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Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms in the West; with around 300,000 new new users signing up per day and an average of 180 million unique visitors per month [source]. But a huge number of both small businesses and large companies aren't using Twitter and its' real-time search to its full potential.
When most people think of searching, they think of Google. Whilst this isn't a negative thing on the whole, using search on other platforms (such as Twitter) can yield excellent results. Let's have a look at the real-time search on Twitter and the different ways you can use it to your advantage.
Real time search on Twitter allows you to input a keyword or phrase and search for user tweets containing those keywords in real time, i.e. you get relevant results organised in chronological order, so you get the most recent tweet containing your search term.
There are a few key applications of this kind of searching, as it allows direct access to either existing or potential customers and can greatly improve your customer relations, website traffic and sales. Here are what i consider to be the most useful applications of this search ability.
The simplest way to use Twitter's real-time search is to just search for people mentioning your company, responding to whatever you find. This is a very effective tool for engaging with your target audience and your client base. If people are asking where to find you, reply to them and tell them. If they're complaining about a product or service, get in touch with them and try to sort the problem out for them. Using social media in this way can be extremely effective and can generally improve your PR; just make sure if you do set up Twitter accounts for this reason you are always replying to questions, complaints, etc. if you allow the Twitter account to stagnate, you'll end up with the opposite of your desired effect.
Using real-time search in this way isn't uncommon, but there are a few slightly cleverer ways of attempting to engage with potential customers.
Let's take a national chain to use as an example here, say ... Yo Sushi. They could run a UK focused real-time search around any/all of the following phrases:
'anyone know sushi'
'anyone know good sushi'
'any good seafood'
They'll then find all tweets in the last few hours (and minutes) that contains those keyphrases. Chances are they'll find more than a couple of people asking if anyone knows a good Sushi place in London, or in Brighton, or Birmingham, etc. etc. The company can then find the tweets that relate to cities where there is a Yo Sushi restaurant and reply to the tweeters, offering them directions to the restaurant and maybe even a promotional code or a deal. By doing this regularly, the company are likely to find several potential customers to their restaurant, and then actually engage with those people and gain new custom.
An hour spent doing this online can turn into genuine sales extremely quickly. It would work particularly well for online sales companies too, as they can offer digital promotional discount vouchers to potential clients which they can then use there and then, they don't even have to leave their desk.
Twitter is extremely useful for customer services in general, but the real-time search allows you to be proactive with your customer services. Let's say you're a printer manufacturer selling your own brand of printer called the SP477 (no idea where the name came from). You could run a search for
'problems with SP477'
'anyone know how to fix an SP477'
Then collect all of the related tweets you find and contact the tweeters directly with potential solutions to their problem. If the problem can't be fixed, offer them a discounted fee to repair it. You can also check their warranty for them then and there and if it's still under warranty, arrange for it to be collected and repaired. This kind of proactive customer service is rare (particularly with big companies) and can pay real dividends in terms of your customer relations and PR. It can also improve your sales figures, as existing customers will recommend you far more regularly if they recieve this level of customer service from you - Twitter's real-time search makes this possible.
Twitter is an excellent resource for trend analysis and this can be used extremely effectively to drive traffic to your website or blog. Let me give you an example. Say you run a website and blog focusing on graphic design, and you're looking to increase traffic naturally to your site. You can monitor trending topics on Twitter, looking out for keywords or phrases that relate to your company.
Say for example, you discover the term 'infographic design' is trending (ie. it has a lot of tweets/searches relating to it). You can then use that information to add content to your blog and your external blogging activities, and that content would be around the trending term. If you do this well you should find that the community picks up on the posts and you start getting some real traction in terms of responses, reposts, etc. If the content on your own site is of a good quality, utilises mulit-media (most specifically properly tagged pictures, videos or both) and is based around the trending term, it should begin to drive a considerable amount of natural traffic to your site.
Do some experimenting and see how your business can use Twitter to its' full potential; Twitter gets approx 18 billion searches per month, which should be more than enough to warrant any companies attention.