Thinking of Twitter as primarily a sales development tool, however, is the wrong approach, according to the post. Instead, manufacturers should focus on some of the softer benefits, like building a name in the marketplace, extending customer contact and support outside of their traditional boundaries, finding new employees and business partners, and gaining awareness of industry trends and thought leaders.
I think this is exactly right. Twitter is first and foremost a great way to listen. You don’t even have to have a Twitter account to do it. The first step is to go to the Twitter search page at Search.Twitter.com. In our world of process automation, there are some hash tags that are used by a number of folks with interests in this area. #PAuto is a main one. Also, most of the automation suppliers and trade associations have developed tags around their events and functions. For example, the Emerson Exchange annual event uses the hash tag, #EMRex.
Although, these tags do have an element of “look at me broadcasting” that Chris warns against in his post, they also open up an opportunity for process automation professionals to use the same hash tags to ask questions and provide answers. Twitter is a vast stream of 140-character or less tweets flying around, but the hash tags provide a mechanism to quickly filter the noise.
Desktop applications such as TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop provide multiple columns where your Twitter searches and groups can be displayed. For example, I have a group with members of the automation trade press / analyst community that I follow.
Twitter search is not just related to hash tags. If you’re a U.S. process manufacturer wrestling with greenhouse gas reporting guidelines, you can try a Twitter search on “Greenhouse Gas”. I just did it and discovered this tweet from @HelpfulTech who pointed to this post on the EPA.gov website, Final Rule: Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases from Magnesium Production, Underground Coal Mines, Industrial Wastewater Treatment, and Industrial Waste Landfills.
This one example alone shows that Twitter is not just being used by folks sharing what they had for breakfast with the world. It’s used more and more by professionals to quickly communicate new things they discover and want to share with their followers.
If you have not yet taken the plunge to try Twitter, try Twitter Search and see if there are particular searches around your company, your major brands, industry standards, or topical issues that might help you become more efficient in your work. If you find something that’s valuable, you can even subscribe to the search results and have them flow back to your RSS reader, such as Outlook 2007/2010, Google Reader, or a host of others. Here are the RSS feeds for #PAuto and #EMRex.
Let me know how it works for you.