Making the Most of Twitter - Commercial value
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If a simple search is not specific enough for you, there are a number of third party tools designed to help mine Twitter for relevant content. One of the most popular of these is Tweetscan, which searches both public tweets and user profiles, offers custom searching and reporting facilities, and can deliver the results by email or RSS feed as well as directly in a browser session.
This is the kind of power that has led to many businesses discovering Twitter can be a powerful brand promotion tool. Using a service such as Tweetscan to send an alert whenever anyone tweets a particular brand name or service creates opportunities for personal responsiveness, informal support and general PR that money just can't buy.
Brand promotion isn't the only way in which Twitter can have commercial value. Many people have obtained employment through the simple approach of announcing their availability on the site, although once again there is likely to be little value in doing so unless you have an audience of followers who might be in a position to help you out.
Aside from its commercial value, Twitter has great value as a means of keeping in touch with world events. This was graphically illustrated during the recent Mumbai attacks, when people who had been twittering about their jobs and dinners and plans for the day suddenly found themselves at the center of the world's attention as terrorists descended on their city. In an instant the tone of the tweets emanating from Mumbai changed from the banal to the intense, as people began to report their fear and uncertainty in real time.
This event powerfully demonstrated the true value of social networks. Even more than email, web sites and standard blogs, Twitter was able, under those unique circumstances, to provide a clear window onto events that are normally filtered through the distorting lens of the news camera and the political agenda. To be able to read the words of ordinary people as momentous events unfolded was an experience of rare, even life-changing, value.
On a less serious note, Twitter has much to offer those whose interests lie towards the entertainment end of the spectrum. Alongside a whole range of entertainment industry feeds, and despite Nick Curtis' reservations, the network boasts a small but developing celebrity culture. Many people already know that Barack Obama used the service extensively during his 2008 election campaign, and although his tweets have mostly dried up since his election, it is to be hoped that he will return to the site at some point.
At a less rarefied level, twitterers can obtain regular updates as the career of Britney Spears lurches from crisis to crisis, or exchange funnies with comedian John Cleese. Such opportunities to talk directly to influential and creative figures could in themselves justify spending time on the network. But it can be equally worthwhile to use these celebrity accounts as a way to make connections with their followers. This is a sure way to meet people with similar interests. If celebrity itself doesn't really count for too much on Twitter, it can still serve to open up avenues of possibility for the non-famous.
Twitter can also be a fantastic resource for those too short of time (or, let's face it, just too lazy) to read the news. Virtually all the major news networks have Twitter feeds, including CNN, Fox News and the BBC, via which they deliver short headlines on breaking stories as well as links to background articles. Following these organizations probably won't help extend your social network much, and neither will it win you work or business opportunities, but it might help keep you in touch with what's happening in the world. And what could be more important than that?
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