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The question going around today among many Public Relations professionals is not just whether they should be on Twitter - but, what is Twitter?
According to Wikipedia, " Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as Tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed-up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter Web site, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, e-mail or through an application such as Twitterrific or Facebook. For SMS, four gateway numbers are currently available: short codes for the United States, Canada and India, as well as a United Kingdom number for international use. Several third parties offer the option of posting and receiving updates via e-mail."
In my personal view, Twitter is the perfect marriage of SMS (or Standard Text Messaging) and RSS (Real Simple Syndication). The beauty however, is that it challenges people to be very succinct in their messaging. In 140 characters or less, people need to be able to put out their message, attempt some context to the message and even leave room for a URL. This is a challenge.
Here is a great video from the folks at the Common Craft show entitled "Twitter in Plain English":
There are some who view Twitter as an absolute must. I have even seen some of the PR Digerati state, "If you are in PR, you have to be on Twitter today." I don't fully believe that. There are plenty of benefits to being on Twitter, but it's not required that someone actually be tweeting (for those who don't know, when you send a message out on Twitter, it's called a Tweet - the mascot is a bird) every moment of every day.
People should not only know about, but pay attention to Twitter, which is, at the very least, an important tool. It is a tool that people should know how to search.
If our profession of Public Relations is truly about having a conversation with the "public" then we need to know how to listen to what they are saying about us or the subjects in which our businesses or clients play.
There are a ton of great tools for Twitter to make it easier to post, search, find, follow and more. Here is my favorite to use:
http://search.twitter.com - A great way to not only search the "Twitosphere" but also to be able to subscribe to that search via RSS. Quick tip: You can use the advanced search feature to locate Tweets in a geographic area.
There are a ton of other free applications that you can try by going to: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps
There are many different ways in which companies can use Twitter. Some of the most popular stories and successes have been associated with companies like Zappos.com and Comcast.
Check out the unique way that Zappos is using Twitter by going to http://twitter.zappos.com
Also, check out how other brands, companies, organizations and media - yes media - are using Twitter in the Twitter Social Brand Index: http://www.socialbrandindex.com/
Finally, here is a quick Twitter case study that I created based on something that happened to me while monitoring for the PR Newswire brand.
I'll see you in the Twitosphere!
Check out PR Newswire in Twitter:
@prnewswire - Media relations tips
@profnet - Tips on using ProfNetSM and for urgent ProfNet Requests from ProfNet Journalists
@prnevents - Keep up to date with the latest events, media panels and workshops that PR Newswire is hosting around the world.
Michael Pranikoff can be reached at http://del.icio.us/michaelpranikoff or Twitter @mpranikoff.