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Twitter Unless you've been under a rock, in a coma, or a complete Luddite (which means, of course, you wouldn't be reading THIS), you've noticed a recent barrage of media attention to this little social media tool called Twitter.

What exactly is Twitter and why should you care? Wikipedia defines Twitter this way:

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets.
Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are
displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who
have subscribed to them (known as
followers). Senders can
restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default,
allow anybody to access them. Users can send and receive tweets via the
Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. The service is free to use over the Internet, but using SMS may incur phone service provider fees.

Twitter is an example of Web 2.0, where two-way conversation is king. (To be perfectly accurate, "two-way conversation" is redundant and "one-way conversation is an oxymoron.) And as the definition states, you have "followers" (people who have chosen to hear your "Tweets"), and you also follow others.

Think of Twitter like a 24/7 online networking event. It's a lot like the last big "networking"event you attended at your industry's big trade show or convention. You walk into the room, see hundreds, maybe thousands of people milling around, and you decide if and how you are going to participate. If you're like most people, you look for familiar faces and activate a tractor beam to pull yourself into their group. Most people stay with their peeps and really never get out and "network" with new people. In fact, most of us avoid human contact with strangers at all costs.

Being an online party, Twitter allows us to be somewhat arms-length from all these strangers, thus giving us permission to approach people. We can be a little bolder…and this is where most people screw up their perception of Twitter.

As the media has hyped up Twitter (as of this post Ashton Kutcher has 1,642,841 followers!), it's become a race to see how many followers you can accumulate. Twittiquette says that if someone starts following you, then you should return the favor. Now in the early days of Twitter (WAY back in 2007), most people accumulated followers by posting hundreds of interesting Tweets. "What are you doing?' was the question that started all the conversations, but they quickly morphed into much more interesting submissions. Pithy remarks about some topic of interest, famous quotes, questions, redirects to interesting blog posts and web pages, brief movie reviews, etc., etc., became the norm rather than "Eating waffles and bananas for breakfast."

People who USE Twitter join the conversation. People who ABUSE Twitter have no intention of joining the conversation. They just buzz their evil little fingers around the Twittersphere, clicking "Follow" on thousands of names, expecting all those people to automatically follow them back. The abusers don't add any tweets to the conversation, somehow thinking that if they collect 4,239 followers and only post three inane comments, they're big winners. They think they now have some type of list of people they can now market stuff to. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Another Abuser is the person who simply sees Twitter as one big marketing opportunity. Every single posting is a product pitch, like this real post, "FREE trial with GDI @ www.RossB.ws."

Why is this abusing Twitter? As I said, Twitter is like that last big networking event you attended. Imagine standing there and someone you don't know walks up and immediately says, "FREE trial with GDI @ www.RossB.ws!" You'd turn, walk away very quickly, and look for Security.

Web 2.0 (Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and the hundreds of other social media sites) is about CONVERSATION…it's about RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. It's about building credibility and trust with the exact right target market. Remember the adage, "People do business with people they like. People do business with people they know. And people do business with people they trust." Once you've built credibility, people will naturally want to know more about what you do and maybe they'll do business with you. Once you've built trust, they'll tell others about you. That's the beauty of Web 2.0.

Should you be on Twitter and/or any of the other social media tools to help build your business? That's hard to say. Marketing is an inexact science. It's all about testing. But considering the ability to start conversations with a huge population of targeted prospects, I'd say it's worth a try.

Just don't be an Abuser.

Oh, and BTW, if you want to follow ME, click this link: www.twitter.com/SteveaMiller.

(I'm also working on a white paper explaining step-by-step how businesses can use Twitter as a marketing tool. If you're interested in receiving a free copy, just CLICK HERE.)