Twitter can be a valuable business tool, if you know what you're doing. We've put together five important points to consider before using the microblogging tool in business.

Twitter is the microblogging platform that allows users to create a stream of very short posts, or 'tweets' that others can follow and reply to. Twitter is much more than just a way to tell friends what you're doing.

It can be harnessed as a business tool to broadcast information about your company, listen in on discussions about how people are using your products and what they think of them, and get involved when one of your customers has a problem.

Twitter isn't just a tool, though; it's a community - one that will stop paying attention if it feels like you're exploiting it. One way to make Twitter users feel exploited is to open an account and immediately start blasting out your latest press releases. That kind of headlong behaviour could conceivably strike back against you, leaving your brand and your reputation in tatters.

That's why it's wise to devise a strategy before you jump in.

To help you do that, we talked with two of the top Twitterers out there: Laura Fitton and Robert Scoble. Fitton, of Pistachio Consulting, helps companies develop social media strategies using Twitter, and is one of the leading Twitterers with more than 7,000 followers.

Scoble, of FastCompany.TV, is not just a popular figure on Twitter; he's been one of its most avid evangelists and has almost 40,000 followers. He also writes Scobleizer, one of the most popular tech blogs on the internet.

Here are the five ways they advise business users to get the most out of Twitter.

1. Decide what your purpose is

Have a clear purpose in mind to guide your use of Twitter. Do you want to reach key influencers in your field? Or are you trying to engage end users of your products? Your use of Twitter - who you follow, what you tweet and how you interact with other Twitterers - will be different for each.

Remember that you're creating an online persona for your brand or company. Trying to be all things to all Twitterers will come off as inauthentic, and it will offer little value to your followers. That's why Scoble recommends creating separate Twitter accounts for separate purposes: "Use one account to get news out, one to respond to customer complaints, and one for taking part in the conversation."

NEXT PAGE: Follow the right people

  1. Form a strategy before jumping in head first
  2. Follow the right people
  3. Engage the conversation, on Twitter and beyond
  4. Twitter tools

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