Better late than never – Twitter 101 User Guide for business

Twitter is still trying to woo businesses to its platform. What has become the 140 character social networking phenomena, is finding it necessary to explain itself to the business community in the form of a user guide. Something in line with Twitter for Dummies, Twitter 101 is an on-line description by the company itself of its own application, its terminology, purpose, and potential use in the business world.
Years past, Business 101 taught us proper communication skills. The formal business letter had exacting rules starting with the salutation, Dear Sir or Madam. Next came the body of the letter with proper spelling and punctuation. The closing was formal, Sincerely, or Yours Truly. All that has to be unlearned if you want to use Twitter. The only rule that applies to formal old-fashioned letter writing that is still appropriate to Twitter today, was a foreshadowing of today?s hectic work-a-day world: Keep the letter, or message, short; professional people are too busy to read long letters. Twitter has taken this advice to the extreme.

The now infamous 140 character message is explained as a limitation of SMS (telephone texting) which only allows 160 characters, 20 of which Twitter takes up with your user name. Messages, though public, are only received by those who choose to get them, your "followers." If you prefer a private conversation use the DM, Direct Messaging, option. Where you might be used to "Forwarding" a message to specified addresses in an e-mail setting, on Twitter, you would RT, Retweet it, and all tweeters/followers who have subscribed to your business would receive it. A fast way to spread the word.

Although the Internet still offers advice on formal letter writing, and templates so you don?t have to sweat the rules, Twitter 101 explains how to be brief, while enticing customers to your door.

The guide suggests: "Instead of approaching Twitter as a place to broadcast information about your company, think of it as a place to build relationships. Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products?and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service or thank people for praise."

Their Best Practices section give tips on how to use Twitter to your advantage by offering Twitter-exclusive deals, sharing behind-the-scenes information or photos of your business, and tweeting insider information about upcoming projects.

The Guide tips you off about gleaning comments about your business that customers might not communicate to you directly, such as complaints or things they wish your product offered. Using Twitter?s free search capability, you can look for what is being said about any topic, including your business name or product.

Finally, Twitter 101 has case studies of how other companies have found a benefit in twittering. Companies as diverse as Jet Blue, an airline; Tasti D-Lite, which offers 100 guilt free flavors of yogurt; and Etzy, an online company that buys and sells all things handmade, give insights into how they are growing their business, by spreading the word like birds on a telephone wire.