The news is slowly sinking in that Twitter can help small businesses succeed beyond answering customers' questions, networking and providing education. Within a fairly short period of time, Twitter could permanently change how small businesses operate to include hyper-local marketing, advertising, financial information, customer service, data mining, product and service alerts and micropayments.
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Immaturity of business models and metrics and ROI questions surrounding social media are making Twitter cumbersome to use for many small businesses, but change is coming as more startups are building Twitter into their business models; meanwhile, Twitter metrics and tracking have also been rapidly evolving. New metric tools such as Twitoaster and ViralHeat are constantly being released to track Twitter's effect on sales and marketing.
Twitter is the easiest form of social media to track, due to its open interface and data. Any kind of actionable data is worth tracking. For example, business owners can start by tracking how many followers they have at any one time, how many times their posts were shared and how many replies they got. They can also track more complex calculations such as how much their Twitter followers are worth. For example, Hillstrom's Twitter Quality Score is calculated by dividing the number of followers by the number following, and a score of 1.5 or above demonstrates that a Twitter account is worth following and has quality information and offers for its followers.
Next, track your sales or word-of-mouth mentions back to your Twitter account. Use a URL shortener, to track how often your content appears on Twitter, and tie it back to sales. For example, you can establish a shortened link to a specific promotion and track how many times it has been clicked on and shared, which is important in social media.
Finally, to demonstrate the value of your Social Media campaigns to investors and the media, a business owner should track, at a minimum, the average number of weekly or monthly mentions of your business in social media of your business, the sentiment of business or brand mentions in social media and the percentage of your business or brand mentions by influentials within your industry. All three metrics work for any business, and are easy to track using buzz monitoring tools such as SM2 Techrigy .
During a recession, budgets are slim and purchasing decisions are based on relationships and connections, right along with price. Now is the time to jump in and use Twitter and measure its effectiveness for your business.
Marshall Sponder is a senior web analyst for a large IT services company based in the Northeast and an artist who maintains Now-SEO, his own search engine marketing consultancy with B2B and B2C clients.