Over the past few years, the business world hasn't taken kindly to  Twitter. And who can blame them for being critical? With stock prices tanking, employees fleeing to other companies and revenue projections not living up to expectations, it's been easy to criticize the company.

But, over the past couple months, the tune has changed. Twitter has been getting nods of approval from the tech and marketing community. Industry experts Mark Schaefer (bestselling author of Social Media Explained), M.G. Siegler (General Partner at GV) and more have spoken on how Twitter is still crucial to marketing success in 2018, and could even grow more important in coming years.

Here are a couple reasons why that is and how you can utilize Twitter to benefit your own business.

1. The ability to network with high-profile individuals.

Twitter usage has declined over the years, with a drop from 70 million to 68 million in the most recent quarter. Some may look at this fact disparagingly, but for the savvy marketer, it presents a ripe opportunity. Since there isn't as much noise, or activity, on the platform as there once was, some influential users with thousands (even millions), of followers are receiving very little engagement on their Tweets. This gives you direct access to the power users you're trying to connect with.

Make a list of influencers in your niche who you'd like to become friendly with. Then, thoughtfully engage with their content. Over an extended period of time, whether a few weeks or months or years, they'll become familiar with you simply because you thoughtfully engage with their content on a regular basis. This will give you a terrific opportunity to make a formal, warm, (most importantly) solicited introduction.

2. Increasing costs on for other social media advertising outlets.

It's no secret that Facebook (thus, Instagram as well) has limited "real estate" to sell to advertisers on their platform. Because of the increased number of publishers using Facebook advertising, there is only one way the price can go: up.

Couple this with the recent 'Facebook apocalypse', and it's no wonder why marketers and entrepreneurs everywhere are likely to begin scoping out advertising alternatives. If Twitter plays their cards right, they'll be able to position themselves as one of the platforms that capitalizes on Facebook's changes.

3. The utility of real-time conversation and breaking news.

Through its ups, downs and in-betweens, Twitter has remained the go-to platform for breaking news and real-time conversation. When it comes to timely discussion and news, there just isn't a viable competitor in the marketplace. And with social media platforms continuing to strengthen their engagement-based algorithms to curate their news feeds, it's unlikely any competitor will arise in the near future. Twitter has a unique niche and value in the marketplace, and that won't go away.

Here's how to get the most our of your Twitter:

  1.  Get active on the platform.Plain and simple. Become more active on Twitter. Engage with customers, potential customers and influencers in your industry. To save yourself some time, use TweetDeck to pre-schedule Tweets in advance.
  2. Twitter Ads. For $5 per day, you can run Twitter Ads targeted at niche audiences. While not as robust as Facebook Ads when it comes to data and options for call-to-actions, Twitter Ads allow advertisers to promote a page, increase follower count, increase video views, hone in on engagement and more.
  3. Advanced Twitter Searches. Did you know you can search Tweets by keywords, by when they were published and by location? Advanced Search on Twitter enables you to connect with potential customers in real-time when they need it most, and works particularly well for local businesses. For instance, if you're a local cafe, you could search for Twitter users in your hometown who have Tweeted about Starbucks recently. If the Tweet was documented a negative experience, jump in and Tweet back saying, "Next time, give us a try". You can also use Advanced Search to spy on your competitors and see how they're interacting with their audience.
  4. Tell a story with the 280-character increase. Twitter recently increased their character limit for Tweets from 140 to 280. Take advantage of the character increase by using it to tell a compelling story to build rapport with your audience and to entice them to take action (click through to your website, read a linked article, etc.).

Many are projecting that 2018 could very well be the year of revival for Twitter. By becoming active on the platform and using it strategically in your marketing plan, you'll likely reap the benefits.

A very special thanks to fellow Inc.com columnist, Daniel Wallock, for providing insight and inspiration for this article.