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Many small businesses are looking at Twitter as a way to market themselves and build a brand as well as Using Social Media to Promote Your Website. However, Sean Callahan looked at Twitter and saw an opportunity to build a business based entirely on this popular communication website.

TweetPhoto Inc. began with humble roots. The company opened its photo sharing service with a single web page and a Twitter-based announcement, but this was just the beginning. Callahan had big plans for his start up, but he knew he had to act fast. TwitPic, another company offering the same service, was gaining support every day. The longer TweetPhoto was delayed in the development process, the more strength and support their rival would gain.

Using Twitter, Callahan began building his business. His site was not ready for photo sharing yet, but he documented the path using tweets and a Twitter based blog. This meant that he was gaining a following and getting free publicity even before his company opened for business. He shared his victories and defeats, in the meantime presenting his business as an underdog option with an innovative leader at the helm. He had picked the right platform for this social networking; Twitter’s users have grown four-fold to more than 23 million people.

How does Twitter work? First, people can subscribe to your ‘tweets’—that is, updates. These are short and simple, usually just a few phrases. There are several ways that people can find your stream and subscribe to updates. You can initiate contact with them, or they can find you either through a search or another person.

As with other social media, Twitter has certain unspoken rules. First, tweets should be personal and informative. Messages that are boring or offensive will result in a small and unhappy subscriber base. Second, Twitter users are very community oriented. Commenting on other people’s tweets is an essential part of the process.

TweetPhoto’s first tweet was a call for testers to try out the first version of TweetPhoto, which was not yet developed. The second tweet was to Rodney Rumford, a social media expert. Callahan hoped that Rumford would try the media and offer feedback, but he went a step further. Rumford became TweetPhoto’s co-founder and Callahan’s new business partner.

Using Twitter also helped TweetPhoto to keep an eye on the competition. When TwitPic was temporarily down, Callahan searched the Twitter website for complaining tweets and offered these people a chance to try his own website. This led to many new users. The company also scans Twitter for complaints about their own business. This allows the owners to respond to issues before they become large enough to compromise the business.

However, even the best-planned business can suffer setbacks. Soon after it opened, TweetPhoto was hacked. While it only took a few hours to remedy the problem, it nonetheless impinged on the site’s image as safe and friendly. However, the owners bounced back quickly and began offering new tools, such as an iPhone application.

Many people think that social media is a waste of time, but the success of this small business proves that it is not. With millions of people using Twitter along every day, it represents an enormous audience that can be reached for no cost whatsoever. Using it wisely may make you the next small business success story.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.