Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has become a powerful platform for businesses looking to develop a closer relationship with customers as part of an effective, social media based online marketing campaign. With over 300 million users, Twitter helps even the smallest businesses create a big web buzz and connect with their demographic on an engaging, personal level.

Now, Twitter are masterminding new ways for small and medium businesses to promote themselves. After teaming up with American Express, Twitter are taking the online marketing potential of their platform to an entirely new level. Currently only available in the US, Twitter's new online advertising scheme is set to make the hop across the pond later this year.

The new online marketing scheme will make it even easier for businesses to grow their online visibility and boost their business using Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts products. To get the ball rolling American Express and Twitter are offering a fantastic introductory offer to small business owners and other parties looking for an even better way to promote themselves on Twitter. For the first 10,000 eligible businesses to sign up for the scheme, each will be rewarded with $100 of totally free advertising.

This exciting introductory offer is an opportunity for the social networking giant to show small-to-medium business owners just how easy and profitable their online marketing services can be. It is also a sign of things to come. Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it is free of the intrusive ads found on other social networking platforms, now Twitter are finding clever online marketing solutions which don't jeopardise the user experience or the streamlined features which make Twitter so compelling.

For smaller UK businesses looking to use online marketing and social media marketing to increase consumer awareness and maximise customer participation in their brand, these new Twitter online marketing services are set to arrive on our shores later this year, so keep your eyes peeled!

In the meantime, there are dozens of alternative online marketing services out there which can give your online business a real boost. To find out more about how to create an online presence and maximise your business on the web get in touch with the Liberty team today.

In the first case of its kind, a UK citizen has just been fined £1000 after one of his tweets landed him in hot water.

Back in January, upon hearing the news that Robin Hood Airport was closing due to snow, angry Twitter user, Paul Chambers vented his anger by posting: "C**p! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

Whilst the airport themselves didn’t take the joke seriously, the police did and this week he was fined £1,000 due to the post being "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

On top of the fine, Mr Chambers was given a criminal record and also had his computer confiscated. This hasn’t stopped him using the micro-blogging site as since he has commented on the judgment with "I'd like to thank the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for their level-best efforts in f**king up the life of an ordinary citizen. I love Britain."

Mr Chambers is now considering launching an appeal, something which other Twitterers, including well known user Steven Fry, have said they would help fund.

Twitter, the popular micro-blog, will soon be introducing an advertising system that allows businesses to place sponsored messages amongst Twitter search results.

Following the very profitable example that Google set with its AdWords system, Twitter will allow third-party advertisers to buy their way into the search results, via a 140 character advert.

According to an article on All Things Digital, from the Wall Street Journal, the social media website will launch the new advertising platform within the first half of 2010.

The report states that “Ads will be tied to Twitter searches, in the same way that Google's original ads were. So a search for, say, 'laptop', may generate an ad for Dell. The ads will only show up in search results, which means users who don't search for something won't see them in their regular Twitterstreams.”

Initially, the advertising will be sold through agencies, while Twitter works on creating a self-serving model. Eventually, the plan is one where anyone with a website can purchase an ad, just like they can on AdWords.

Twitter has long sought a revenue model, especially since becoming one of the most popular websites on the web. Over 50 million tweets are being written every day, yet the business has received criticism as it has been unable to create a profit from this popularity. It is no surprise that they turned to Google for inspiration, as the majority of the multi-billion-dollar revenue that the search engine receives is from the sponsored listings served through its AdWords system.

A few days ago, Google announced that they would be launching their new social media service: Google Buzz. It’s currently being rolled out across the world, with some users still waiting to receive full access to the service, while others have already been able to try it out.

How does it differ to other social media platforms?

Google has worked hard to differentiate Buzz from other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which it does in a few different ways:

1. Integration with email

Google has integrated its successful email feature Gmail into Buzz, giving it an advantage over even the most popular social media platforms, whose email functions – if they have them – tend to be poor. Google is confident that Buzz users will see the advantage of not having to log into both a social media platform and separate email account.

2. Fast, full screen photo presentation

Buzz offers a photo viewing feature, which allows its users to view large, high quality photos that fill the screen and can be scrolled through at a high speed.

3. Buzz places high emphasis on location

Google believes that location is an important indicator of how relevant information is to you. Buzz can work out your location and is even able to ascertain the name of the building you are in.

4. Only shows posts which will interest you

Google has used it extensive knowledge of algorithms to create Buzz and shows this off by claiming that it will filter out posts that are not of interest to you – even if they are by your contacts – and vice versa: interesting posts by people you don’t already know. Then, depending on which tidbits you choose to approve or hide, its algorithm will attempt to gear more relevant and interesting results your way, personalised to your tastes.

Can it rival Facebook and Twitter?

What’s interesting is Buzz’s integration of other social media platforms, including Flickr and Twitter, but not with Facebook. Perhaps a deal is in the pipeline between the two, but until then it almost suggests that Google is content to live in harmony with Twitter (after all, Google recently paid $25m to index Twitter’s content), but with Buzz containing similar features to Facebook, it seems like Buzz’s main intention is to topple the current social media king.

It’s no secret that Facebook is currently dominating the social media market, with an official blog post on the site recently reporting that it had reached over 400 million users. While a completely fresh and unknown social media platform may struggle to compete with such a giant already in place, Google’s advantage is in its brand, which is already popular and established in almost every other aspect of the Internet - if anyone is going to compete with Facebook and Twitter, it’s going to be Google.

What should businesses do?

It’s too soon to tell whether Google’s new venture will take the world by storm or end up as a failed attempt, but at the very least, it’s certainly worth taking a look at and registering a profile, even if simply to get to grips with the interface and reserve your company name. For those who already have a Gmail account, getting started is easy, with current contacts automatically becoming friends/followers and therefore eliminating the registration process - not every social media site can claim to start off with millions of users raring to go.

Significant results have emerged from a nationwide survey which concluded that the majority of journalists now use social media as an essential source for finding information. The survey, conducted by Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University, stressed that although PR firms are still used to verify and expand on information, social media sites are the first point of call for journalists who are researching articles or uncovering stories.

These findings will have major implications for many companies’ current PR strategies. Of the journalists questioned, 65% use social media sites including Facebook and Linkedin as part of their research process with a further 89% using blogs to obtain information. Micro blogging sites were also found to be popular among journalists with 51% consulting twitter when conducting research.

The use of social media is widespread throughout the profession, the survey found that those journalists who had greater experience (20 or more years) relied on blogs almost as much as those with fewer years experience (under 9 years) with only a 2% difference between the two groups. Of the journalists questioned 71% claimed to use the web ‘far more’ than they did five years ago when writing an article.

If your business wants to be successful when engaging in public relations then you must ensure that your firm or your PR agency is effectively using social media marketing techniques and consider it an imperative part of all PR work.

A new article on Business Week, here, details how Twitter has managed to get both Google and Microsoft to pay them for the right to include tweets in their search results.

The article states that "In exchange for making short blogs, known as tweets, searchable on Google, Twitter will receive about $15 million…adding that the Microsoft partnership is worth about $10 million. "The deals were huge…With two scoops of the pen, a lot of revenue came in."

This is pretty big news as it's the first time that either of these major search engines has paid to index a website and is especially surprising given recent activity in the web world. Last week, Google was successfully sued in French courts for copyright violations, thanks to the books it has scanned and lets people search through the Google Books engine. The company is also currently in a war with Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp for indexing their news articles which get placed within Google News.

Writers and journalists around the globe must be scratching their heads, wondering why search engines are willing to pay millions for random tweets, yet their own content gets included regardless.

Twitter must be over the moon as this marks the end to a very successful year. Since starting up in 2006, Twitter has become one of the most popular and respected websites on the internet, growing at a phenomenal pace during 2009. Even so, the site still wasn't making any money. Whilst this deal doesn't make the micro-blog that profitable (it barely covers the estimated annual running costs), it does show that the vast amount of information held on the website is valuable and if the site keeps growing, selling content could become a very lucrative revenue stream.

Google is showing a growing fondness of social media sites, Twitter in particular. Pages from the micro-blogging site are being displayed higher and given more respect than ever before. Twitter is now a viable way for businesses to place their brand at the top of the search engines, but only if they treat the micro-blogging site with the same SEO rules that are commonplace in the rest of the web marketing world, namely keywords and links.
Most of these tips are based on keywords use and how to maximise your twitter account for your main keywords. Doing so will help it rank in the search results independently of your main website. Remember, Twitter uses the nofollow attribute on its out-bound links so they do not help with the SEO of your main site. Twitter shouldn't be used as a way of getting lots of free links to your site, but as a way of finding traffic and directing it there instead.
Here's five quick SEO tips to bear in mind when using Twitter:
1. Use keywords in your account name
If possible, then keywords should be included within the Twitter account name. This is easier said than done as with only 15 characters to choose from and most of the popular word combinations taken, it can be hard to select something that fits and is available. Take a look on the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for and try to pick keywords which  receive a fair amount of searches each month. Include one or two of these in your account name and you are already off to a strong start.
2. Make the most of your bio
Choose a handful of your most important keywords and make sure they are included within the Twitter biography section. You have 160 characters so can construct a nice meaningful, keyword-rich sentence or two, which the search engines will be sure to look at when evaluating the page.
3. Always tweet with your keywords in mind
When posting ("tweeting") messages into your Twitter account, try and include your main keywords at the start. It is important to place them here as only the first 40 characters or so are displayed within the search engine results. Remember that even though we are trying to grab the attention of Google, Yahoo! and Bing, it will be humans that eventually read the content, so make sure that in addition to your keywords, each tweet contains a valuable message that will draw people back to your main site.
4. Follow people from within your industry
An important factor in SEO is relevancy between web-pages. If there are Twitter accounts that are already well respected by the search engines for a topic that matches yours then it will be worthwhile following them. Search engines will spot the link and see that the pages are related, something they will take into consideration when deciding where to place your account within their index.
5. Now go tell the world
Just like with your website, an important factor in the ranking of a Twitter account is the quality, and quantity, of the links pointing towards it. Can you add some links to your Twitter account to give it a healthy boost up the search engines? Place a link to it from your website or your company blog. Add a link from the signature or profile page of a business forum you contribute to. Seek out some Twitter directories and list your account amongst them.