With Twitter firmly established as the “conversation place to be,” marketers are beginning to look for where they fit in. And that means tools.
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a service that lets individuals exchange 140-character messages—via computer or mobile device—with groups of “followers.” The result is a fast-and-loose, multidimensional conversation that falls somewhere in between blogging and text messaging, happening in real time between millions of users around the world.
Luckily, the Web interface for Twitter.com is just the start of many ways to interact with and glean intelligence from Twitter conversations. There is big potential value for tapping into the Twitter-stream for insights into what customers are saying about your company's brand and its market.
“Millions are leaning on Twitter pretty hard as a way to network and communicate with contacts new and old,” said John Jatsch, a social marketing expert and operator of Duct Tape Marketing. He added that marketers have many options for how to use Twitter, including connecting with customers, monitoring conversations and testing new ideas.
To use Twitter to its fullest, b-to-b marketers should consider using the following handful of tools and services:
??Twitter clients. It doesn't take long for most Twitter users to move beyond using Twitter.com to post and monitor their posts or “tweets.”
There are much more powerful tools at your disposal for reading, filtering, searching and posting to Twitter.com. The list of Twitter clients includes popular Mac client Twitterific; Adobe Air-based clients such as Twhirl, Tweetr and Spaz; Firefox add-ons like Twitterfox and TwitBin; and software that lets you track multiple social engines—such as Facebook, FriendFeed and even instant messaging as well as Twitter—like Digsby and AlertThingy.
A new client receiving a lot of buzz is TweetDeck, which features a huge but customizable user interface that makes it easier to track posts, replies and direct messages as well as set up customized searches (see screen shot at left). And don't miss TweetLater and FutureTweets, which let you schedule posts and autoreplies, making your tweeting life easier.
??Twitter search. Tracking Twitter conversations can quickly become overwhelming, which necessitates a search tool. Twitter got its first search tool in the form of third-party service Summize. The application proved so useful and popular, Twitter acquired Summize last summer and now runs it at search.twitter.com.
But there are other options for Twitter search. Twitturly is a service for tracking what URLs people are sharing and talking about. Similarly, TweetMeme tracks hot topics. Twithority and Twitority (yes, they both exist) return search results based on an authority-rating of the person writing the post. Tweetbeeps, meanwhile, adds alerting to search, allowing users to set up search terms and be alerted hourly—via Twitter of course—when the term is used.
In addition, a number of search and directory tools help users finder other Twitterers, including Twellow, which organizes users by industry category, and Mr. Tweet, which recommends people to follow. On the other side of the coin, Qwitter and Twitterless let you know who's stopped following your tweets.
??Visual analysis. Graphical tools for analyzing Twitter conversations, including some designed specifically for marketing professionals, are starting to proliferate.
Twist lets you visually compare topic trends. TweetStats reports on how you and your followers are tweeting. TweetVolume graphically compares how often certain phrases are tweeted. TweetPro is a paid service for finding out who is talking about your products and services.
Other handy apps. Suppose you want to know if you (or someone you follow) is a Twitter big shot? Services like TwitterGrader and TwitterRank measure the reach and authority of Twitter users. Don't like the 140 character, text-based nature of Twitter? TwitPic lets you add pictures. Twiddeo adds video. TweetCube adds file sharing.
Time to start tweeting. M