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Twitter is an extremely popular social media site, and many companies are exploring ways to use it for marketing purposes. With all the attention it’s getting, it seems as though anyone who is anyone is posting updates on Twitter. I must not be anyone. I’m a copywriter. Twitter never seemed to apply to me. If you need a copywriter to write a 150 character tweet, you are doing something horribly wrong. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the marketing possibilities.

MarketingExperiments recently released a report on Twitter usage and trends that detailed a number of ways companies are (or should be) using the platform to reach their customers. Some of their findings create an interesting picture about the type of marketing tool Twitter really is. How is it really being used by businesses compared to individuals? Does personal tweeting prepare you to tweet for your company? Is it really worthwhile?

The MarketingExperiments report cited a few studies about Twitter that present a detailed profile of the network and its users. According to the report in the Harvard Business Review, 10% of Twitter users are responsible for 90% of all tweets. By comparison, in most social networks the top 10% of contributors account for only 30% of the content.

A comparison was drawn to Wikipedia, a platform that doesn’t technically have anything to do with social networking. But it was interesting to note that 15% of Wikipedia editors account for 90% of the edits. These similar statistics could imply that Twitter is becoming more of a one-to-many announcement service, like Wikipedia, than a two-way communication network, as it was intended.

The report offered some other interesting details about Twitter usage. According to The Business Insider, 51% of users don’t even tweet once a month, while 19% will use it once a day or more. And according to Nielson Online, more than 60% of U.S. Twitter users sign up for an account but don’t come back to it the following month.

What does this mean to the average Twitter user? It seems to imply that many casual users just don’t “get it” and that most of the users who stick with it are more tech-savvy and prone to early adoption of new technologies. If your target audience includes this particular type of consumer, you should definitely consider taking advantage of Twitter.

Twitter gives companies the opportunity to monitor, join, or start conversations about their products, services, or the company itself. However, according to some MarketingSherpa research, nearly two-thirds of marketers aren’t monitoring or responding to comments (both positive and negative) about their company. Remember, just because you aren’t initiating the Twitter conversation, that doesn’t mean no one is talking about you.

When consumers tweet about your company, it’s an open invitation for you to listen in on their personal conversations. Monitoring the kinds of tweets going on about your company can provide valuable and usable data on consumer trends and disposition. In a business environment where knowledge is power, this is the kind of information a company can’t afford to miss. And participating in the conversation is a great way to reach out to those consumers.

Once you’ve identified your target users and started building a following, Twitter can become a channel to communicate with your “preferred customers” by offering special deals or insights into the company. Twitter has also become an excellent source for live event coverage, and if you present or attend such events, this is a great way to build followers.

So there are a lot of benefits to using Twitter, but the platform seems to have trouble attracting longtime, consistent users. What does this say about Twitter as an effective marketing tool? Is it really worth the time and effort to get involved?

The only way to answer that question is to stop and really consider whether or not tweeting will increase your revenue (through special offers and sales notices), build brand or equity (by creating relationships and sharing good experiences), and reduce your costs (by allowing customers to address any problems before having to call the company directly). If you can clearly delineate how your company can use Twitter in these areas, then this is certainly a marketing avenue you should consider.

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