Overview of Twitter for Business

With Twitter's rapid growth and recent establishment as a leading online social network, a whole range of businesses, both online and offline, small and big, have been quick to try and benefit (certainly in more ways than one) from the social marketing platform, however as will be discussed just below -- it is important that one should realise that there are indeed both advantages and disadvantages of twitter for business and businesses. The online Twitter platform should be regarded as a pretty powerful tool by businesses and is certainly something that they should be wary of and a field they should study heavily in, as Twitter has the potential to both 'make' as well as 'break' a business and its reputation all in a matter of just a few hours. 

Advantages of Twitter for Business

1. Identifying a Specific Target Market - with specialised methods and sites such as twithawk.com, local businesses can easily identify people (Twitter users) within their target market by simply checking for keywords in current and past tweets. For example, if a Twitter user mentioned a specific product e.g. 'luxury chocolate', in their tweet and were within a 3 miles of the Luxury Chocolate Shop -- this business then has the opportunity to reply and be generally helpful to the user's tweet. Then in the long run this can allow the business to build a group of 'active' and 'loyal' twitter followers (all within their target market -- who may also refer their friends) for the business -- meaning an expanded customer base, improved brand loyalty and ultimately an increase in sales.

 2. 'Twitter is Free' -- Lowering Business Costs - the mainstream use of Twitter is essentially free, a business doesn't have to pay for any registration nor  monthly fees. Therefore, a business is essentially getting a free platform from which they have the ability to market, advertise and provide customer services all within one unique and efficient package. Giving it the potential to massively cut business costs -- and hence increase profits.

3. Twitter Marketing and Commercial Strategy - with books such as 'Twitter Power 2.0: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time and 'The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Timealong with other sources can help educate a business on strategies to maximize the potential gains and sales made from Twitter. Allowing Twitter to effectively become a fundamental tool in a business's operations when carried out in an effective way. For example, such a strategy Cindy King implemented is through setting out a set of useful and open ended tweets 5 times a day for 6 weeks, as a result she saw a 800% increase in inquires for her business [4561].

4. 'Direct Business to Consumer Conversation' -  Twitter allows a one-on-one scenario, business to consumer, consumer to business, they can contact each other on a direct level query one another, answer one another in a very 'human' manner. A quick and effective form of building customer interactivity which then results in building a greater trust between a business and their customers, it is known that some major businesses teams dedicated simply to replying to and answering Tweets sent their way.

5. Provides a Business With High Quality Feedback - sort of falling on the back of the last point -- is that through the direct business to consumer contact --  a customer can provide the business with current up-to-date and insightful feedback on their operations, whether that be positive (i.e keep doing it and/or more of it) or negative (i.e correct it and/or improve it). Whereas in the not too distant past the only real feedback a business got were through out of date and biased surveys, Twitter gives the business a chance to improve -- and to improve fast.

6. Building Brand Loyalty - if a business executes useful tweets and employs a 'helpful' strategy to its followers,as mentioned above, they will build a certain trust with their followers and with that customer loyalty. They are likely to buy from the business they know well and trust, than buy from one of its competitors who they know little or literally nothing about. 

7. Business Promotion -- Events etc. - also through a business' twitter account they can send tweets out promoting certain business events and gatherings, as well certain sales and announcements that the business wants to make.

Disadvantages of Twitter for Business

1. It May Take Time - unless it is a pretty big and influential business, the chances are it is going to time and a fair bit of effort before a business starts to see significant results from its followers and activities on Twitter. The business can't expect to instantly receive a whole new set of customers simply by setting up a twitter account. It is important to understand that   to see a whole new influx of sales, the business has to work. Work to gain relevant and active followers, work to build trust with these followers and work to grow and expand.

2. Addictive, Intrusive and Time Consuming - often what gets pointed out as a negative with Twitter and other online social networking sites such as Facebook, is the 'addictive' side of it. And it is true. Right through the day (and night) you will constantly be receiving Twitter notifications about new comments, replies and retweets etc. it is incredibly difficult especially for a one man team to keep on top of Twitter as a whole, and can probably find themselves getting lost with what the actual strategy is for their business.

3. Bad Feedback & Negative Press - the same way a business can receive good press -- with happy loyal customers spreading the good word of a business, it can also work the opposite way if you receive a negative complaint (which travels the social networking site a whole lot faster than good press) causing potential customers to be warned away from trading with a particular business.

 4. Malicious Targeting -- Internet Predators - as a business shares information they have to also be cautious as to not make them themselves a liable threat to internet predators who are looking to either 'hack' their twitter account or potentially commit a case of fraud.

 5. 140 Characters in a Tweet -- Can be Limiting - although 'simplicity' is what makes Twitter such an attractive and distinctive social networking platform, it can also be its downfall, a business may struggle to get across a 'full' message in just a 140 characters. Hence, many (usually large) companies don't set up a Twitter account simply because they feel they don't have full control of the message they are getting out there -- especially with the message and the marketing all being promoted within the Twitter brand. 

6. Measuring the Value of 'Followers- a business's followers may not all be 'valid' and may be redundant, some followers will be inactive --  so it is important that a business doesn't measure popularity solely on the number of followers. They should take time to shift through their followers and identify with people who are genuine and are within the business's target market.

Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Twitter for Business

As seen from the rather 'tongue in cheek' list of pros and cons above, Twitter can be of a huge benefit to a business if you used and optimized in the right way, however it is important that they understand that in order for a business to become successful on Twitter and gain some of the advantages as mentioned above, it takes both a lot of effort and a lot of time, especially for smaller businesses. If you have any additional advantages and disadvantages of Twitter for business and businesses individually then I encourage you to please share a comment below in the comments box.