Companies shouldn't miss the Twitter boat

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Tim Walker
Tim Walker

Twitter use may be exploding – the service has grown by millions of users per month across 2009 – but companies are hardly rushing to embrace the microblogging platform across the board. That's the conclusion to be drawn from a recent poll of the Hoover's audience about corporate Twitter use.

We polled our audience through our home page, blogs and Twitter and Facebook accounts to find out how much their companies are using Twitter. The poll offered a choice of five responses to a simple question, "How pro-Twitter is your company?" and more than 300 people responded.

The most enthusiastic answer available was "Very. We maintain a corporate profile and tweet regularly"; this choice drew support from about a fifth of respondents. The next most avid answer was "Some employees are active on Twitter, but independent of the company," which also accounted for one-fifth of responses. Eleven percent chose a more tepid answer, "Somewhat. We have a minimal presence on Twitter."

Together, those three answers represented half of all responses. But they were nearly matched by the 43 percent of our audience who answered "We do not use Twitter whatsoever." This is striking, especially when you consider that we used the @Hoovers account to promote the poll to our 5,000 Twitter followers.

The none-whatsoever response is also striking in its cluelessness, since we offered the fifth option of "We monitor our industry on Twitter but don't actively tweet." Only about six percent of respondents chose that answer.

In social media as in everything else, knowledge is power. The six percent of the audience who monitor but don't tweet are at least taking advantage of the free market-research laboratory and early-warning system that Twitter becomes as soon as you start monitoring what people say there about your company, your competitors and your market niche. Twitter has gotten big enough that there are conversations there on just about anything you can imagine. Just because plenty of those conversations are vapid chatter about politics, celebrities or what everyone had for lunch does not mean that ALL of them are. The 43 percent who ignore Twitter altogether are missing countless opportunities to tap the Twitter audience for insights into where their markets are headed.

We're still in the early days of Twitter, and it's easy to understand why some companies would regard its cocktail-hour ambiance with scorn. But the savviest businesses are wasting no time in figuring out how to put Twitter to fruitful commercial use.

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