Pixels & Pills’ Ultimate Guide to Twitter

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By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

So how does this thing work?

When Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams launched Twitter in July 2006, little did they know how the micro-blogging platform would affect the mainstream, changing the way we communicate, learn, and even do business.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past four years, Twitter is a free service that allows users to share brief updates with a mass group of “followers. The updates, known as tweets, are confined to only 140 characters, and may include another users name, or handle, as well as a link. Tweets can easily be retweeted, with credit being given to the original author. Applications have been developed to provide additional functionality, such as the ability to share photos or use geolocation to identify the users whereabouts. Twitter also offers the option to privately message other users.

When a user follows another user, the persons updates are added to a newsfeed that appears on the followers homepage. The follower can also organize different user feeds into categorized lists, such as “coworkers or “celebrities. Additionally, hashtags identify trending topics. A trending topic is a conversation that there is the most collective buzz around. For instance, #Oscars was a popular hashtag on the night of the 2010 Academy Awards.

Twitter is especially useful for updating friends while on the go. Many mobile phones support Twitter software, or the user can simply use text messaging to generate a tweet and receive updates.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what Twitter is¢‚Ǩ¬¶so?

At the end of 2009, Twitter clocked in with just over 75 million users and counting. But its Twitters ability to reach a large amount of people in a short amount of time that gives it the greatest value. Government agencies are exploring the potential of using Twitter to inform the public during a natural disaster or national emergency. Marketers are constantly reinventing branding strategies with creative uses of Twitter. News providers are using Twitter to tease headlines. Businesses are changing the way they operate with Twitter.

Most notably, Twitter is uniting niche groups with similar interests. Users are organizing think tanks on Twitter, coordinating social events, and sharing relevant information at lightning speed.

What do I do with Twitter?

Twitter is important for a number of reasons, the two most important among them being conversation and collaboration. Through Twitter, numerous people with varying levels of expertise can engage in meaningful conversation around any particular topic. Hashtags can be applied to the conversation to keep everyone on the same page. Our recent favorite is Fard Johnmars #mustshare hashtag, which is used to collect links to important information for healthcare marketers.

Twitter also creates meaningful relationships among people with similar interests. The Pharma marketing community, for instance, has rallied around Twitter, creating an active and influential forum for industry professionals. Since Pixels & Pills inception, weve shared some of our friends, new and old, that we believe comprise the movers and shakers in the industry.

Pharma marketers are using Twitter to engage with consumers, educate them about the medicines they take, and share information about healthy living. Our friend Schwen Gwee provided this comprehensive list on the different ways Pharma marketers can take advantage of Twitter:

Market Research

Targeted searches can provide insight into what segments of the population are thinking and doing.

Customer Service & Customer Relations

Twitter provides a direct connection for customers to ask questions or provide feedback about a service or product.

Publicity and Promotion

Twitter is a great platform for making company announcements, providing news updates, and giving insight into the companys mission, beliefs, and culture.

Marketing and Sales

Creative uses of Twitter are highly engaging and encourage brand loyalty.

Crisis Communications

Twitter offers a direct-from-the-horses mouth approach to dealing with difficult or controversial situations.

Issues Advocacy

Because of its mass reach, Twitter is a great tool for supporting cultural change, such as encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Event Support/Management

Many events now have official hashtags that allow attendees to tweet live updates right from the event, sharing useful information with non-attendees and expanding the events reach.

Is your brand on Twitter? How are you using it?

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