The Way We Work
February 15, 2012 by Julia Camenisch

Twitter is a quite a versatile tool — within 140 characters you can connect with thought leaders, find jobs and build your brand identity.

But the power of the tweet does not end there. From managing data to fielding live webinar questions and joining Twitter chats, new and innovative uses of Twitter are continually being discovered. Here are four unusual ways that your business can make use of this always-changing social network.

1. Conduct an Interview

Nicknamed the “Twitterview”, an interview via Twitter can be a great way to engage your followers. As you participate in a question and answer dialogue with your interviewee, your audience can virtually tune in, ask their own questions and retweet the exchange to their followers.

Here is how to do it:

  • Choose someone to interview who is interesting to your target audience. If your audience or your interviewee promote the interview to their followers, you will receive even more publicity.
  • Promote your interview in advance. Talk about it on all your social media outlets — not just Twitter.
  • Design questions that fit within Twitter’s space limitations, and give your interviewee the questions ahead of time so they can also design appropriately short answers.
  • Use a hashtag so people can follow along.
  • Encourage your audience to chime in with comments and questions.
  • Include a live Twitter feed on your blog so that even non-Twitter users can follow along.

2. Hold a contest

If you are looking to get some brand exposure, try running a contest via Twitter. An example of how this could work: Offer the chance to win a $100 gift card in exchange for people retweeting your offer or another defined action.

  • Have a specific goal. Is this to increase awareness of your brand or a product? Drive traffic to your website? Before committing time and resources to a contest, define why you are doing it so you can decide whether it was worthwhile.
  • Keep within Twitter contest guidelines as well as any applicable state and/or country restrictions. Remember, running a contest often has legal ramifications. This is not a campaign to run without planning ahead.

Allow anyone to enter the contest through retweets, but avoid basing the contest on your follower count — as discovered by the authors of Freakonomics, who recently tried to reward their 400,000th follower.

Here is how to do it:

  • Include a URL for a contest webpage in the required retweet so you can track interest. If you are unable to measure your results, you will not be able to accurately judge whether your contest was a success.
  • Keep the contest duration short. In the Twitter-verse, attention spans are notoriously fleeting. The more immediate the promise of reward is, the more likely people are to enter the contest.
  • Choose a winner through random number generation. This can be done in a spreadsheet or by using the Random.org integer generator.
  • Tweet about the winners to keep the publicity going.

3. Run polls

Want to spark a conversation with your Twitter followers? Try running a poll via Twitter. Polls allow people to respond without too much thought or effort and can generate further discussion. Plus, poll data will help you understand your audience a bit better. While you can get various apps to help you run a Twitter poll, it is also very easy to do with hashtags and lists.

Here is how to do it:

  • Ask a succinct question that employs equally succinct answer options.
  • Use a hashtag that pertains to the subject matter.
  • Once a sufficient number of answers are generated, put the results on a web page and tweet the link to it.
  • Add the poll to your blog using Danny Herran’s code to generate even more entries.

4. Create a database

This option is for the truly geeky, but could be a cool way to mine data from Twitter. The New York Times used Twitter for this purpose during the 2010 United States elections. They had reporters tweet updates using a predefined series of hashtags, then used the Twitter API to automatically add those tweets to the appropriate regional election webpages.

Twitter has fast become one of the social media heavyweights. Because of that popularity, people are constantly exploring new ways to use it. Are you one of those creative Twitter users? If so, take a moment so share your “out of the box” idea in the comments section below.


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.

  • http://aisjournal.com Sajib

    I don't know if such interviews have already taken place on twitter. I've always seen interviews on blogs as an effective way of driving new traffic. But Twitter interview sounds a nice idea. Thanks Julia for the tips. :)

    • Julia

      You should give the Twitter interview a try, Sajib, and let me know how it goes!