Five Reasons Twitter is an Essential Social Media Tool

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The longer I use Twitter I find more and more reasons to include it on my must-use list of social media sites. I got to thinking about my little love affair this week when Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends asked fifteen small business owners what their favorite social media site was and why. I was interviewed for the piece, as were other Unleashed speakers including Matt McGee. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Twitter just might be the best all-around social network for small business owners.

Anita’s question to us was:

“If your goal is to grow a small business online, and you had time for only one social networking / social media site, which would you choose and why?”

If you’ve been following the site for awhile, you know Twitter was a no brainer for me. After all, I outlined my love of Twitter in a five part article series here at Search Engine Guide. Here’s my response to Anita:

“I’ve likened Twitter to ‘acceptable eavesdropping’ and pointed out how easy it makes it to join the conversation. Twitter is one of the fastest ways to make inroads with other people in your industry. It also gives you some insight into who companies and bloggers are as people; their likes, their dislikes, their personalities. This can be invaluable when it comes to putting together pitches and building relationships both inside and outside of your industry.”

If I wasn’t forced to pick just one, I’d obviously tailor my answer a bit more based on the particular industry and how much time the small business owner had to invest. That said, I think my default choice would still be Twitter. Here are five reasons why.

1.) Twitter is about the conversation.

Sure, you can have conversation on blogs, on Facebook and on some other social media sites, but it’s a different kind of conversation with Twitter. The best way I can think to describe it is to give real world analogies. With blogs, you’re on stage speaking to a crowd. Sure, there’s Q&A via your comments, but you run the show. With Facebook, you have insight into each person via their profiles, but you’re mostly communicating one on one. Twitter is sort of like a giant dinner party. There are tons of conversations going on and you can easily join one, or you can start a new one. If you start a new one, others can easily join in. You can even carry on multiple conversations at once. It’s total conversational freedom.

2.) You can use Twitter to promote your social bookmarking submissions.

Spend any amount of time on Twitter and you’ll see folks asking for help voting up a submission at Digg, Sphinn, StumbleUpon and a variety of other sites. With Twitter, you can get a feel for who uses which sites, you can keep tabs on who tends to respond when you ask for votes and you can pitch in to help other people’s submissions do better. Twitter can be a great way to promote your activity and accounts with social bookmarking sites.

3.) Twitter can boost your blog.

It’s a no brainer that you can send out a tweet with a link to your latest blog post. (In fact, many Twitter users now claim they rely more heavily on tweets than RSS feeds for finding good content.) Using Twitter to boost your blog doesn’t end there. Twitter is a great source of blog topics. You can pick up other posts and expand on them, get ideas from the conversations you’re having and discover new authors to add to your feed reader.

4.) Twitter is networking gold.

Listen to anyone talk about building links, launching a viral campaign or getting bloggers to cover your products and you’ll hear them mention the importance of relationships. PR firms are struggling to learn how to pitch people who aren’t trained journalists. The truth is, it’s quite simple. Respect them as a person and offer something of value. Make a connection. You don’t have to be their best friend, but you do need to make an effort to build a relationship.

Since most Twitter users share a combo of business and personal information, it can be a great way to learn a little something about your pitch target. Besides, if you find someone new you like, you can quickly look them on up Facebook or LinkedIn, add them to your network and learn even more about them.

5.) The Power of the Re-Tweet equals Viral Gold

It’s been said that blogs can take an idea and spread it from New York to Tokyo in minutes. If that’s true, then it’s also true Twitter can do it in seconds. It takes very little time to blog something. It takes less time to email something. It takes even less time to tweet it. Send something interesting out into Twitter and folks will pick it up and repost to their own list of followers in seconds. Suddenly your own network grows infinitely.

Time and time again, I’ve seen breaking news come across Twitter before I saw it anywhere else. I don’t have to check my feed reader, don’t have to wait for the news to break in on television, don’t even have to wait for a phone call. The second one person on Twitter hears the news, it spreads like wild fire.

In an Ideal World…

Now I wouldn’t really suggest someone rely ONLY on Twitter in terms of social media activities, but I do think there’s value in dedicating time to it. I have accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr and a wide range of social bookmarking sites, but Twitter is the only one of those services I use daily. In fact, Twitter is generally what prompts me to go and use the other ones. It’s sort of my central repository of social media activity.

Haven’t tried Twitter yet? Using it now, but not convinced of the value? Take a read through my Twitter series and consider how you might be able to best leverage Twitter for your small business.