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Wyoming Business Tips for July 12-July 18


July 6, 2009 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Brett Housholder, Wyoming Market Research Center researcher.

"What's this Twitter thing all about? My 10-year-old daughter uses it to find out what Miley Cyrus did today, but it can't possibly be useful for my business ... right?" Zachary, Riverton

If you have heard the words "Twitter" or "tweet" recently (and odds are you have) and felt completely out of the loop, don't worry. Twitter is by no means a new phenomenon, but only recently has hit its stride the past year and has finally entered the mainstream. In 2008 alone, Twitter grew from 500,000 users to nearly 4.5 million.

In its infancy, Twitter was perceived as yet another way for people craving attention to broadcast useless tidbits about daily life ("Just saw Transformers 2! So great!"). Admittedly, when I first learned about Twitter, I dismissed it as something I would never use in any way, let alone as a professional tool.

But as with any new social media craze, entrepreneurs immediately recognized an opportunity to harness a new tool and use it to their advantage. Now, every major media outlet, corporation, business guru, etc. has a Twitter account and they don't use them to update their followers on mundane details about trivial events.

Twitter has become an extremely powerful information sharing tool -- look no further than the recent protests in Iran. People were able to give updates on a minute-by-minute basis and Twitter became every bit as informative as any news channel.

Perhaps the best part of Twitter is that it is much easier than most assume. Simply go to www.twitter.com to create an account, search for somebody and sign up to follow that account. Every time they tweet, your homepage, or phone if you'd like, will receive an update. These tweets will often include brief tips, links to interesting articles or other information.

So, let's focus on using Twitter for your small business. If you own a bookstore, wouldn't it be useful to let customers know an upcoming midnight sale for the new Harry Potter book? Or what about offering the followers of your coffee shop's Twitter account for a discount: "Mention this tweet the next time you're in the shop and get $1 off your bill."

Perhaps one of the loyal patrons of a restaurant is considering that new place they have heard so much about. A tweet informing them of specials that evening might entice them into the establishment.

These are very basic examples, but the point is that Twitter can be useful as a marketing and promotional tool. It also is quick. Since tweets are limited to 140 characters, you are forced to be succinct. Customers can be informed about a local business in a matter of minutes.

Twitter is no longer strictly a hub for gossip and irrelevant opinions; there also are numerous ways that entrepreneurs can use it to promote their business. It may not be a necessity for every business, but it certainly can't be overlooked as an entrepreneurial tool.

For more information, contact Housholder at lazarus@uwyo.edu, call (307) 766-5389 or follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/BrettHousholder.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.

Posted on Monday, July 06, 2009

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