Entrepreneurs are finding the fast-rising microblogging site to be a useful tool for reaching out to customers
Twitter distinguishes itself from MySpace (NWS) and Facebook by relying less on picture-laden profiles and more on posts of fewer than 140 characters, referred to as “tweets” or “microblogs.” Twitter’s simplicity is paired with a powerful search function that allows users to mine others’ updates in real time for useful nuggets.
An estimated 5 million people use Twitter, according to Cambridge-based Forrester Research. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone says businesses “that are not quite big enough to make an impact on the Web, or to spend resources there,” have been some of the earliest users of the site. He says some San Francisco-based coffee shops and bakeries have sent tweets to tell their customers about specials or products they may be out of that day. One Los Angeles taco truck uses Twitter to tell customers where it will be that day. “Businesses use this as a hybrid between marketing and customer service,” says Stone. “They use the Twitter Search to track mentions of their products and services and as a way to begin a conversation.”
Like any online forum, Twitter may not be for everyone. Its immediacy and conversational nature make it a boon to those whose products and services may take a bit more explaining or back-and-forth.