talents to get rich via Twitter. If you do have a range of business skills then by being on Twitter you can get to know people that you would not otherwise. There are thousands of people on Twitter claiming to be earning a fortune from Twitter. I personally think that very few are.

One of the main ways of making money on Twitter is to drive traffic to a particular destination. However even a very good metric would be to be earning a few pounds per click that you generate. And so even if you were to drive 100s of people to a link you would normally be making a few hundred pounds only. Also, there is a limit to how much people will put up with Tweets that are advertising things. The quickest way to drop followers is to post a SPAMmy affiliate link.

If you are already famous then you can monetise Twitter. This is because it is now a recognised communications channel that people are actively engaging with and it is different from other modes of communication. It can be quite personal and you can get to know someone quite well by following them and interacting with them on Twitter.

Perhaps if you have dedicated several years and countless hours on Twitter you can scrape a living on Twitter, however we believe that Twitter is only part of a good social media strategy. Facebook and Google are both significantly more important when promoting your business online.

2) Everyone on Twitter is real and genuine.

No they are not! There are a lot of SPAM bots. These are software programs that regularly post SPAM. These are normally set to automatically follow certain people and follow back anyone that accidentally follows them. There are also plenty of people that follow-back anyone that follows them. This helps to boost Twitter followers with very little effort. This strategy boosts followers to a high level; however these accounts will generally have a similar level of followers as people following them. This is an indication that the account could be SPAM. Another indication that a Twitter account is SPAM is that the picture on the account is of a very pretty girl with very few clothes on. Unfortunately few of these are genuine, with a few exceptions!

3) I am already well-known. Being on Twitter will help me?

Yes it might do. If you have a well-known brand or you are well-known already then you can certainly leverage Twitter to your benefit. Well-known people of organisation can attract many followers very quickly. For example Charlie Sheen picked up more than 2.1million followers in a week. This can help well-known celebrities communicate better with their audience. The celebrity can communicate directly and effectively and at a very low cost. Other celebrities such as Piers Morgan have certainly become better known through regular tweets which are often between celebrities. This is clearly of interest to the general public and can certainly increase the profile of a well-known person. By association businesses and individuals can certainly raise their profile by interacting publicly with celebrities. If you can get a celebrity to tweet at you e.g.) @malcolmcgraham for myself then all their followers would potentially see the details. This can help all of us.

This is probably in my opinion the single biggest opportunity for most people to make a short term success of their time on Twitter.

4) Twitter is dangerous for my brand?

Yes it can be, however it should be seen as an opportunity rather than only a threat. By not being on Twitter you are taking a far bigger risk. For example many large organisations are using Twitter as a new customer service channel. For example I was having some problems setting up my BT broadband account. I tweeted about it and within minutes I was contacted by a BT engineer who helped me to get connected. One reason that large organisation are taking Twitter so seriously is that Twitter is often key to viral campaigns. Dave Carroll was traveling to Nebraska in the spring of 2008. To cut a very long story short United Airlines threw his Guitar around the tarmac. He later found out his £2,500 guitar was broken. He recorded a video and posted it on YouTube and then Tweeted about it. The You Tube video had over 3 million views in 3 days, and has had a serious effect on United Airline’s stock pfrice. Perhaps if United had been on Twitter and had responded to the first Tweet with an immediate offer of compensation at an adequate level the issue would not have had such an effect. The general perception from after the event of seeing the video would be that if I fly United they will break my stuff. This should have been addressed by their PR department and one of the best ways to do this is to engage with Twitter.

Twitter can also be used as a sales channel. It should not be purely a sales channel; however it can help large organisations to sell more. One of many examples is Dell. Dell announced it made $6.5m in revenues through links on the micro-messaging site. Dell also helped minimise problems with the launch of one of its products which had a usability problem. The company uses social networks, such as Twitter, to scale necessary support of Dell business units. This helps them to get to know their customer feedback, albeit at times in a way that is very public.

My Conclusion

Twitter should be part of every social media strategy and not all of it. It is very good for contacting people that you want to contact. Twitter has to be part of your strategy but never all of it. Having a website with a good Google ranking and a Facebook page are both more important in my opinion. However, at the very least every organisation or business person should reserve a Twitter name or handle, as it is known. This at the very least stops someone else impersonating you or your business online and can be held for use later. Twitter is like most communication channels, if you put in rubbish then you will not get anything of value. If the content is good and your message is targeted to help or interest your audience then Twitter can help you.

If you can get onto the radar of a celebrity or well-known organisation then Twitter can really raise your profile.