If you've heard the words "twitter" or "tweet" recently (and the odds are you have) and felt completely out of the loop, don't worry. Twitter is by no means a new phenomenon, but only really hit its stride in the past year and has finally entered the mainstream. In 2008 alone, it grew from 500,000 users to nearly 4.5 million.
In its infancy, Twitter was perceived as yet another way for people craving attention to broadcast useless tidbits about daily life - "Just saw Transformers 2! So great!" Admittedly, when I first learned of Twitter I dismissed it as something I would never use in any way, let alone as a professional tool.
But, as with any new social media craze, entrepreneurs soon recognized an opportunity to harness a new tool and use it to their advantage. Now, every major media outlet, corporation, business guru, etc. has a a Twitter account and you can rest assured they don't use them to update their followers on mundane details about trivial events.
Twitter has become an extremely powerful information sharing tool - look no further than the recent protests in Iran. People there were able to give updates on a minute-by-minute basis and Twitter became every bit as informative as any news channel.
Perhaps the best part of Twitter is that it's much easier than most assume. Simply go to the website, create an account, search for somebody (wyendotbiz, for example), and sign up to follow that account. Every time they Tweet, your homepage, or phone if you'd like, will receive an update. These Tweets will often include brief tips, links to interesting articles, or other information.
So, lets focus on using Twitter for your small business. If you own a bookstore, wouldn't it be useful to let your customers know of your upcoming midnight sale for the new Harry Potter book? Or what about offering the followers of your coffee shop's Twitter page a discount: "Mention this Tweet the next time you're in the shop and get $1 off your bill!" Perhaps one of the loyal patrons of your restaurant is considering that new place they've heard so much about. A Tweet informing them of your specials this evening might entice them to do otherwise.
These are very basic examples, but the point is that Twitter can be very useful as a marketing and promotional tool. Also, it's quick. Since Tweets are limited to 140 characters, you are forced to be succinct. You can keep your customers informed about your business in a matter of minutes.
Twitter is no longer seen as a hub strictly for gossip and irrelevant opinions; there are also numerous ways that entrepreneurs can use it to promote their business. It may not be a necessity for every business, but it certainly can't be overlooked as an entrepreneurial tool.
Anybody already doing this? Have you seen results?