Twitter Basics: Followers, Tweets, and Surprising Business Functions
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Twitter Basics: Followers, Tweets, and Surprising Business Functions

Are you a business? Twitter has some surprisingly valuable use as an advertising platform for you!

On the surface, the Twitter engine is a very simple idea. Essentially, Twitter's designers have created a gigantic amoeba-like chatroom in which anyone can update, but not everyone can be heard. Perhaps the most summarized remark I have heard regarding the free service is an opinion offered by Dr. Richard Byers of North Georgia College & State University, who remarked that "twitter" is Australian for "idiot," and ventured further to say that he didn't plan to use the service anytime soon. Yet, despite the potential for being referred to as a twit or one of many other derogatory names, the service has found an impressive niche in pop culture, media, and society.

Twitter produces some interesting opportunities for product advertisers: it has a large user audience and makes exposure cost-free and relatively easy: simply posting a link enables your followers to instantly read what you have to say and allows the entire Twitter fan base to search for your tweet. Tweets don't disappear, either: if someone likes a tweet, it can be RTed (re-tweeted) hundreds of times and even posted on Twitter monitoring websites, generating thousands of additional page views. In a world where clicks generate money, this ability is a powerful attractant to any business. Today, every business that has a website is recognizing the need for a Twitter account. If you are a business ower and do not have your business online, you should consider starting an account in conjunction with a simple website. The benefits can be astronomical.

What businesses have discovered is counterintuitive to the traditional rhetoric for Twitter following: most users would have you believe that generating a large audience is a factor of carefully choosing Tweets so as not to offend the follower audience that you have already acquired. Hundreds of "business accounts" (accounts created solely for the purpose of advertising products and businesses) do the exact opposite, however, and post tons of health, product, service, etc. links per day while maintaining tens of thousands of followers (and increasing them every day). This reveals something interesting about Twitter: the more you post, the more people see you, and the more they follow you. Also, the more recent Tweets you have increases the amount of potential hits that you can receive. Thus, a single tweet is like a pebble in a pond: it generates ripples, but is then quickly washed out by the general noise of the wind and current. A constant stream of updates, however, guarantees that your voice is heard and allows a Twitter user a greater piece of the chatroom pie, contrary to the popularized "don't Tweet unnecessarily" rhetoric.

Some businesses have already recognized the potential of Twitter and update almost constantly. Fortunately, Twitter provides some protection against spam. It prevents the exact same Tweet from being posted by the same profile within a separation of approximately five Tweets or so. It also has some overload capabilities (facilitated by server limits) that prevent users from updating too many Tweets within too short a time span. This prevents users from over-utilizing a service like Twaitter, which is within Terms of Service usage. Also, if a user gets on another user's nerves with their excessive tweets, the user can simply choose not to follow them anymore, effectively pressing the mute button on them. In extreme cases, the user can file a complaint with Twitter if TOS rules are broken (specifically, Twitter mentions spam-like Direct Messaging as a prominent violation).

Overall, however, Twitter usage is a no frills service that offers an advertising platform for businesses, social networking for individuals, and information access for all. The quality and importance of that information is up to the users that post it.

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Comments (6)

I always feel that everyone is keen to update their stuff but no one reads anything anyone else puts up on twitter..

I am "Twitter-challenged"...I just joined, but haven't had much time to really get into it yet. Thanks for the insight.

Dustin, you put me on to TwAitter a couple of months ago. I'm still figuring out how to measure what it does for my traffic, but I know I have gotten no new followers for over a month. I have to disagree with part of what you wrote--basically another excellent article. Cashmere, you're right, sort of. In order to gain any real benefit, though, you must participate in the social aspects, and that means not only reading other tweets (not necessarily all of them) but following links, retweeting posts, and responding to posts. I suspect if people notice these kinds of tweets, they're more likely to pay attention to the ones you posted with links to follow.

Excellent article. T'd, Dugg, SU. I'd have to say that a lot of Twitter is boring. But I suspect that I am like many people....when I do visit Twitter, the few Tweets that appear right at that time get my attention. I may follow a link here or a link there. If I do, I generally do an @____ to the tweet poster whose tweet caught my eye. It at least lets them know that someone followed their link or heard what they had to say.

highly informative

Well written and helpful tips