Twitter is one of those web technologies you either get or you don’t, the main criticism leveled at twitter is “who care’s what you’re doing?” and it’s true to some extent, many people use twitter to announce their latest bowl movements to the world! but if you continue ignoring twitter as a marketing tool your business is going to regret it! Below we take a look a 5 great ways to use twitter to reach more customers.

The biggest mistake most people make is visiting twitter.com and thinking “what’s this all about?” they see a boring homepage and once signed up to a twitter account their own profile page is empty! Twitter isn’t really about twitter.com, in fact it’s not really about a website (it’s not another facebook) the best way to use twitter is via a desktop app like TweetDeck or via a mobile phone.

The way I explain Twitter to friends is describing it like a group SMS/TXT service, you know on New Years eve when you group txt everyone in your phones address book wishing them a Happy New Year, well that’s exactly like a Tweet. Only everyone in the world can see your Tweet (if you want them too), and people can reply privately or publicly to that message.

Sounds pretty unremarkable doesn’t it? Why not just send a TXT, well for one reason it costs nothing to use Twitter, that means you could reach 100,000s of people without spending a penny, try sending a TXT to 100,000 people at 0.10p per message. That’s a cost benefit but the real power of twitter is the ability to follow or to be followed (sounds sinister, but it’s not) if we continue using the TXT metaphor, you could only TXT people who’s phone number you know, Twitter users have the choice to ‘follow’ your tweets (individual twitter messages) I follow the tweets of actor Steven Fry and so do 700,000 other people! I’ve even helped Mr. Fry fix a problem with his Blackberry phone via twitter.

After tweeting with Mr. Fry I picked up lots of new followers, probably people with similar Blackberry phone issues. Are you starting to see the power of Twitter yet? If I sold Blackberry software apps or iPhones that could be a huge source of new sales! Celebrity users have massive followings on twitter, Steven Fry (700,000) Ashton Kutcher (3 Million) Barak Obama (2 Million) which is what you’d kinda expect and then there’s DELL with 976,721 followers, you know DELL! the boring PC manufacturer. Nearly 1 million people just waiting for the next marketing message from DELL to be sent directly to them and they will get the message wherever they are. Are you starting to see the power of twitter yet? If I haven’t convinced you here’s 5 great examples of how to use twitter to market your business.

Example One ~ Chester Tourist

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This is one of my favorite uses for Twitter and one that’s still under exploited by most tourist towns and cities. Twitter has a dirty little secret that not many people know about, using an iPhone or other smart phone device you can find Tweets based on your exact location! I use it all the time, on my iPhone I have a twitter app called ‘Tweetie’ one of the features of the app is the ‘Nearby’ function, I just hit ‘Nearby’ and I can see tweets from people within 1, 2, 5, or 10 miles of me!

So how is that useful? Well if you’re visiting a town for the first time you can get a load of local knowledge in an instant from fellow twitter users. @chestertourist tweets everyday on things happening in Chester, places to eat and drink. Chester gets well over two million visitors a year, if you owned a restaurant or pub in Chester, how many extra customers could a daily local tweet pull in? It’s worth finding out, lots of people use the twitter ‘nearby’ feature to find local information, don’t ignore them!

Example Two ~ BetfairNews

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Betting is a subject close to my heart and business, I take a punt on the football and rugby every now and then, so it’s no surprise to find BetFairNews as one of my favorite uses of twitter. If you have a unique service or business like BetFair then twitter can really help you engage with your customers. Because betting is a constantly moving market twitter is the perfect tool to quickly update customers. BetFairNews tweets sports news, scores and the latest odds for major sporting events.

Constant updates is not the only reason why BetfairNews is a good example of a business using twitter. Fire off a tweet at @BetfairNews about the betting volumes matched on a football game and you’ll get a reply, ask who’s the favorite in the next race and you get an individual response. It’s this one-to-one dialogue with customers that makes BetfairNews a great example on how to use Twitter the right way.

Example Three ~ AngryBritain

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“So Sting is able to shag his wife for 5 hours without going off. I know how he feels. My wife was no oil painting either.” that’s the type of tweet you can expect from @AngryBritain with his sharp satire and commentary on the days news and events AngryBritain has used the power of twitter to build a website and a loyal following online.

AngryBritain allows you to tweet ‘rants’ and ‘beefs’ which are then published on the AngryBritain.com website. So you can use twitter to populate at website or blog with unique content everyday of the year without constantly thinking up new and interesting thing to write about, the more popular your tweets the more visitors you can drive to your website ~ simple but clever!

Example Four ~ SouthWestAir

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Many businesses use twitter to push services or products but American airline Southwest use twitter to track what people are saying about them online. For example, when Travis Johnson, Twitter handle, “pastortrav,” tweeted a complained  about Southwest’s check-in process, he received a quick, public response from an airline employee via twitter saying, “So sorry to hear it! What don’t you like about the check-in process? Did your flight get off okay?”

Southwest spokeswoman Christi Day said “We monitor those channels because we know these conversations are taking place there, and we can either watch the conversations or take part in them,” Twitter can be a great way to proactively manage customer complaints or comments. Along with negative comments you might also discover what people really like about your company! (Ryanair is not yet active on twitter, they’re currently trying to work out how to charge customers £5 to receive their tweets)

Example Five ~ Tehran Bureau

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Gil Scott Heron famously sang “The revolution will not be televised” and he was right, because the revolution will be twitter’d! During the recent Iranian election protests the majority of information coming out of Iran was via Twitter, mainstream broadcasters like CNN, BBC and FOX had to resort to showing tweets onscreen from Iranians posting about the protests. The twitter user @tehranBureau was a main source of reliable news about what was happening on the streets of Tehran. Traditional journalist would warn about publishing information which cannot be verified or checked and I agree in principal, but when events of this nature take place it’s almost impossible to check facts completely until after the event.

What we can be sure about is the ability of Twitter to connect millions of people to a news event instantly. Via the use of the hash tags like #iran, #iranelection news of the protests spread rapidly and seemingly took the Iranian authorities by surprise. For the authorities the only option was to close down access to Twitter from Iran, which they did. Until it was realized that many Iranians were still posting to twitter by text messaging via users in other countries or via proxy servers. Eventually the Iranian authorities closed down the Tehran cell phone network and started confiscating mobile phones ~ a desperate act of a regime that maybe the worlds first government toppled by tweets! The ultimate in twitter power.