What’s everyone Twittering about?

According to Hitwise, Twitter has risen 22-fold in a year, faster than any other site this year (Nick Clark for The Independent, 26th June 2009). At first Twitter looked like just another social networking hub, but on closer inspection it had a clear difference - it was extremely simple. With only 140 characters to update the ‘what are you doing?’ prompt finding smart, witty ways to update followers quickly became addictive for early adopters.

According to Hitwise, Twitter has risen 22-fold in a year, faster than any other site this year (Nick Clark for The Independent, 26th June 2009). At first Twitter looked like just another social networking hub, but on closer inspection it had a clear difference - it was extremely simple.

With only 140 characters to update the 'what are you doing?' prompt finding smart, witty ways to update followers quickly became addictive for early adopters.

In February this year news that Stephen Fry had been tweeting whilst stuck in a lift cemented the relationship between celebrities and Twitter and brought the much sought after PR coverage the San Franciscan company needed to hit the headlines. In the same month traffic to the site doubled month on month and Twitter had really got our attention.

Can Twitter hit your bottom line?

There's a lot of chat out there about how businesses can utilize Twitter to impact the bottom line. But who has done it successfully? Like every other marketing channel, Twitter provides the opportunity to deliver interesting information, connect with your core audience and communicate. And like all other great marketing activity, it needs a clear strategy.

Tweeting without a clearly thought through strategy can be damaging to your brand. You only need to look at the bad press @Habitat received for its unethical use of hashtags including #iranelection.

A business needs to define objectives, create a plan and identify 'tweeters' in the organization who are informed and empowered enough to really represent the brand positively online. The objectives bit is key. Take @Pepsi Raw for example. Launching a new brand, they laid out the objectives clearly - letting people know where they are sampling and encouraging them to come along, feedback and interact through cocktail design competitions. It sounds like the boys and girls sampling actually own this and it resonates well.

And then there's the much referenced @DellOutlet purported to have sold $3M worth of secondhand and reconditioned merchandise through Twitter alone. Objective: offer exclusives that grab attention and simultaneously extend customer services through one to one dialogue with consumers.

Both of these success stories have something in common. From the outset they have set their communication boundaries and remained true to them thereby engaging their readers in honest, simple, mutually beneficial conversation. Interestingly, neither makes any reference to ad slogans or corporate chat.

Different businesses are approaching Twitter with their own strategies.

As with all social networking, honest dialogue and human interaction go a long way. There are so many uses for Twitter, whether it is a medium to allow customer services escalation like Carphone Warehouse, a forum for farmers like @wiggled or a channel for promoting real time activity like fresh bread and cakes from @hummingbbakery in London, but the successful ones resonate with followers. We know this because it is so easy to 'unfollow' a tweeter that dialogue has to be relevant to keep people on board. And, even better, if the dialogue, offers or events are unique to Twitter then you stand a great chance of engaging and retaining your followers.

Whilst Twitter's Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams try to work out how to generate revenue, there are lots and lots of businesses out there actually driving business revenue and forging relationships with customers and prospects.

As Twitter so succinctly puts it - 'What are you doing?'