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7 Ways Marketers Can Use Twitter

by Ann Handley  |  
September 12, 2007

Ad Age calls Twitter "asinine." Is it for everyone? No. But Twitter has a real use for media companies and social-media-savvy brands.

* * * * *
On Monday, Mark Simon drafted his list of The 10 Most Asinine Trends and Why You Should Avoid Them in his Ad Age article, "Ditch the Web Lunatic Content Crazes." Rolling in at #9 was "Twitter and its Microblogging Ilk."
Mark writes, stridently:

"What could be more annoying and less useful than a site where thousands of people are given 140 characters to shout out about what they're doing at every moment of the day? The amazing thing is that enough people out there think this mindless stream of ephemera ('I'm eating a tangerine,' 'I'm waiting for a plane,' 'I want a Big Mac') is interesting enough to serve as the basis for a viable advertising platform."

Twitter is a next-generation instant messaging tool. Of course, I heard about Mark's article via Twitter itself, via David Armano.
The Twitterati, of course, are all kinds of defensive (while at the same time I suspect digging the publicity that has cast them as the Bad News Bears of social media). In their view, Simon didn't give Twitter a fair shake.
As my friennd Jeremiah Owyang writes this week on MarketingProfs, Twitter is a tool through which subscribers can further reach their audiences, real-time. Users can hear and express thought leadership, broadcast their messages, connect to the influencers both on their desktop and through their mobile units, among other things.
Like much of social media... it's another ear to the ground, another touchpoint, another "opportunity to build relationships," according to Jeremiah.
Is it for everyone? Heck, no. (But what is?) What's more, it's a new and emerging platform that's only now finding its footing: there's a lot of crap you have to wade through, at times, and it's sometimes unreliable.
But that said, Twitter has a real use for media companies and social-media-savvy brands. Here are 7:
Extending the reach for those individuals or companies that already have a blogging strategy in place, and want to deepen or further ties. Good examples: Carnival Cruise Lines. The ScienceNewsBlog's weather tracking updates. Andy Carvin's PBS blog on education and technology.
Retailers announcing sales and deals. Good example: Deals on Dells. Blue-light specials at Amazon.
Increasing the ability for frequent updates to blogs or web sites or news. Examples: The NY Times, CNN, BBC, Adrants, and those of us here at MarketingProfs.
Building consensus or a community of supporters. Good examples: Presidential candidates John Edwards or Barack Obama.
Building buzz. Example: Scott Monty and CC Chapman introduce a new blog.
Updating breaking news at conferences or events. Example: Jeremiah at the Web 2.0 Expo. Forrester seems poised to use it to update happenings at its upcoming Consumer Forum.
Updating your network to shape your own personal branding: Example: Oh boy... there are zillions. Pick a face on Twitter. You'll see what I mean.
There's lots more background and ideas in Jeremiah's article here.
Check it out, and let me know your thoughts!

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Jason Falls Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    Thanks for the info and the examples. Twitter is one of those platforms I understand, but don't get ... I know how it functions, but not why people use it. This is helpful.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    You're welcome; glad it's helpful. I actually did a bit of a turnaround on Twitter -- I didn't get its appeal for the longest time, either, a la Mark Simon. Then I started hanging around Twitter -- and chatting with Jeremiah -- and now I see its usefulness. Anyway -- these are a few ideas... I'm sure there's more.

  • by Dan Schawbel Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    I never pictured or thought companies like the NY Times would be using Twitter. I enjoy your thoughts on how twitter can be used as a touch point to engage people in a conversation.

  • by Luc Debaisieux Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    Out of all the communication/conversation tools available on the net, Twitter is probably one of the top "outcast at first sight". I relate to David Armano's last post "Prescription for Marketers"... and say that trying it gives you a better idea of what can be done out of it. Then reading insightful cases/examples does too. Thanks for sharing the 7 wonders of Twitter!

  • by Ann Handley Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    Luc -- Twitter is definitely the tool that outsiders love to hate! Thanks for your comment. Dan -- yeah... you'd be surprised. There's quite a few "traditional" companies on Twitter, and quite a few more media companies who troll it looking for news leads/stories. It's a rich environment. (If you can wade through the muck, that is!)

  • by Connie Bensen Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    I see employment postings flying on twitter. It's a fast way to connect with specialized positions. I love interaction & spontaneity of Twitter!

  • by Kevin Dugan Wed Sep 12, 2007 via blog

    Ann - Take a walk with me back to 2002. {screen blurs} Blogs were summarily dismissed by many marketers as online diaries brimming with teen angst. As those nutters playing around with the technology began applying it in new and interesting ways (including train wrecks like Lincoln Fry) the negative nabobs of negativity changed their tune. I'll bet lunch money that we're seeing the same thing with Twitter. Your article helps marketers "hug it out" in this regard. I used to bash the hype around Twitter, not Twitter itself. Now it and social networks along with my blog form my online ecosystem as far as content, community and conversation. They all feed off each other (no pun intended). The end result? Life is good.

  • by Ann Handley Thu Sep 13, 2007 via blog

    Connie: Great addition. Kevin: I'd bet your lunch money, too. The truth is that once you spend some time there... you really see the potential. (Or not, for your specific objectives. But still good to know what the deal is.) Blogging went through that fugly, ungainly stage, too... and now it's found its footing. Twitter, I agree, will follow the same path.

  • by Patrick McGraw Thu Sep 13, 2007 via blog

    Thanks for the effort but I am still not sold on Twitter. Why make your audience run all over the Internet looking for another site that you select to place news, information? Is the technology interesting? Does it offer a unique solution to your problem of communicating to your audiences? No. If I want to talk with my audiences, I either do it at my site or I reach out and talk directly with them. Twitter is glitter that distracts.

  • by Jim Kukral Thu Sep 13, 2007 via blog

    I didn't get Twitter at first either. But now I can say that I get at least half of my "news" and scoops from my friends who share good information. It's evolving, and useful. Good tips you give there.

  • by BarbaraKB Thu Sep 13, 2007 via blog

    Ditto to Connie and Kevin (who are fellow Twitter friends). The social experience, contacts and information gained at Twitter are invaluable. Too bad Ad Age is behind the times. Yet again...

  • by Mack Collier Thu Sep 13, 2007 via blog

    I still don't use Twitter that much, but I did notice Armano just today leaving a tweet to someone that had commented on his blog, thanking them. That's a great idea, using Twitter to keep in contact with, and to get to know your blog's readers.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 14, 2007 via blog

    Patrick -- You can intergrate Twitter with your site, adding a widget sidebar, for example, so that you can update instantly and easily. You aren't sending people to another site, then... you are simply updating real-time on your own site, without (for example) writing a blog post or similar. That said -- I did say it's not for everyone, and that might include you. ; )

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 14, 2007 via blog

    I had a real-life personal networking experience with Twitter this week.. I happened to notice LinkedIn's Mario Sundar's Twitter note that he was boarding a plane for Boston this past Wednesday night. I sent him a quick note, "Hey! Why didn't you tell me you were going to be in town!?" Turns out, he didn't know I lived in Boston. As a result of one casual tweet, I had breakfast this morning with Mario, blogger/social media guy Chris Brogan, and another colleague. I had never met Mario -- but he writes for this blog and we've been communicating for about a year, so it indeed would have been an opportunity missed without Twitter.

  • by Giacomo Vacca Fri Sep 21, 2007 via blog

    Hello Ann, I think you're talking about the most valuable potential of Twitter: marketing. Now add Twitter to video posts and what you get? Hictu! Check it out and let me know what you think about: Regards, Giacomo

  • by Chris Tue Oct 2, 2007 via blog

    Very interesting post, and comments. In the UK, some organisations get it - BBC (as you mentioned), Sky News, and The Guardian) - but my favourite is Delta. What a great way to communicate with customers. And in response to Patrick McGraw - in this day and age, if people want to talk to you, or your organisation via twitter - then that has to be the best way to respond. doesn't it?

  • by Valeria Maltoni Mon Oct 15, 2007 via blog

    You wrote the post I was going to write ;-) I just jumped on Twitter this past week and found it useful immediately -- was able to connect to friends with each other who were attending the same forum (Forrester).

  • by Kieran Wed Oct 17, 2007 via blog

    And you wonder why I stopped reading Ad age...Twitter, Pownce ,Jaiku (recently bought by big G) and the rest of the micro-blogging services are the next obvious phase in online communication. Its IM to the masses and is brilliant in its simplicity. If you cant see how 1000's upon 1000's of people Twittering multiple times a day can be beneficial for an advertiser...well good luck with finding a new career.

  • by Chris Atwood Sun Nov 4, 2007 via blog

    I have been using Twitter for about 6 months now. I am a college student who lives about 10 hours away from where I plan on working (somewhere) when I graduate. Through Twitter, I have met potential employers, and I'm able to keep up with and "get involved" in the scene even though I'm so far away. In Houston, the Vice President of Public Relations for Marion Montgomery uses Twitter, as does the Technology editor for the Houston Chronicle. Other users are consumers of social media and other PR/ADV/MKT type folks who are on the band wagon. If nothing else, this allows me to sell myself as I emphasize my own personal brand (Atwookie), as somebody who is young, sharp, in the mix, and who they already know before my resume hits their desk. The networking capability is where I see the true value in Twitter. I think brands can use it to create actual relationships with their customers, much in the same way brands have hired a blogger who is their personality.

  • by Monica Danna Fri Dec 7, 2007 via blog

    In an era when email is overused, underpaid, and downright a pain sometimes, Twitter is to email, what email once was to snail mail. Immediacy. I use twitter to get out info to my network immediately, without having them sift through the some off 100 emails people receive daily. twitter may not change the world, but it's sure making communication faster and more diverse in medium.

  • by Michael Coppens Fri Dec 7, 2007 via blog

    Twitter is an ingenious news delivery service that should have been created years ago. Bite size news updates about just about everything going on in the lives of your friends. Like most Internet services, it will take more and more people with small, but significant innovations to make it into one of the most viable communication platforms for internet users.

  • by Wolfy Sun Dec 9, 2007 via blog

    News is ok and special offers are fine, but the real magic of Twitter is getting people to link up. Say you don't coordinate and you and most of your friends all end up at different bars/restaurants downtown and twitters fly and you all shuffle and end up together. That's where it's at! Add in a twitter stream for a music venue, theater, or something and you've got the perfect outlet. It's not ANOTHER outlet, it's one you don't have to log on to, or monitor, you opt in and get your info w/ no computer or anything. -M

  • by woodenbo Tue Jan 29, 2008 via blog

    Hi all !!! End ^) See you

  • by Karen Swim Sat Mar 15, 2008 via blog

    Great information Ann. Initially I had the same reaction to Twitter. However, the beauty of being an early adopter is watching as users transform the way it is used. What was marketed as "what are you doing now?" has evolved into a valuable viral marketing and communications tool. While many dismiss its value, there is a growing groundswell of people who have turned it into so much more than IM on steroids. It will be interesting to see the continued evolution. Karen

  • by TJ McCue Mon Apr 7, 2008 via blog

    Hi Ann, I have read your post on Twitter several times and finally signed on! It is great. Suspected it would be but had no bandwidth to manage a new service. Loving it now. Not to sound like a McD's commercial. TJMcCue

  • by Natalie Smith Mon Jun 23, 2008 via blog

    I have used twitter to bring tons of good traffic to my site and to promote things using viral marketing techniques. This twitter site can make you lots of money.

  • by Interior design Wed Aug 27, 2008 via blog

    twitter may not change the world, but it's sure making communication faster and more diverse in medium.

  • by Doug Wead Sun Sep 7, 2008 via blog

    I avoided web 2.0 for a long time, but now that I'm involved, the connections with new people has made it worthwhile.

  • by Twitter Marketing Fri Oct 17, 2008 via blog

    Great post Ann! Twitter is a fantastic resource for bloggers, just like you. There are methods you can use to minimize the amount of effort it takes to get up & rolling with Twitter too! Your article showed some great "mini case studies" on how Twitter can work for anyone, no matter what sort of internet business model you might be employing. One approach I highly suggest is to get involved & interactive with the Twitter community, not to just go in guns-a-blazing spamming your links everywhere. If you have the attitude that "I'm here to mingle & getting traffic is just a pleasant surprise" while at the same time toss in a few of the tips I'm about to drop to you, you'll definitely see results. #1.) Go grab a free account at and get it all setup to work with your blog. You can use this free service to AUTOMATICALLY post the title of every new blog post you make to your twitter profile, along with a link back to that blog post. It's tremendously valuable. #2.) Go grab a free account at and setup an "auto-welcome direct message" by following the instructions. In that message say something like "Thanks for following me on Twitter. I appreciate the follow & you're welcome to come check out my blog at" #3.) Post when you feel like it and just go on there to have fun, because you've already implemented two awesome tools that are going to take care of AUTOMATICALLY getting you traffic. By just going on there and exchanging thoughts & ideas with other users you'll quickly attract new followers. The steps described here will, without a doubt, bring you back traffic. The best part is how easy it is to set it up. Check out my main site at for more similar info, a free report called "The Twitter Report" that's all about ETHICAL twitter marketing, and a few easy to follow step by step videos that can show you how to get started right away. There's a lot of black hat crap out there already regarding Twitter & to be up front & frank, that's just not what we're about. We enjoy, respect, and LIKE using Twitter so you won't find any tips that promote a spammy approach to using twitter. Feel free to drop me a line or ask questions if you have any. I'm also available to make a guest post or two if you like. I'm always happy to meet new people & make new connections. Thanks for the great post on Twitter, I really enjoyed it. I would appreciate hearing back from you too... Twitter is a very young company and it's going to be interesting to see if it will overcome it's growing pains & blossom into a well monetized & sustainable business. The traffic is there, the challenge they face now if figuring out how to monetize it without ruining it... but judging by the ingenuity they've shown thus far, I think the future is promising for Twitter, and getting on board now will be a good move, because this ship is about to set sail. Sincerely, Chris Vendilli

  • by Primal Media Sat Nov 15, 2008 via blog

    We resisted the call to tweet for a long time too, Ann. Now that we're linked in, facebooked and connecting online, it's a natural to grow the conversation. And it's instant.

  • by Jorbins Wed Jan 28, 2009 via blog

    Twitter is just a version of the old bulletin board chat system...made popular again. Gotta love it!

  • by Rett Sun Feb 1, 2009 via blog

    Twitter is a great tool...and this is a great intro to marketing with twitter.

  • by alex Sun Feb 8, 2009 via blog

    I love twitter, and am hoping it will make a positive impact on the business I work for too

  • by Andrew Sun Mar 29, 2009 via blog

    I recently started using Twitter and it's interesting to read this post from 18 months ago. I only wish I had started using it that long ago because I see the marketing power it has.

  • by Gregg Sun Apr 5, 2009 via blog

    I have not used it yet - email still works for me - but then I am a syadmin and not into 10 different ways to contact me. email, phone works for now. Also given all the distractions and fingers reaching out for my money via "offers", I notice the less media I consume, the less I spend.. If I need something, then will go looking for it versus an offer and I spend perhaps a bit less on something that's nice but not needed...

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