Twitter Introduces Universal Search

Who knew so many people would have so much to say in 140 characters or less? According to comScore’s 2010 Digital Year in Review, Twitter saw 18 percent annual growth last year, reaching 23.6 million unique users in December of 2010.

For marketers, this means that the microblogging site has an ever-growing audience, offering access to valuable leads. In fact, Edison research shows that 42 percent of Twitter users look for product information on the site, so brands can engage eager shoppers.

Moreover, Twitter marketing is a key way to boost search rankings. Google recently updated its social results, with frequently tweeted branded content often pushed to the top of search engine results pages.

So Twitter is a great way to engage a convertible audience, and it can enhance your search marketing efforts. Here's some insight on how you can use Twitter to maximize your social outreach.

1. Be a listener as much as a tweeter.

One of the most valuable aspects of Twitter for marketers is that they can follow industry conversations. The microblogging site is constantly updated with the latest and freshest information about myriad sectors. Marketers can use this to their advantage.

Pay attention to the questions and concerns chatted about on Twitter as they relate to your products and services. Discover consumers' informational needs. Answer these questions and insert your brand into the conversation. By staying on top of industry discussions and addressing issues straight on, you can establish your brand as a thought leader and build followers.

2. Share your content with a relevant audience.

Sometimes you can share industry insight in 140 articles or less. Sometimes you'll want to give consumers richer information, which brings us to the idea that Twitter is an ideal platform for sharing branded content.

Distribute your articles, blog posts, white papers and more via Twitter. Be sure to tweet a headline that gives a clear picture of how your content is relevant to your target audience, and then include a link that brings users to specific content pages of your site.

Notably, news articles are highly likely to be shared by Twitter users, and offering content that stays ahead of the latest industry developments is a great way to keep your Twitter page fresh. Plus, Chitika research shows news drives the majority of traffic to Twitter.

3. Make your brand accessible.

Hosting a big sale? Offer coupons directly to followers by @mentioning them. Or maybe someone made a less than stellar comment about your company and broadcast it via Twitter. Take charge and respond to negative comments. This is a great way to turn bad reviews into an opportunity to show that your brand listens to consumers.

Twitter provides an avenue to make your brand accessible to the masses. (So do all social networks, for that matter.) You might look at Twitter as a platform that moves the traditional business networking model online – you're going Tweet-to-Tweet instead of face-to-face. Put your brand in direct conversations with followers (and skeptics), and you'll likely see that a little personal attention goes a long way in converting social users into brand advocates.

With these tips in mind, you can use Twitter to leverage your business as a thought leader. Twitter marketing is a time investment, and it’s important to invest in the content you share via the site – but the investment pays off. According to eMarketer, more than one-third of consumers (37 percent) say they are more likely to make purchases with a brand after they follow it on Twitter.