It's over two years now since my first impressions of Twitter as a communications tool got scribbled down... (and woo got picked up by the press and online here and there). Now a day does not pass without a mainstream TV channel featuring Twitter. It's become the new black amongst the mainstream. So it's probably a good time to do a review, based on my experiences and those of others, of what value Twitter holds for the PR practitioner.
- Researching. Track issues on Twitter just by searching on http://search.twitter.com for your topic. You'll see stuff happening live, reported by the people seeing it first hand. It might be an event, a global isue, or a viral spreading. You can also find people that are into specialist areas - you might be a manufacturer of non-drip tea pots, and you'll find all those people who are teapot geeks twittering away on Twitter. They might also be bloggers, podcasters, manufacturers or journalists. Twitter's a window into other online worlds, not just a network of its own.
- Networking. Find people you know or who you would like to know and Twitter's a great way of networking with them online. You can help a journalist with a story, find common interests with industry peers, and see who's going to what events so that you can network better in real life. Just make sure you follow all the right people. Twitter lets you do this by uploading your address book, searching, or seeing your friends' friends.
- Promoting. If you are doing the PR for a product that people would like to follow news about, then get it up on Twitter. Companies of all shapes and sized promote what they do on Twitter. There's an etiquette to it, so don't spam. But get a feel for the Twitter community and roll with it. Try typing a few brand names into Twitter Search and you'll get an idea. Sites like TwitterFeed will convert RSS into Tweets for you to help automate things if you think that's the right way to go, and FriendFeed is good for this too.
- Team working. Why not put all your team on Twitter and see how it changes the way you communicate. You'll notice email overload eases up, and things become a bit more social. We've done it here at number 33 for a while now and it's great (I would say that though).
- News broadcasting. Twitter is not just a messaging system, it's broadcast too. A lot of people read their news feeds over Twitter (me included). All the major news channels broadcast over Twitter. So figure out how you might be able to do the same and try it out.
- Story testing. If you have an idea, try it out on your Twitter friends. It's called crowdsourcing. You'll find the instant feedback makes your idea better in the end. Or if you need help on a story, ask over Twitter. You might need an extra spokesperson from a complementary brand, and Twitter's your window into other places so that you don't need to know precisely where to look before you start digging.
- Search engine optimising. If you Google the name of a brand or a spokesperson, you'll find the Twitter page for that thing appears very high up in Google. Small and large firms alike have their Twitter page very high up their Google results. So if your client wants good control of what's up there, Twitter's a no-brainer.
- Crisis management. When the shit hits the proverbial, then watch Twitter for developments, issue alerts through your corporate Twitter stream, and you'll find that a mixture of listening and responding fits well with the broader crisis plan.
- Selling news. Some journalists or bloggers might prefer you contact them through Twitter. If so, do it. It's not for everyone, but it's growing in adoption. You can either 'direct message' your contact or '@' them with a story. If they know you and trust you, then this system works well at cutting information overload.
- Recruiting. If you need help on a project, ask Twitter. You might find your contacts pass your message on even further. Whether you need some specialist help, a new full time recruit, or whatever, try using your network. We do it a lot here.
If you need a hand getting a foot up on the Twitter machine, just let us know. There are hundreds of guides online that will help too, if you need them. Plus this one now. :)