Is Twitter a Fad or a Solid Business Tool?

Businesses large and small are all atwitter about Twitter, a free service that lets users share short messages with many people via computer or cell phone. Twitter involves micro-blogging with “tweets” of 140 characters or less, but its use is similar to instant messaging or news alerts.

Users subscribe to “follow” topics or people they’re interested in, locating them with the “find people” option at or with one of the Twitter search engines, including and

Twitter has exciting business potential when used strategically. Dell drives traffic to its outlet Website by “tweeting” information about sale items. Comcast solves customer service problems by scanning messages for complaints. And H&R Block builds credibility by responding to tax questions. Even President-elect Barack Obama’s presidential campaign employed Twitter to “tweet” announcements, rally locations, and election info.

Ashli Norton, co-founder of SimpleLeap Software L.L.C. in Atlanta, also recommends updating your status line frequently. “This keeps your name and messages at the top of the search lists,” she says.

Norton uses Twitter to keep her tech-savvy customers current on new products or updates. “Our customers favor the quick, unobtrusive company-related messages on Twitter over long e-mails sent directly to their inbox,” she says. After an influential product reviewer discovered SimpleLeap through company tweets and reviewed one of its products, sales of that product increased by 2%.

One caveat: Make certain you can give a few minutes every day to monitoring messages and sharing information. Once you’re comfortable with the process, explore add-ins such as Twurl, a URL shortener that lets you track clicks, and Adobe’s Tweetdeck, which helps users keep track of message threads. Also check out TweetBeep and EasyTweet. And don’t forget TwitterBerry for BlackBerry users.

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