Twitter is free marketing, relationship management and business networking

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Twitter is much more than a blogging service. It is a business tool that can help you fulfill three of your primary business requirements (networking, relationship management, and marketing).

Twitter is now well established as one of the most popular social networks in the world, but the real value of twitter may not be immediately obvious to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Everyone knows that twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows up to 140 characters of text (as well as images) to be shared, but few really utilize its features to make valuable new connections, find people who can help your business grow, locate key media personnel and market directly to consumers or other businesses.

The problem that most people face is how to grow their number of followers to a point where it becomes a valuable resource for getting your marketing message across. After all, if you only have 3 followers, no one is ever going to read your tweets, right? Wrong!

In fact, you don't need any followers to get free marketing on twitter. You just need to know how to use hash tags properly. More about that in a moment...

In addition to getting your marketing content spread over the Internet and read by thousands of people (sometimes more), Twitter is an effective lead and contact building tool.

Let's take a look at three of the main features of twitter that you must use in order to effectively fulfill three primary business objectives:

  1. build up a network of business contacts
  2. build up a following of potential customers and clients
  3. cultivate relationships with media and other important people

Before we begin, it is important to note that everything discussed here is predicated on the assumption that you aren't going to spam people to death and that you are genuinely providing valuable information in your tweets. You aren't going to be successful by constantly self-promoting...

Ye be warned.

1.Hash tags

A hashtag is simply a word within a tweet that is preceded by the pound symbol (#). By adding a pound symbol in front of a word, you are telling twitter to categorize your tweet under that term.

Millions of people follow categories that they are interested in, and any tweets you create that use hash tags will then be available to all those people (and not only your followers). It means that you can market directly to the public for free.

Try it out now by doing the following:

  1. Tweet the following "#smallbiz #twitter #webmarketing How to use twitter to build your business http://bit.ly/zj1LbM" in your twitter account
  2. Use the twitter search for #smallbiz to see it appear in that list of tweets

By using hash tags properly you can get your message across to everyone that counts, and quickly build your following that way.

2. Similar people

Building up a following by tweeting interesting and useful factoids, ideas and snippets is great for sending information out into the world but it doesn't necessarily put you in touch with precisely the people you want.

Twitter allows us to find the people we want to follow and contact by providing a "Similar to" block on the right hand side of a person's Twitter profile. What this means is that you can perform a search for someone you want to connect with, and then simply find everyone else who is similar to that person.

For example, if you own an SEO company and want to launch a new SEO product, you might want to speak to technology journalists to get a bit of coverage for your product. Simply search for something like "tech journalist" on Twitter and find someone with a decent following.

You'll notice that the "similar to" people will also be tech journos or something similar. You can do some profile surfing and contact as many people as you like. Neat huh?

3. Reply

Not everyone on Twitter releases their personal contact info or blog URL, so you can't necessarily get in touch with them directly. That's not a problem, because you can start following them and reading their tweets.

Every time they tweet something you have the ability to reply to that tweet. Everyone loves thoughtful and insightful responses to their tweets, because it means people are actually reading what they are writing.

In this way you can build up some credibility with that person, and after a while they may decide to follow you back. Alternatively, you can work in mention of your new product launch in one of your replies.

There's actually a lot more you can do with Twitter, but this should at least get you up and running and building your business effectively.

If you have more input and more ideas, please add them in the comments section.

Oh, and don't forget to:

  1. Follow me on twitter
  2. tweet this article - use the buttons on the left of the page