How and Why to Launch a Business Presence on Twitter

From an upstart airline to the cable company some people love to hate, organizations big and small have reaped success in improving customer service, receiving R&D tips, and marketing their products on Twitter. Here's expert advice on how and why your business should tap into Twitter.

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Mind Your Twitter Etiquette

You should learn the rules of Twitter etiquette for individuals who use the service. Many of the same principles apply for company profiles, with a few notable exceptions.

One main difference is over the issue of following people. On your individual Twitter account, you should only follow people who bring you value personally. On a company profile, the rules change. Once people decide to follow a company's Twitter updates, companies should generally follow them back. It shows you're listening. In addition, people will not be able to direct message the company Twitter page if it doesn't follow their updates. (A direct message is a private message between two Twitter users.)

"It makes sense to follow people back in most cases," Fitton says. "If someone walks into your store, you wouldn't ignore them. You'd go and greet them and ask how they are."

Ideally, it's better to tweet publicly and avoid direct messages unless it's absolutely necessary (such as when you need to send private information, like an account number). Most problems or questions that people tweet about will be common, and the group can benefit from knowing the answer.

Finally, be prepared to make mistakes. The Twitter community is temperamental, but passionate. They may evangelize your product if you respond to their criticisms thoughtfully and in a way geared toward helping them. Since every message must be 140 characters or less, it's easy to create misunderstandings. You must clarify your thoughts when necessary.

"If you make a mistake, the important thing is to acknowledge it and say what you really meant," Eliason says. "That's what you'd do if you were talking to someone in person."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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