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Using Twitter for a Competitive Advantage

Dear Reader,

Over at the Small Business Idea Forum, Staci asked about twitter and I replied. This, along with a couple of other things today are pointing me towards a blog post and possible a podcast this weekend.

Twitter has gone from WTH to ZOMG to “Hey, I can use this for my benefit!” I like any tool that hits that last stage.

Three things have come together today to prompt me to write this post.

First, my friend and editor Elizabeth Naramore tweeted today:

someone explain to me the reasoning behind a company “following me” on twitter; are they just hoping I follow them too?

She’s not the first person that has noticed this trend, just the latest. The trend of following everyone on twitter because a lot of people automatically follow you back is growing. The obvious benefit is if you follow 10,000 people on twitter and 10% follow you back because they don’t know any better, when you post, 1,000 people see your post. So as a side note to this blog let me jsut advise any twitter user out there, don’t auto-follow. When you get a twitter “follow” notice, check out who it is. If it’s not someone you know then it’s twitter spam. Don’t bother to follow them. (You don’t have to block them though, let them artificially inflate your follower number.)

Then I saw this post from Michal Arrington. (Whom I do not follow because I do not know and usually don’t care to hear what he has to say outside of techcrunch.com.) It was an A-Ha! moment for me. I do a lot of scanning with Google Alerts but his point is very important.

Twitter is the place where conversations are exploding well before they even make it to mainstream blogs.

It’s not enough these days to just monitor the web via Google alerts or some paid clipping service. Blogs are a trailing indicator these days. To be on top of your brand you have got to take it to the next level. tweetscan.com lets you do just that.

Finally, a forum post over at the Small Business Idea Forum again mentioned twitter and my reply there got me thinking.

Twitter started as a way to connect friends but is fast becoming a powerful marketing and business intelligence tool. I cover the former briefly in my forum post and on Sixty Second Tech but it’s the latter that I really want to talk about.

tweetscan.com

tweetscan.com is just what you think it is, a search engine for twitter. Yes, Google indexes twitter but these days that just not fast enough. Thankfully the guys and gals behind tweetscan solve that problem for us. It looks like they database and index the public feed. I don’t know where they get their resources but I hope to god they stay alive because this is something that twitter really needs.

If you have looked at their page by now and can’t figure out how to use it, please turn in your Internet secret decoder ring and shut off your modem. If you did figure it out, bully for you, you are as smart as a fifth grader! A couple of notes. If you read their blog and wiki (these people are on the web 2.0 ball!) then you know that they support OR and “-” operators. This makes life ever so much more interesting. GO ahead, play with a few queries like cats OR dogs. Hopefully they will add AND and NOT in there soon.

So, you can scan for topics. That’s kind of cool but other than replacing google egosurfing with twitter egosurfing what’s the pint, right? Here’s the point. Search for your brand! In my case I have searches for “Cal Evans”, Zend and ZF. All fine and good, as Arrington points out, I can now see things before they happen as twitter is a leading indicator. But who wants to go visit their page every so often and execute a series of searches?

FEED ME!

Thankfully, the people behind tweetscan are fully Web 2.0 compliant and they provide me with a custom feed for each search I execute. This means I can plug the RSS feed of the above search for “Cal Evans”, into ANY feed reader and voila, instant ego surfing!

Now, I use Google Reader as my primary feed reader and it does a wonderful job. However, these feeds (I’ve got 8 now) are much more important to me than anything I have in Google Reader. I almost need them to be push. The next best thing to push is pull in a program I already use. I did NOT want to have to install yet another piece of software to make this whole thing work. (Que Attensa to enter stage right) I used to use this Outlook plugin back when I was at Jupiter Hosting. It’s a great way to add RSS feeds into Outlook. It’s made some progress since 2005 and now is very unobtrusive.

Wrap It Up

So, to summarize; tweetsearch.com + Attensa’s outlook plugin = quick and easy business intelligence. Don’t forget to add feeds for your major competitors brands as well!

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=
So,

RSS on the brain

Dear Reader,

I’ve been thinking a lot about RSS for the past couple of days. (I blame my sometimes friend Pete and all his talk about edge aggregators) Regardless of why, I’m beginning to see that it might actually be able to deliver on the promise XML made to us so many years ago. (Ubiquitous data interchange.)

So as I wonder, I begin to see things that should be and things that probably shouldn’t be distributed via RSS. One of the things that would be great is sport statistics. Of course you’ll never see MLB stats because they’ve claimed copyright on them. But hey, NASCAR, want to continue to kick MLB’s butt in mindshare? Publish the stats on every driver, race and series. Let those of us who enjoy writing goofy plug ins for WordPress write a NASCAR plug in that gives the data n the format that we want it. (Of course there are probably some better uses of this info but when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) I’m really stretching to see how that could do anything but enhance your position even further.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=