Twitter: 140 Characters and One Mission

n some ways, Twitter could be considered the “weakest” of all the major social networking sites, from a marketing perspective, because it allows so little in terms of true communication. Given that most tweets are really just text messages that happened to be posted online, it’s very hard to deliver anything that’s going to compel someone to buy from you or your company.

That’s not to say that there isn’t online marketing value in Twitter, however; just that the mission changes from selling products to spreading awareness.

Having thousands, or even millions, of followers on Twitter isn’t likely to give you the ability to generate big online sales all at once. Even the most pointed marketing messages tend to be ignored. The fluid nature of tweets means that anything you have to say that isn’t of top of the mind interest isn’t going to be considered for more than a moment, so it’s not worth wasting the time or space trying to get people to click through to make a purchase.

What a small army of micro-sized message readers can do for you, though, is build a platform for everything else. Want to share a quick idea of what’s going on in your industry, or an unconventional opinion on what’s happening in the news? Twitter is the perfect place. Need to let the world know that you’ve added a new blog post, or have some exciting news brewing within your company? Twitter might be the right venue for that, too.

Given that the key is to find followers, not necessarily immediate buyers, you’ll want to take a backend approach to that future marketing. Here are a few pointers to get you on the right path:

Tweet early and often. You should post something to your Twitter account at least once a day, and a few times a day would be better. It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to express your thoughts and put them online, but again, consistency is the name of the game.

Follow and to be followed. As with other social networking sites, try to tie in to as many customers, vendors, and colleagues as possible. The more you grow your network, the more you stay informed. What’s more, people often choose to follow others who have the same contacts, so once you find a certain number of followers, your reach grows exponentially.

Be funny, insightful, or engaging. In other words, be anything but boring. That’s the kiss of death on any social networking forum, but especially Twitter, where attention comes in bite sized chunks.

Working with Twitter really is a long-term, hit-or-miss proposition. With the right group of contacts and followers, it could lead to thousands more hits on your blog, dozens of online customers, and important introductions that open the door to deeper conversations. Or, it could be five minutes a day spent trying to organize your thoughts into two sentences… but that’s okay. Twitter is fun, relatively new, and a whole new way of envisioning interactive web communication. Try it, see how you do, and take it for what it is.