Posted March 4, 2009 5:54 pm by with 8 comments

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By Patricia Skinner

It has been said (too often) that Twitter is for connecting. And with over 6 million users it certainly is. But it’s for so much more than just connecting.

  • Can you learn on Twitter? Personally I think it’s one of the best places on the net to get an education on just about any subject you care to name.
  • Can you get traffic on Twitter? More than you can cope with if you’re prepared to invest a little time and a little of yourself.
  • Can you sell on Twitter? Yes, if you make the right moves.

It’s possible to connect up with your potential target market like no other place on the Web, if you only understand the way Twitter works.

You Need to ‘Get’ Twitter First…

Those of us who got into Twitter early realized this almost straight away. Okay I admit it took me a couple of weeks for the penny to drop. Others who have taken longer to see the benefits are even now rushing to grab their Twitter user-names as they see trend-setters like Barack Obama and Britney Spears using Twitter and other social networking tools to further their aims.

In fact, so many people have been so tremendously successful on Twitter that Twitter admin is now thinking of charging for certain services so they can also capitalize on the huge sums of money changing hands.

But before you rush off and start ‘tweeting,’ it’s vital to be aware of the brand-building capabilities of Twitter, both for better and for worse. If you rush at it like a bull in a china shop without first getting to know the lie of the land you could be setting yourself up for the PR disaster of your worst nightmare.

Just in the past few weeks some high profile marketers (who shall remain nameless as I feel sorry for them) have been vilified by angry crowds on Twitter for abusing the system and for not giving credit to the Twitter universe. There is a right way and a wrong way: Signing up, following 3,000 people and then tweeting nothing but ads for your stuff is definitely not it.

I see dozens of people following me who, if they have any updates (entries on your Twitter microblog) at all, only have a handful. This is not the way to get in with the in-crowd on Twitter. It takes a time, to be sure, but you have to engage in dialogue.

You have to be sincerely interested in what others are doing and saying. Or you’ll get discarded like any other spammer. And it is considered spamming when you join Twitter with the sole intention of tweeting about your goods or services. You have to offer up something to your network to earn the honor of sharing with them. It’s a simple but very effective concept.

John Jantch over at Duct Tape Marketing has similar views about how to market to your target audience using Twitter.

To be effective you need only locate a couple of decent tools for searching Twitter. One for searching keywords is Tweetscan. You might think of following people who are tweeting about your chosen subject, especially if they’re looking for the goods or services that you offer. But don’t rush to make an offer: let them get to know you gradually and before long they’ll ask you about what you’ve got–if you do it right.

Generally your tweets will only be seen by people who follow you, but there are a few highly useful tools that a lot of people overlook in their haste to follow thousands of people and start spewing out spam tweets. A tool like Twitter Counter will allow you to be seen by many more people—sometimes on thousands of different blogs.

It’s true that success on Twitter can also boost your business, but it’s also true that a failure to thrive on Twitter can follow you all over the Web. OK, I know I’ll get vilified for that but I happen to believe it’s true.

I suppose your most important take-away from this is that while facts and figures are important, your interaction with others online has the potential to far outweigh any good or bad that can come to you through advertising, page building or affiliate systems.

And if you truly cannot see how Twitter can be of use to your online business, well, maybe social media just isn’t for you after all.

Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social director at Mideast SEO, providing branding, social media marketing and organic search. Connect with her on Twitter: ISpeakSEO.