The Growth of Twitter and How it Can Impact Your Business?

If like many others you thought that social bookmarking was all about Facebook and MySpace, then think again. Welcome to the world of Twitter.

Politicians use it, corporate giants are on it and even film stars just cannot resist the temptation of posting a Tweet every now and then on Twitter.

Taking social bookmarking by storm

While Facebook and MySpace continue to dominate, Twitter has quickly raced to the number 3 spot with 7 million Twitter accounts opened by April 2009, and a whopping half million new users being added on every month.

While a number of people use Twitter to keep up to date with what’s going on their world, Twitter is now being used for other purposes as well. For instance politicians use Twitter to find the pulse of voting public and tailor their campaigns accordingly. Film stars and other celebrities use Twitter to grow their fan base. Businesses on the other hand, use Twitter to drive tons of targeted traffic to their website and generate sales.

What’s different about Twitter?

So what is Twitter all about, and how is it different from Facebook and MySpace? While MySpace and Facebook allow users to exchange information and updates, Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that focuses on a shorter version of updates called Tweets.

What this means is that Twitter allows text-based posts that are limited to just 140 characters that the authors can post on their profile page. These are delivered to other users, also known as followers. These are Twitter subscribers who have chosen to follow the author. This works in reverse as well, with the author choosing to follow other account holders – this is known as following.

Twitter also allows senders the flexibility to restrict delivery of tweets to their followers or allow open access to all Twitter subscribers. While tweets can be sent for free using the online Twitter platform, another interesting feature is that tweets can also be sent using Short Message Service (SMS). Sending tweets via SMS may incur fees by the phone service provider.

Since its creation in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Twitter has gained notability and popularity worldwide. Sometimes described as the “SMS of the Internet”, Twitter has become increasingly popular since it’s creation in 2006 by Jack Dorsey.

While estimates of the number of people using Twitter vary daily, a Compete.com blog entry in February 2009, ranked Twitter as the third most popular social network. At a rough estimate this would mean that Twitter has 6 million unique visitors and the 55 million visits a month. Only 40% of users however are retained. A Nielsen.com blog IN March 2009 ranked Twitter as the fastest-growing site in the category of Member Communities for February 2009. Twitter grew monthly by 1382%, Zimbio (An Interactive Magazine) by 240%, and Facebook by 228%.

To many people Twitter may seem like a complete waste of time, a fad for the younger generation who have nothing better to do. This is an incorrect assumption, as the average age of Twitter users is 35. Twitter is definitely not a fad that is driven by teens.

How can Twitter be used as a tool for business?

Used systematically, Twitter can be a powerful tool to generate targeted leads and also be used as a means to communicate with a loyal customer base.

By sending out tweets about product launches, special offers and forthcoming events, businesses can use Twitter to get the attention of their prospects and clients, thereby extending their reach. In this way, they could cut down their advertising expenses and improve profitability.

Besides sending out messages, a subscriber can follow their own followers. This is helpful as private messages can be sent and received between two subscribers. Also Twitter is a great tool for finding the pulse of the market. By sending out a Tweet asking a question about a product or service that a business wishes to introduce, the business owner can get responses in quick time and could make the necessary changes to the product or service before launching it in the market.

Building mutually beneficial relationships is the cornerstone of any business, and using Twitter to post helpful Tweets is an excellent way of doing this. Although Tweets are limited to 140 characters, by using links in the Tweet, the reader can be directed to another page or website to read or download detailed content.

Technology is changing at an amazing pace, and already there is talk about Twitter in a video format. The future of communication lies in integrating social bookmarking with devices such as GPS on mobile phones. This will enable people to communicate with each other not based only on topics of interest, or links of some kind, but also based on their exact location.

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