Should I get a Twitter account?

Should I get a Twitter account? That’s the question a friend of mine asked recently. She was about to make a presentation at a conference and the organizers had asked for her Twitter handle. Although she knew what Twitter was, it wasn’t part of her typical social media use and she wondered what it might offer.

When she asked me “Should I get a Twitter account?”, I took some time to find out why she was asking. After all, the answer to whether you need a Twitter account varies.

Twitter, which launched in 2006, is a social media and news platform where users post and interact with messages. Messages on Twitter are called “tweets” and are limited to 140 characters. Brevity rules on Twitter.

Messages are sent directly to people when you put an @ symbol in front. If you write @usernamehere and then a message, it will be seen by that person, but it’s still visible to the larger world. If you put that @usernamehere into a message, such as “Hey @username here, this article on accounting might help you start your business”, it will also be seen in the Twitter feed of anyone reading the post.

People often use hashtags on Twitter (#consulting, for example) to create conversations that others can follow. So, if you want to know what’s happening in #consulting, #marketing, #Seattle or with the #WHO, you can search or click on those tags. You can add tags to your conversations to help others find them, too.

You may choose to follow people on Twitter, so that you get a sense of what topics are popular or what’s hitting the news. Here in Vancouver, when an earthquake rumbles, an accident occurs or even fireworks burst, people will search Twitter to see if anyone else has mentioned the situation. News, business events and laws may also be topics of conversation, along with scientific discoveries, magazine articles and entertainment. If people think about it, it’s probably on Twitter.

If you decide to start posting on Twitter, it can help with building your profile — assuming you get in front of the right audience. I’ve used Twitter to make business connections, generate blog traffic, share information, get media interviews and build my profile.

Since Tweets are so short, it takes very little time to write a tweet. It’s less commitment than writing blog posts, articles or taking part in other marketing.

That being said, if you’re going to do Twitter right, you need to have a goal, a target audience, key messages and a plan for using it. Like anything else, it may or may not work for you. It’s always better to choose effective campaigns for your business than to do something poorly.

Do you have a Twitter account? Would you recommend it to others?

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