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How Twitter is evolving into a must-have tool for start-ups

Friday, 1 February 2013 | By Oliver Milman

feature-twitter-logo-hashtag-thumbIs Twitter moving from a niche player to a mainstream business tool? There have been several clues to its evolution in recent months, from its launch of an Australian office to its attempt to lure business users with $1 million in free advertising credits.

 

But, as with most things in the business world, the judgement comes down to the numbers. The online analysts at Global Web Index have found that Twitter’s active user base rose by a stunning 40% in the second half of 2012.

 

Across 31 different countries, Twitter now has 288 million regular users, comfortably outstripping Facebook in terms of growth during 2012.

 

“In our first wave of research in July 2009, we estimated that Twitter had just 35.47 million monthly active users across the markets covered at the time,” says Global Web Index in a blog post.

 

“Twitter, however, is shaking off that niche status with impressive style, and as we begin 2013, it is the fastest growing social platform on the planet.”

 

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The Twitter surge is a little less pronounced in Australia than the average – around a 35% increase Down Under in 2012 compared to a global standard of 40%. Growth rates in China, the USA, Russia and Hong Kong range from 60% to 100%.

 

However, Australians are clearly embracing Twitter in such numbers that even business owners who consider themselves social media novices should be sitting up and taking notice.

 

As we’ve outlined before, Twitter, when deployed correctly, can help grow your business by connecting you to new customers and helping retain the ones you currently have.

 

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Social media consultant Ian Lyons told us: “Twitter can data mine information like never before.”

 

“Henry Ford’s famous quote is, ‘If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse’, but what people really wanted was a faster way to get from A to B.’”

 

“That could’ve been a car, or a horse or a plane. Henry Ford didn’t have the tools we have now to listen to the market to understand their needs.”

 

“Fundamentally, it’s a shift from interrupting people to sell them your wares to helping people to buy.”

 

“No one likes being sold to. Once you can make a shift to thinking about who benefits from your product and service, get to know the customer and get an answer to the key question ‘who would miss us if we were gone?’, Twitter is a great tool.”

 

So what do people use Twitter for? Intriguingly, Global Web Index says that user habits are changing, with people becoming more passive.

 

Just 51% of active users have posted a Tweet in the past month, according to the consultancy.

 

“This means that half the active user base is just reading, reacting or using Twitter as a source of discovery,” says Global Web Index. “The caricature of the average Twitter user banally talking about what they had for breakfast is dying.”

 

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Twitter isn’t for everyone and there are many businesses that use it in clumsy, ill-advised ways. But one thing is clear – if you haven’t even considered Twitter as part of your marketing mix, you are at risk of being overtaken by those that do.

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