The Internet is a universal system of interconnected computer networks. The system uses a standard Internet protocol suite to serve the users worldwide. The Internet consists of millions of private, public, academic, government and many other networks. The networks range from local to global ones. They are linked by means of technologies that allow electronic, wireless, and optical networking. Social networking sites, like Twitter, use the Internet to enable communication between people. The research paper will trace the development of Twitter back to its foundation and study the business potential of the project in today’s world. Positive and negative influences of Twitter will be pointed out, and the conclusion on whether it is an effective tool of marketing will be driven.
Twitter: Historical Background
Twitter refers to an online network and micro blog service. It enables a user to send and receive text-based posts with a word limit of 140 characters. The names of these posts are tweets. Twitter came into being in March 2006, designed by Jack Dorsey. The official launch of the project was on July of the same year. The service quickly gained global popularity, having got over 140 million active users by the year 2012. This large number of users generates over 350 million tweets and handles over 1.7 billion search queries every day (Kazeniac, 2009). Boyd and Nicole (2007) describe Twitter as “the short message service of the Internet”. Registered users can post their tweets using the website interface, short message service, or a variety of applications for mobile phone devices. On the other hand, unregistered users are able to read the tweets of the registered users. Twitter Inc., located in San Francisco, owns and operates the service. The company has other servers, as well as offices, in New York. Today, the Twitter website is among the top ten pages with most visits on the Internet (Kazeniac, 2009). Twitter has changed from an entertaining project to a powerful mean of marketing and influence. The service, for example, helped to unite powers in the Arab Spring and played a significant role in other political protests in the world (Laurent, 2011).
Twitter and Business: A Mutually Advantageous Cooperation
Twitter can enable the company to engage in industry communication (Lavallee, 2007). This is because the company’s target audience and potential clients are likely to be registered on Twitter. The clients may direct their frustrations or communicate positive experiences about a product associated with the company via Twitter. This offers an opportunity to the company to engage in such conversations and explore ways to overcome the challenges. Being part of the communication process with the clients through Twitter will assure customers that the company cares about their welfare.
In addition, Twitter enables the company to engage with its target audience. While it may not be pleasant for the company to be “in the face of clients” all the time, Twitter gives the advantage of engaging with the clientele. This is by retweeting the users’ posts and giving responses to thoughts that the audience may tweet. This will foster trust, and, as a result, have the long-term effect on boosting the company’s sales. The above points mean that companies can use Twitter as a social mixer to connect with customers and industry (Gomes, 2009).
The other implication of Twitter is the creation of brand awareness. Companies can effectively use Twitter to ascertain that their brand stays top of mind. Users may expose a brand name by posting tweets. For instance, an executive at Costco Corporation may have his Twitter thread ending with @costcocorporation. If this executive posts anything on his wall, the followers read the tweet and also the name of the company, to which the user belongs. As a result, companies that encourage their employees to use the firm’s name in Twitter end up publicizing and advertising themselves (Goldberg, Stefaan, & Prosser, 1998).
Powerful Tool of Advertisement
Twitter enables cutting reduction in expenditure on advertisement. As the previous point indicates, the use of Twitter can enable the creation of the brand awareness. Advertisement, when using the traditional means (for instance, television, newspapers, and radio), has the same goal of creating brand awareness, in order to increase sales. The difference between the use of Twitter and the use of other mass media is that Twitter is significantly cheaper (in fact almost free of charge). What is crucial is that Twitter can do the same work that those traditional means of advertisement promise to do. The amount of time used to post a Twitter feed is insignificant when compared with the old-fashioned ways of advertising. As a result, the company may end up saving millions of dollars, which earlier were to be spent on funding traditional policies of the product selling. This means that the adoption of Twitter by companies can cut down expenditure on the advertisement significantly.
Companies can use Twitters to get competitive intelligence (Laurent, 2011). This is possible given the fact that the company’s competitors are likely to be registered on and use Twitter. Thus, the company has the chance of regularly monitoring their competitor’s tweets, in order to learn on what they may be working at the moment. The competitors, for instance, may be planning to launch a new idea or may be opening a new branch. In addition, the rival company may be lying off its staff and, thus; the company may take the opportunity. This means that Twitter is a perfect environment for enabling monitoring of the competition in the market. Besides, Twitter enables the company to see how its competitors are using Twitter themselves. This may enable the company to pick up a trick that it has not tried yet. Such a practice will give the company an advantage in terms of sales and profits.
Online Reputation Management
Moreover, Twitter enables online reputation management. It is true that information on Twitter spreads remarkably fast (Kelly, 2009). For instance, the death of Michael Jackson spread around the world alarmingly fast, through Twitter. A company can use Twitter to study what the public is saying about its brand almost within the blink of an eye. If clients had a negative experience while using a brand, it is highly probable that they would tweet about it. The company can grab the opportunity to address the issue immediately and inform the public on its intention and actions to resolve the problem. The company, however, should always maintain transparency and honesty.
The company can use Twitter to promote its blog content. This is significant in companies that have corporate blogs. For instance, the company that advertises its product using blogs can direct followers to their location. Besides, Twitter can serve to boost search engine optimization. If the company has an exceptional and unique content on its website, it can use Twitter to drive traffic and attract an audience. Twitter allows setting up of feed so that one will automatically post blog or website Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) directly to Twitter. Companies can take advantage of this opportunity to inform their clients on their products or services. They may also use this feature to encourage potential clients to try the products (Swartz, 2011).
Mobile Mean of Communication
Twitter is a useful mobile mean of communication (Kelly, 2009). Communication in business is extremely crucial. There is always a need to realize a quick and easy mode of communication if the business enterprise is to be successful. The use of Twitter is easy and solves this problem completely. As already noted, Twitter is the short message service on the Internet. Workers in an organization can send and receive updates on a task using a single tweet. Besides, Twitter is accessible via mobile phones, laptop computers, and any other technological devises that allow mobility. This means that a company can save vast amounts of money used for communication (for instance the use of telephones) by adopting Twitter.
Effective Mean of Market Research
On the same note, businesses can use Twitter to foster understanding, and as an effective mean of market research (Gomes, 2009). Through Twitter, businesses can learn the sentiments and needs of their target customers, concerning their sayings or desires. For instance, if the company is a brand that targets a young generation as its core market, the company may learn a lot by reading their conversation through Twitter. The company may discover the latest interest of the target generation and the next thing or service that it requires. The company can then take the opportunity to launch a product that will meet the needs of the target market; this, in turn, will ensure its demand. This practice can enable companies to keep abreast with the dynamics of the market and, as a result, outdo the potential competitors.
In addition to the use of Twitter as an understanding tool, the service is useful as a feedback mechanism (Boyd, & Nicole, 2007). Companies can use Twitter to receive opinions about an intended move or decision. For example, the company may tweet about its intention of launching a new product (like a website); this will enable the company to get instant feedback concerning the move from all over the world. The positive result of this feedback is that the company will be able to make necessary changes before launching the product officially. Twitter simplifies the process of collecting feedback that traditionally involved conducting a time-consuming study of the target population. Such research used to be very expensive. With Twitter, the feedback is instantaneous and cost free (Boyd, & Nicole, 2007).
On the same note, companies can use Twitter to ask questions and receive answers. This is especially crucial to business questions that may require immediate answers. For instance, the company may be looking for some industry statistics. If that question is engaging or there is no available solution around, the company can decide to post it on Twitter. It is most likely that the company will receive numerous responses, because Twitter is a social community, comprised of people of different backgrounds, occupations, and interests. In addition, the social community is mostly tight knit and, thus, a discussion on the question is likely to come up. This means that there is a person that will certainly give an answer and point out the right direction. As a result, companies can use the Twitter service to solve some challenging situations.
Press Releases and News Management
Moreover, Twitter is useful for press releases and news management (Kazeniac, 2009). When the company has a significant announcement, it can use Twitter to communicate such news. As already noted, the speed of the Internet is significantly fast. News put online will travel quickly around the world. This fact makes Twitter be a super highway of information. The dependence on traditional methods of relaying news (for instance press conferences) is costly in terms of time and money. Companies should adopt Twitter to promote their press releases and pass on company news effectively and cheaply.
Besides, businesses can use Twitter for internal communication. Today, there are few businesses that use this approach. The Approach, however, proves to be effective. For instance, Zappos is a company that encourages its employees to tweet in order to communicate a successful event (Swartz, 2011). In addition, the timeliness of news conveyed through Twitter is crucial in using the service for internal communication. Twitter enables backing up of the instant messaging services, used by the company. This leads to the realization of an effective means of sharing information within the company.
Twitter and Business: Other Side of the Coin
Kelly (2009) argues that there are some negative issues about the use of Twitter in businesses. The most important issue concerns privacy. Twitter is a social site, and information posted on it is public. This means that all and sundry can access the information whether he/she is a member of the service or not. As a result, the suggestion of using Twitter for internal communication may be tricky. This is because the information meant for the chosen group of company’s employees may become generally accessible. Besides, sensitive information, like losses to the company, may fall to the wrong hands and lead to damage of the company’s reputation (Goldberg, Stefaan, & Prosser, 1998). One, however, can manage this disadvantage by using the option of removing a follower from a Twitter account.
Identity Theft and Character Assassination
Another management issue of critical notice is identity theft and character assassination (Kelly, 2009). An individual can open a Twitter account using a company’s name and go ahead to deceive followers that it is the official account of a company. This may take a wrong turn when the individual begins posting detrimental information about the company. For instance, the individual may post that the company decided to close down one of its branches; while, in the real sense, the branch will still be functional. Such a tweet may lead to massive losses, as people will surely believe in it. This calls for the executives of companies to keep an eye on potential impersonation in the social networking services. However, the possibility of such a scenario is minimal, because of heavy penalties that governments impose on anyone convicted with such practices.
Time management is another issue that requires focus. At first, communicating using Twitter may not be convenient because one has to spend time to login, in order to view the required information. There are people who spend a long period without visiting their Twitter accounts, because of their busy schedules, as well as the presence of other social networking sites (Kelly, 2009). As a result, the management that uses Twitter for internal communication may not reach all employees in time. In fact, it is not certain that all employees are computer literate or can use Twitter. Some staff, especially the old generation, considers technological advances to be challenging. As a result, they may resolve to stick with the traditional methods of communication.
In addition, the use of Twitter may waste business time. Just like the use of other social networking sites, the use of Twitter can be addictive (Boyd, & Nicole, 2007). Users may develop a psychological dependence on the service; as a result, this will affect their work output. In modern day offices, it is common to see workers hooked on their computers, mobile phones, or other technological devices (Kelly, 2009). The company should not deceive itself that all these workers engage in productive activity for the benefits of the company only. Most of them are in social networking sites, like Twitter, and just communicate with friends about their personal issues. In fact, there are tendencies when workers are spending time in social networks rather than serving their clients and executing their direct duties (Kelly, 2009). Such practices are discouraging to clients and can even lead the company to fire them. As a result, the use of social networks in the company should include monitoring and regulation. This may explain why some libraries tend to block social network sites in order to ensure that the library computers only serve academic research purposes. Companies should borrow a leaf from the libraries and explore ways of monitoring the use of social networks during the operating time.
The use of Twitter by companies can help improve profitability of the business. This lies in the use of the service as an effective communication tool. Businesses should use the power of the Internet to collect and share information in a short while. The research proves that businesses should adopt the powerful digital world of social networking, especially Twitter. This is because the advantages of the use of Twitter for business outstandingly outweigh the disadvantages. Twitter can become a powerful tool when used in an effective and rational way.