You know by now that Twitter is a rage with most people you meet online talking about Twitter and tweets.  But what exactly is it and how can you monetize your business using Twitter?

Jack Dorsey’s simple need to know what his friends were doing led to the creation of Twitter, launched in August 2006 and today, you have Barack Obama sharing his thoughts on Twitter.  It had a growth of 1382% as of Feb 2009, which is the highest among all social networking sites.

Twitter is an online application that is a micro-blog, social networking site, cell phone/IM tool all combined into one.  You want it explained in simpler terms?  Twitter is a free service that allows you to say anything to anyone with 140 characters at your disposal, using web form, text message or instant message.  These posts or messages are called tweets and they can be anything; from questions as to what the user is doing, responses to other tweets or pointers to online resources, just like regular blog posts, but small in size.

Just as with other social networking sites, Twitter is outfitted with tools that allow subscriptions, sharing, friends or follow as many twitter feeds as one likes.  One of the main tools is the SMS functionality for desktop and web-based applications allowing users to send and receive small text messages, which includes updates on e-mail.  Twitter blocks is a visualization tool for recent updates from friends and their network of friends.

Every user with an account at Twitter and their followers is a content channel by itself.

While Twitter is used by some as purely a general communication medium, more and more people today are using it to monetize their Twitter channels.

Before we actually get down to looking at some monetization methods of Twitter channels, it helps to understand the basics, especially for those of you that are new to Twitter.
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Basics

  • Sign up to a Twitter account. Pick a memorable username for branding purposes. e.g. http://twitter.com/technologygear
  • Read the Twitter help guide to help answer all the questions you may have when starting out.
  • Once you are done with account creation, you will be given a home page and a profile page.  You will be given your own URL to promote as you like.  It will be the main Twitter website address followed by your username.  You can put a short bio and the URL of your website on this page.  Just remember that every visitor to this profile page is a potential visitor to your site too.  But make sure your profile is free of sales pitch or hard sell with a number of links.  The goal here is to build relationships and network.
  • Upload a photo to your profile.  Make sure it is your photo as people are interested in communicating with a real person and not a company or some cartoon picture.  This gives them the confidence.
  • Dress up your Twitter home page with a good background. It’s a great branding touch.  Here’s a tutorial on how to create Twitter backgrounds.
  • Set up a page for new Twitter followers.
  • Before marketing anything, start out by sending a few tweets and let people know about you or join a conversation.  This will give people an idea of who you are and why they should even be following you.
  • Follow people who you find interesting and respond to their tweets.  Don’t stuff your website down their throat but first discuss your interests and ideas.
  • For every one promotional tweet, you should have at least 10 conversational tweets.
  • Use tools like TweetLater, TweetBeep or TweetTree to know when people are talking about you or your website.

For a marketer, Twitter is an extension of everything you do, from branding to PR.

Now how do you monetize Twitter for your business?

As with all social networking, the more you give, the more you’ll receive in return. Whether on Twitter or your web site, find ways to be helpful and useful.

If you have joined Twitter with an intention of monetizing your channel, then you would be already having a business of some sort that revolves around a product or service in a particular niche. If you are new, then choose a niche of your choice and create a website or blog around it.  Then use Twitter for promotion and finding customers.

First things first…

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Build Your Following

The whole point of social networking is to have large numbers of followers.  However, if you’re going to be promoting your business, getting your ideas to the right people is essential.

The easiest way to have a number of people following you is to follow others.  Start with the President, Barack Obama who will follow you back instantly.  Use the search function on Twitter and use keywords related to your niche.  You can even use a service like Twilert or TweetGrid to search using multiple keywords and get email alerts when someone in the Twitosphere is talking about your niche.

Follow everyone that might be interested; people who like you as well as who hate you.  Make your profile interesting as the first thing people do is check the profile and then decide whether to follow or not. Join the conversation when you have something sensible to say.  People usually follow people who provide something of value.  It’s all very good to ask the “how are you” type of questions for them to get to know you, but if that’s all they are getting from you, you are surely not going to get a huge following and even if you do, they will not be the potential customers you seek.

  • Connect with people
  • Share information
  • Answer questions
  • Re-tweet messages
  • Participate in conversations

And create value…..  This value creation is like a magnet that will attract the right kind of followers.

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Promote Your Niche Using Tweets

While gaining targeted group of followers on Twitter is crucial, the number of followers is not the only factor that helps with successful monetization.  The idea behind having followers is to be able to profit from them; albeit in the most non-promotional manner.

To achieve this, you should tweet about your niche.  When tweeting, due to the character limit, use a shortened URL back to your site.  To generate more eyeballs and potential sales, you could also write about any special deals.  Live tweets can be sent talking of developments in your niche. This can also be in the form of niche-related news sent to your followers through RSS feeds.

Use this useful application – TweetDeck , with which will be able to group users together either organizing them by interests, influence or others.

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Promote Your Product Or Service With Content

Who really cares about your products or services?  What people care about is how you are able to help them.  What is in it for them?  What problems are you solving?  These are the questions you must ask yourself.

If your content is not good, then it’s going to have an adverse and opposite effect.  You must understand that bad word-of-mouth spreads much faster than a good one – think real life.  These are real people after all.

One of the most important things is adding of unique and useful content.  Provide them with information they are looking for.  There is no confusion here, just look at it as blog posts.

This can be done by posting useful and helpful information on your blog or website and use RSS feeds to promote it using Twitter.  You can earn a good name for yourself by providing links to all great sources; newspapers, YouTube vids, magazines, other blog posts, websites etc. as long as the information is great.

Keep a list of keywords ready, be it your website, products, services or some jargon from your niche.  Use Twitter Search to find discussions about your keywords to see what the Twitter audience are discussing about.   Make a note of the Feed for this query icon as you will need it later. Subscribe to the results in Google Reader.  This will help you archive all the keywords that are most popular, for you to take advantage of and provide content related to what’s actually being talked about in your niche.

If you are planning to use Twitter for heavy promotion, a great free tool to use is Tweet Scan, which is a search service for Twitter content.  This searches Twitter and emails you the results from actual Twitter posts or content using your keywords.

Whenever you are tweeting, it helps to use shortened your URLs.  Other than tinyURL, there is Bit.ly link shortener that gives you analytics too. With this, you can even monitor the number of clickthroughs on your links.

If you are promoting a blog post or something else, don’t always add a direct link to it, try and add a twist to make it more interesting.  You can ask people if they have any thoughts on it.  You can use twitterfeed to feed any RSS feed into a twitter account.  Make sure not to get carried away and send too much content as that will only end up turning off followers.

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Pointers To Promoting Through Tweet Content

  • Add content
  • Re-tweet other people’s good tweets
  • Add questions as tweets
  • Add links to other good web pages you like as tweets
  • Add your blog or website posts
  • Add random thoughts

Here is an interesting resource that can help you understand in-depth.

Monitor How Your Followers Are Finding Your Content

Proper monetization of Twitter content channels is only possible when you know how your content is being received by your followers.

Here are a few ways to keep track:

  • Re-tweet - How many of these people are actually re-tweeting your posts?  Re-tweets are viral marketing at its best. A re-tweet happens when your followers find your tweets so interesting that they share it with all their followers.  This opens up a whole lot of new audience and potential customers.
  • Direct messages Twitter provides an excellent potential for one-on-one marketing.  Check out the @replies and direct messages.  Make sure you respond.  The number of people @replying is a great indication of your influence on Twitter.
  • Hash tags (#) – It is difficult condensing great news or content into 140 characters.  But this helps in avoiding any fluff and getting to the point.  If you feel your followers will find the topic interesting, use hash tags to link to URLs for your followers to get more on the subject being discussed.

Okay, we’ve discussed using URLs to lead people to your own blogs and websites where you profit by selling products or services. What about affiliate links?

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Profit From Affiliate Links On Twitter

You can of course use URLs to affiliate links that lead directly to a sales page as long as it is something that is useful.  Be like an over-protective parent and see what the perceived value is for your followers.

A little imagination goes a long way and you can serve up well-targeted affiliate links on Twitter.  You are going to get un-followed as fast as you were followed if you throw spam at your followers.  You certainly should not be linking to a sales page that is selling a worthless e-book just because it’s going to net you big dollars.  Let me share a nice affiliate marketing trick that works wonders when you use the TwitterLit account, which provides users with a daily quote that is taken from the first line of a novel. This comes with an Amazon.com link to that novel.

This is found to be successful with people clicking on the link because they find the great first-line interesting and peaks their interest.  Nobody calls these TwitterLit Tweets spam; in fact, they look forward to receiving them.  The earnings may not be huge but bloggers with a lot of followers can use this successfully.

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Monetize Through Ads

Another form of monetization of Twitter is using ads for promotion. Many people simply post ads as updates using their Twitter account. However, since your followers don’t necessarily opt-in to advertising when they decide to follow you, it can affect your credibility if it happens to backfire.

You can now earn ad revenue on Twitter through different means. With services like Tinker, you will be part of a revenue share network with other micro-bloggers. Magpie is another network you can check out, which is similar to Tinker except that it will show ads that are based on relevant interests and not specific events.

If you want to do it on your own and don’t wish to be part of a network, then

Twitter brand Sponsor ads by Sociable Ads from Mashable is a great option. This can be implemented on a WordPress platform. What you can do is monetize the Twitter accounts of brands you want to be part of. Since there is no forced advertising through tweets to your followers, you don’t have to worry about losing credibility.

TwittAd is a service that connects advertisers and Twitter users. You just list the number of followers you have and how much you are willing to sell an ad on your Twitter page and TwittAd will match you with the advertisers. This ad is placed on the left hand side of the Twitter page that is empty. These ads are unobtrusive and don’t look bad.

Twittertise is yet another service intended for marketers ad an advertising platform to track the success of their branding. Twittertise allows people to create and schedule promotional campaigns in the form of tweets with a URL.  Then it uses Bit.ly to shorten the URL and once the tweet is live, the user will be able to see the stats on how many people have clicked on the link and where the traffic is coming from. While this may not exactly be advertising, it can still be very useful for marketers relying on Twitter for promoting some product or service or even making an announcement. It lets the users know how efficient their messages are and if people are interested in what they have to say.

Here are some interesting thoughts about how Twitter’s SMS functionality can be used.

You should be clear that the monetary value one can get out of Twitter is based on generating qualified leads and having an effective product or service that provides something of value to convert these leads into customers.

Finally…

Twitter is not rocket science and doesn’t need a plan of months to execute.  Just enjoy helping people and you are all set to win them over and profit in the long run. Don’t be shy mixing personal tweets with business. While it is possible to use Twitter to get nothing out of it, it is also possible to get a lot from it – profiting you’re your business, forming relationships, learning etc.

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