Why Your Small Business Brand Needs a Voice on Twitter

Victoria Harres Akers, Director of Audience Development, PR Newswire

At any given moment, there are millions of conversations taking place on the Internet. These discussions are occurring on blogs, within chats, on social networking communities like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, on image and video sharing sites and via micro-blogs like Twitter. Consequently, there is likely a conversation about you and/or your brand. This conversation "about" you is going to happen with or without your participation. Hence you are left with a choice. You can certainly hang back and allow others to shape your image, but if you want to have some part in the process you had better be involved. Twitter is one of the easiest, most effective ways to do this. It's free, it's simple, it's in the moment and there are always people listening and engaging in conversation.

There was a time not very long ago when a sales representative would personally visit each of his or her accounts on a regular basis. There was a shaking of hands, an exchange of personal stories and perhaps even the sharing of a cup of coffee or a meal. For the most part, this is no longer feasible. With travel costs and the ever-widening reach of many businesses, the personal connection has been lost or, at best, is much less frequent. Accordingly, the human touch to doing business has threatened to disappear from the corporate landscape. But with the advent of the Internet, something almost magical has happened. People have reached out through the Web to reestablish that human connection. Thus has been the birth of social media. People turn to the World Wide Web to share thoughts, obtain feedback on ideas, find information and even complain about companies and products with which they are dissatisfied. Here they have found a powerful voice. Not only is Twitter a vehicle for these human connections, but companies have realized that it is also a place to offer customer service, gather consumer information and provide a personal touch to their clients -- a sense that they are always available. Through the utilization of social networking, organizations are engaging in highly transparent interaction to strengthen their brand and foster relationships with key audiences.

From the earliest days of man's existence we have clung to groups (families, clans and associations). As John Donn once wrote, "No man is an island unto himself." Think of Twitter as an association - a very large and all-encompassing association; a gathering of like-minded individuals who promote industry, promote each other, encourage ideas and even nudge those who may be going astray. Although there are no "elected" officers as in a more traditional organization, there are definite leaders. Meetings are ongoing, rather than monthly. People come and go each day, but the conversation continues because members are across the globe in every time zone.

This Twitter association offers both safety and power. A brand which possesses a presence on Twitter has the ability to assemble a network built on trust and loyalty, as well as the power to guide its image and enjoy the safety that power provides. Additionally, Twitter provides a platform with which to respond and counteract negative comments that may arise about a brand, all while summoning the support of the associations and relationships fostered by this medium.

Many brands have already found their way to Twitter. The successful ones possess a human voice behind them, communicating the brand message and networking with customers, business associates and industry colleagues. This communication is conducted on interpersonal terms, aiming to refrain from the characteristics of a sterile corporate message board or an advertising billboard.

Companies actively engaged on Twitter enjoy the strength of a loyal network. But more importantly, these organizations have the opportunity to mold a positive image for their brand every day - and so can you.

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