This post is part of our Twitter for Business: Fundamentals Series

presented by Sprout Social – Business tools for the social web.

Consumer Chatter on TwitterBy now you know (or have heard) that Twitter is one of the fastest growing and most effective ways to connect with your customers, fans and future customers. For everyone involved Twitter is becoming a preferred way to create meaningful relationships and stay connected.

Over the past few years more and more businesses have joined Twitter and consumers have grown to expect that companies be present (and active) on the growing social network and are happily engaging with them through this new channel.

In fact, study released at Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit shows that 75% of people surveyed said they view companies that micro blog – sending short frequent messages on Twitter or status updates on social networks like Facebook – as more deserving of their trust than those that do not.

Here are some other specific advantages to using Twitter for your business:

1. It’s where the consumers are!

 

Social media is the fastest growing communication medium in history. To put it in perspective, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners. It took Television 13 years. Twitter has added 50 million users in the last six months!

 

Every day 300,000 consumers join Twitter and a staggering 41% of Twitter users engage with businesses and brands through the platform.

Users are having conversations, talking about experiences, forming opinions and discovering new providers to the tune of 50 million tweets per day.

Among reasons for these impressive numbers is that Twitter is low impact, it’s immediate and it’s a casual connection with businesses. They aren’t giving you their email address or home phone number – they are simply giving you permission to join their incoming stream of information. If you don’t prove to be a valuable addition, they can easily tune you out.

Social media WILL surpass both email and offline marketing in both volume and effectiveness (it arguable has already) in the next few years. To stay competitive, you must participate.

2. It’s inexpensive and efficient!

 

The cost of everything from radio ads to mail campaigns is down. The cost of reaching a large audience is lower than it’s ever been, but it still costs money and leaves a lot to be desired in the effectiveness department.

The cost of sending a message to your fans on Twitter: $0.00 and about 10 seconds of your time. I dare you to find something comparable. Not only is it easy on your valuable resources, it’s immediate and it’s viewed by people who have chosen to see your message. As you can imagine, early studies of campaign effectiveness peg Twitter as more than 20x more effective than typical means of online marketing.

 

3. It provides the most effective way to engage with your customers

 

You wouldn’t (probably) call all of your customers on the phone a few times a week, or email them just to ‘chat’. It would be weird, and very inefficient. Yet these types of ‘touches’ with your audience are extremely valuable for creating loyalty, increasing satisfaction and achieving top of mind awareness. Twitter allows you do exactly this in a way that’s not only acceptable but also desirable to consumers.

 

 

4. Provide Customer Service

 

For every person who comes to you with an issue, there a dozen more who turn to the social web to talk about it. One of the new realities is that whether you know it or not, choose to recognize it or not, respond to it or not – people are forming opinions about your business on line and discussing it openly. Smart companies are using this opportunity to turn challenges into positive customer experiences.

You don’t need a call center or overblown market research to provide excellent service. All you need is a few minutes a day from someone who cares and a Twitter account.

In addition to complaints or issues, Twitter is an easy way to enhance the experience of satisfied customers as well. Tweets are the new Thank You cards. A little good will on behalf of your company can turn casual customers into life-long evangelists.

 

5. Make Industry Connections

 

A few years ago, your peer group was dictated by your location and your social calendar. Today you can easily connect with a proprietor on an opposite coast and share ideas and best practices. Business development deals are made daily on the social Web and more than half of our (founders) own business connections have been made through twitter.

It’s a low impact way to connect with brilliant people across the world, and it’s easier than ever to create and develop these relationships. When you make it easy for people to help you, they will – and it doesn’t get much easier than 140 characters.

As an interesting aside for making financially beneficial connections on Twitter, 32% of all (not just commercial) Twitter users have reported that in the difficult economy of the past year their financial situation has improved, versus just 18% of non-twitter users (source: Edison Research, April 2010).

 

6. Grow Your Audience

One of the biggest benefits a business can enjoy through Twitter is a low-cost way to increase your customer base. Interested parties can find you, word-of-mouth recommendations are the norm and you have the ability to target consumers who are most likely to be interested in your product or services. Responsible and engaged use of Twitter can turn a small group of customers into thousands of fans in no time.

 

7. Increase Loyalty

 

Consumers buy from business, they buy repeatedly from people. Interacting with your audience through social channels is one of the easiest ways to turn a casual customer into a devoted one. Any social marketing effort should be a balance of marketing and conversation/engagement. The less you sell, the more you earn, and Twitter is the perfect medium to engage in these quick yet meaningful conversations.

 

 

8. SEO/Reputation Management

 

One of the most important things to a business in the Internet age is your online reputation. A few terrible yelp reviews or a blog dedicated to your demise can have a dramatic impact on your business. You didn’t sign up for it, but these conversations are happening with or without you.

Using sites like Twitter and Facebook, which have excellent search engine authority can ensure that you are involved with the conversations that appear in the top of search engine results.

Often when searching for a company on Google, you’ll notice that LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and a few others dominate the top few spots of the search results. By claiming your presence on these networks, you have some control over how those conversations go. If you aren’t involved, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope everyone loves you.

 

9. Increase Traffic to your Website

 

Social media links account for more web traffic to many websites than any other referral source. It’s incredibly easy to share links across social channels like Twitter, and a busy day can increase your web site traffic dramatically.

Let’s say you send a message to your meager 250 followers. But 5 of your followers choose to resend that message to their collective 15,000 followers. If a small percentage of those 15,000 also think the message is worth spreading, your eventual reach is in the millions.

10. Your Competition Is There…

Enough said.

What did we miss? Tell us how Twitter has (or hasn’t) impacted your business, or share your insights on what we may have left out.