Chances are you’ve either read or personally had this reaction to the now ubiquitous new social media tool called Twitter that allows anyone to post 140-character updates about what they are doing right now. The site has millions of users from across the world, including politicians, Hollywood actors, and business celebrities.
Yet for all the attention that Twitter gets, its real significance is that it has started the trend of “microblogging.” Through these short posts (called “tweets”), you can experience everything from updates written by witnesses of global tragedies to behind-the-scenes gossip from Hollywood.
But is it actually useful from a business point of view?
Below are ten business uses for one of the most misunderstood social media tools today:
- Selling directly to customers. Twitter itself may not be making money, but if you want an example of making money through the site, just ask Dell who passed the $1 million mark in online sales from their @delloutlet Twitter account.
- Listening and gathering insight. Not only can you get an instant pulse of consumer sentiment about a brand, but unlike Google results, most of what you find will be only a few minutes old.
- Learning “secret” information. Clients are tweeting about what they want in an agency, competitors share strategy, and potential recruits signal they are in the market. Can you afford not to be reading?
- Managing or averting a crisis. By watching brand conversations happen real time, Ford recently used Twitter to help resolve a legal dispute with a fan site that could have been much uglier. Crisis averted.
- Conducting a live focus group or poll. For a prolific Twitter user, tweeting a quick poll can generate hundreds of responses in a matter of minutes, as opposed to email invitations to polls that are deleted or filed for later.
- Demonstrating a brand personality. Social media can help to bring the human side of a brand to life. When a real voice responds to a mention, it is unexpected but has a great effect in fostering customer loyalty and encouraging word of mouth.
- Promoting a campaign. Twitter should not be used solely to blast out links to your latest marketing effort. But once you have built a community of Twitter followers, tweeting a link could be your best short term traffic driver.
- Tracking emotions. Many people share how they feel right now. So before pitching a journalist, check their Twitter account (yes, thousands of media now have them). If they had their car stolen that morning, you might want to wait until tomorrow to send them that press release.
- Amplifying real life events. During any large event, you can see a surge in Twitter activity from people “covering” it in real time. This can be a powerful way for any brand to share an inside look at a real life event with a virtual audience.
- Offer a direct communications channel. Beyond email, customers want more ways to interact with companies. Luckily, Twitter is also an extremely fast way to interact, so it can scale.
For more insights about social media and Twitter, visit the 360 Digital Influence team blog at http://blog.ogilvypr.com.
Rohit leads the interactive marketing team at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and is a founding member of the pioneering Digital Influence Group at Ogilvy — a leading agency in helping clients around the world navigate the social media universe.
The key, according to Ogilvy’s digital influence expert Brian Giesen, is this: If you want to use Twitter, the newest of the new media, for public relations or business then it is imperative that you follow the rules.
And just what are those rules? Well, it’s all pretty simple. After setting up a Twitter account (the essence here is to be completely transparent in identifying yourself or your brand) there are basically three steps to engaging with and through Twitter: 1) Follow, 2) Create and 3) Engage.
Giesen, speaking to a 100-strong crowd at a Frocomm breakfast conference held on Wednesday at Ogilvy House, said the first stage, follow, meant that a business searched Twitter to discover what people were saying about their brand or their market.
After a time, the business could then enter the create phase, Twittering interesting messages relevant to the conversation and gathering followers.
Only after going through those steps, Giesen stressed, should a company start engaging with other tweeters, responding to people who mention the brand, offering advice and assistance where necessary so that people who may have been critical before may now have the chance to be brand evangelists through the positive contact.
Twitter’s growth in Australia this year has been extraordinary. Traffic has surged more than sixfold, the fastest growth in the world, while there are almost 4 million registered users, rating us fifth behind the US, Japan, the UK and Canada.
Giesen said businesses could use Twitter to meet real business objectives in a number of ways: customer relations; product promotion and sales; crisis and reputation management; event coverage; issues advocacy; and, internal communications. All, however, utilise the three steps: follow, create and engage. And, he stressed, all must use the code of ethics for social media which includes being transparent, respecting other Twitterers by knowing when to participate and when to listen, thinking before messaging (will it be seen as helpful or intrusive), making sure your message is relevant, and providing value to your followers.
Another of the speakers, Strath Gordon, the Director of Public Affairs at NSW Police, related how he had to deal with a company which was Twittering under the name NSW Police. After trying unsuccessfully to contact the through Twitter Gordon was forced to go to the media. A prominent newspaper story and subsequent radio interviews soon had the company coming forward (It was a marketing company trying to build the NSW Police Twitter profile so they could go to the police and show what a powerful tool it was).
The police have now taken over the name, together with 2000 followers, and are using it to Twitter information. At times the responses from the public regarding matters such as speeding fines were ‘’in language not usually used’’ in communication with the police. Gordon said the police see Twitter, and other social media, as valuable tools to help report crime, issue general warnings and to inform people of the real level of crime.
Gordon also said that there was no doubt terrorists and criminals were using social media to communicate with each other, using codes words, and revealed the ‘’secret’’ parts of the force were developing ways to counter that.
Giesen provided a list of do’s and dont’s for Twitter users.
- See what other businesses are doing on Twitter;
- Use Twitter search engines for keyword searches around brands, products and topics of interest;
- Follow Twitterers with similar interests to establish a brand presence;
- Use twitter to start a conversation;
- Be dedicated to Twitter, with more than one employee on Twitter to ensure an ongoing presence;
- Ask questions and get feedback from followers;
- Engage consumers in co-creation and get constructive insights for future products etc;
- Follow the blogger code of ethics;
- Spread the word about your participation by including your Twitter handle in your email signature.
- Push ads or brand messaging;
- Talk about your everyday tasks. Make your Tweets entertaining and/or valuable;
- Tweet anything about clients, co-workers friends etc that you would not want them to read.
I’m keen to understand how the global recession is impacting social media and particularly the North American powerhouse, Silicon Valley. I’m interested in the develpments occurring at Silicon Valley mostly because today we can consider it the backbone behind a lot of the big Web 2.0 companies.
Belts seem to be tightening in all industries across the board – banking, automotive, retail and so on – yet we’re still seeing big injections of capital in many of the Web 2.0 companies.
Take micro-blogging service Twitter for example. It was announced this week that Twitter has managed to raise $35 million in venture capital in spite of the challenging economic climate. This capital has come from Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital.
Are venture capitalists finally seeing the real value of Web 2.0 in helping deal with challenging times ahead?
I think that social media will come out on top in these tough times as people start using it as a means of cost-saving on entertainment. This is especially important at a time when people are becoming increasingly budget-conscious and are rather choosing to bunker indoors and save their pennies.
I’m a good example of this. I seem to find myself on fewer outings to the movies and instead I keep my cinema experience to my lounge room with my LCD TV, entertainment system and complete surround sound system. In fact, I can’t remember the last movie I saw at the cinemas but I could rattle off at least five DVDs that I have watched at home. I also spend less time travelling and more time talking to my friends overseas via Facebook and Twitter.
There are a plethora of online technologies and digital devices out there that provide consumers with their own portal to entertainment. Aside from big screen TVs that bring you a cinema at home, there are also notebook PCs to consider.
Notebooks are another means of cost-effective entertainment to online services such as online gaming, online video, video conferencing and instant connection to friends and family via IM, social networking sites, email or Skype with those embedded with broadband solutions.
Interestingly enough, consumer experts are also already tipping that many Australians will use the planned $950 Rudd Government cash handouts to splurge on games and gadgets, following record spending on electronics last year (as reported by the Courier Mail).
I’ll be watching these developments closely but please feel free to share any information specifically around how you think social media will fare in light of the global recession.