Understanding Twitter: The Power of Hashtags

Twitter is the simplest of the major social networks but the most powerful for marketers. Its hashtag (#) system allows you to reach out to groups with specific interests, and to engage with them over time. Twitter allows for instant impact, and long-term relationship building.

The Benefits of Twitter

Facebook.com and Linkedin.com are on-line social networks based on pre-existing relationships. When you join you seek out your family, friends, and business contacts. To grow your network, you rely on others finding you, or one finding interesting people in your contacts. On Twitter however, you can engage with any of its 500 million users just by labeling a tweet with the right #keyword. This allows everyone to find your contributions and contribute to your conversations.

On Facebook.com or Linkedin.com you have to start from zero if you want to branch out into a new industry or niche. Relevant contacts and groups take time to find and cultivate. On Twitter, all you need to do is identify the correct keywords, search by #keyword, and join the conversation.

Twitter’s # system means that unconnected people can form loose groups based on interests, rather than having to build extensive, specialist networks. Everyone is free to join and leave conversations at will, and to follow anyone they want. This means that the most valuable, rather than the best connected, members of a conversation get the most attention.

Twitter conversations based on a #keyword become major events in niches and industries, with hundreds of people tuning in at set times to share information and resources. Twitter’s live format makes it much more like a real-life networking event than other social networks.

Leveraging the power of Twitter

Get the most out of Twitter.com’s hashtags by engaging in conversations with other members, rather than just labeling your own stuff with the correct hashtag. Generate your own content to share with your Twitter network, but don’t post your own stuff without interacting with others. Treat Twitter.com like a networking event rather than a sales pitch.

Make sure your profile is complete. Tweeting with an empty profile is like turning up to an event looking scruffy: Nobody will take what you say seriously!

Cultivate the most influential people in your area of interest by asking questions and retweeting their posts. Influencers have the power to spread your content far and wide just by sharing it with their own networks. Make contact on Twitter.com and then develop the relationship via blog comments, email and other social sites. Never ask for retweets, as this looks desperate and unprofessional.

Aim to lead, rather than follow, the debate. Is there a niche in your industry without an existing Twitter debate? Can you create your own space within Twitter where you lead the conversation? Being an authority figure in a relevant niche brings trust and encourages others to amplify your message via sharing.

Follow up every connection and lead that your content generates. Links made on Twitter.com become most powerful if they lead to real world meet-ups and offline communication. Not replying to a question, or failing to acknowledge a retweet is poor Twitter.com etiquette.

Every tweet may be only 140 characters long, but connections built up on Twitter.com can lead to long-term relationships and business opportunities.

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