Have tweeting and social media come of age for business?

I read today in the Evening Standard that Lily Allen has decided to return to Twitter after 5 months to communicate with her 1.98m followers. Can you turn your commitment to these social networking sites on and off like Lily and still expect your followers to be there and as a business do they have a role to play?

The past week has been a busy one with invitations to panels, roundtables and blogs, newsletters and using social media so I was interested to see how the use of Twitter can help to bring in questions for the panel I was on prior to the event. I also took a closer look as to which companies are using it well and those that have not understood social media at all and use it to broadcast lots of sales messages which do little to engage followers.

I thought I’d use some social networking sites like Twitter for some research for a round table event next week which is focused on business travel so I put “business travel” into twitter and what I found was interesting. In the 20 minutes that I spent on the site more than 20 new tweets had flooded in from various parts of the world. There was a lot of noise and the gems were hard to dig out. My conclusion was that it was a lot of effort to find stuff that was relevant, so my lesson learnt was to use more detailed search terms.

However what I did find was that the smart companies were using experienced bloggers to generate engaging content to tweak our interest in the top destinations for business travel in 2010 and some had got links to timesaving tips from frequent travellers which again might encourage us to click and have a read. When I arrived at the web page I also found that the page title had been optimised for Google so that the content will go up the natural search rankings if anyone puts in a search term wanting to know about the top destinations for 2010.

Many have dismissed Twitter as too gimmicky and have been forecasting its demise for some time however when you do post tweets on Twitter your followers will often use other social networking sites such as Facebook to make comments. As the founder of the web, Tim Berners Lee has lamented, there are still too many walls between these social networking sites. He has been waxing lyrical about “linked data” and wanting many of us to take an “Open Source” approach to how we use the internet and this may be the next generation of the web. Mobile phone platforms have welcomed new applications so you can now do anything from book a hotel to find a job on your phone which is very exciting. Nokia is now giving away free GPS maps for its phones which spells a whole new wave of applications for those of us on the move if they then open them up for developers to enhance them even more. Witness all those entrepreneurial developers that have written lots of new maps for web games and you will see the opportunities out there to transform our business networking experiences if the social network platforms worked with the maps on our phones.

However how can we embrace all this when the media scares us every day with stories of our Facebook accounts being hacked into by identity thieves? Have we already shared too much about ourselves? As our private and business lives mingle it’s hard to know where to draw the line but many of these business networks give us such a richer seam of information to help further our business relationships. How many times have you used a social networking site such as Linked In or Plaxo to screen a job candidate or a new business prospect? My view is that social media has still not come of age and wow there is still a lot to learn.

I would be interested to learn how your business has benefited from using a social media.site, so do post a comment.

2 comments for “Have tweeting and social media come of age for business?

  1. Kathryn Bullock
    4 February, 2010 at 10:11

    Thanks for that and yes I've just had a read of the Economist article and it's amazing how big Facebook has become.

  2. Seagull
    3 February, 2010 at 22:03

    Just picked up the Jan 30 edition of The Economist and they have a big special report on Social Networking for anyone who wants to read more on this topic. They have some interesting examples of small US companies making money by using Twitter and other social networks.

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