Twitter 101: How Businesses Can Leverage Twitter to Boost Sales

Twitter posts Twitter 101, a beginner's guide intended to show consumers and businesses how to use the seminal microblogging service. The move comes amid mounting pressure from business and financial analysts for Twitter to prove that it has a business plan for how it will make money. Case studies include Pepsi and Dell, which claims to have made $3 million from selling products to customers via Twitter.

Now tweet this: "Twitter has a business plan!"

Popular microblogging site Twitter July 23 posted online its Twitter 101, a set of Web pages created to help businesses learn how they can use the service to market products and boost sales.

The company, which lets its millions of users post 140-character messages to the Web in real time for others to read, has been prodded, hounded and even ridiculed for not having a business model. Late Show host David Letterman said Twitter was a "waste of time."

Letterman may not know this "waste of time" Website has hosted millions of tweets by users from Joe and Judy Office Worker to celebrities such as Kevin Spacey and Shaquille O'Neal, and is gearing up for a home page redesign.

In June, the site proved crucial in helping users vent about the Iranian presidential election. Hackers have take notice of Twitter's popularity. Most recently, the company suffered an embarrassing human-engineering hack in which sensitive business documents were exposed-although not Twitter 101.

Twitter 101 comprises six sections: a description of the service, how to begin using it, learning the cute Twitter lingo, best practices, case studies and resources.

Twitter 101, introduced by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, is for more than just business professionals. It will also help consumers who are curious about the site but don't know how to use it or even where to begin. Stone noted in a blog post:

"We coordinated with business students and writers to surface some interesting findings, best practices, steps for getting started, and case studies. The results demonstrate how customers are getting value out of Twitter and suggest techniques businesses can employ to enhance that value. While this work was envisioned for businesses, it's also useful for anyone using Twitter, so have a look if you like."

In the lingo section, users will learn how to follow, tweet, retweet, create hashtags and see trending topics. Much of the online documentation reads as though Stone and co-founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey grabbed a marketing executive and forced him or her to do a brain dump.

For instance, Twitter 101 notes: "Twitter is a communications platform that helps businesses and their customers do a number of useful things. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company."

However, the documentation shines in the case study section. Many people who follow Twitter are aware that Dell, which now has more than 80 accounts bearing the Twitter brand, has said it has earned roughly $3 million from its followers on Twitter, who have clicked from posts on the site to Dell's own sites to purchase goods.

JetBlue, Current, Tasti D-Lite, Etsy, American Apparel, PepsiCo and others have also used Twitter to boost sales. Take PepsiCo, the largest of those Twitter business cases.

PepsiCo has had a toll-free number that consumers can call to share product feedback, but Pepsi brand managers earlier in 2009 turned to Twitter to connect with soda drinkers in real time. After the spring launch of Pepsi Throwback, the company was able to collect quick reactions on Twitter.

"Consumers own the brands as much as we do, and they want to share their interests and likes," said Bonin Bough, director of social and emerging media for PepsiCo. "Twitter is the only medium where we can have a two-way continuous dialogue about the brand."

So Twitter is on its way to making money from businesses using its service to promote their wares. While the company has yet to fully outline how much it will charge to help with marketing campaigns, you can expect the details will come this year, sooner rather than later.

Twitter 101 is the first step in educating businesses that aren't already in the know.