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Sep 14 2009   4:24PM GMT

Twitter and tweeting for business

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Like a lot of people, I thought for a long time that Twitter was just a time-suck. It’s not — not just a time-suck, that is, although it certainly can be that if not managed with a steely eye and an iron hand.

Then I started a Twitter account, @tao_of_grammar and I started to get an idea of the many ways that people use Twitter for business purposes.

Whatever your business, chances are there’s a case to be made for Twitter. From Twitter 101 for business:

Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. 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. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.

  • It can help build your brand
    As Kaitlyn Wilkins writes on Fresh Influence, brands are built — or torn down — lightning-fast on Twitter. No other medium has the capacity to get a message out as quickly to a large group of people. She describes how a tweet about a bad experience with UHaul customer service prompted dozens of others to tweet about their own bad experiences. And all the people following those people would see their messages:

    “So, for those of you playing along at home – in less than two hours, dozens of people responded to a single Tweet regarding UHaul, and effectively told 3,763 other people that they disliked the brand.”

    People Twitter about great customer service experiences, too. The lesson is: Twitter can make your brand highly visible — make sure it looks good.

  • Address issues as they come up –
  • If UHaul was privy to the conversation about them — which they could have been, immediately, through Twitter — they could have immediately begun damage control and looked at rebuilding consumer confidence.

  • Use that same capacity to improve customer support

    On Mashable.com, Ben Parr writes about how Twitter can improve not only customer support but also employee buy-in: It’s faster, less expensive and also gives employees a perspective on how their service impacts others. As a bonus, the whole conversation is on record.

    Kaitlin Wilkins writes about her own experience in her post on using Twitter for customer service (Well, that’s not what she calls it but… I’m not calling it “Twustomer service.” Nope.)

    A few weeks ago I was having trouble logging on and posted a frustration Tweet. Within 20 minutes I received a direct message from @sixapart providing me with an email and phone number to use to get my problem resolved immediately. An hour later I was back up and running.

    Note: She didn’t even send a message to the company’s Twitter account. They obviously track the the conversation about them, picked up on the mention and responded quickly. That kind of support and customer care gets noticed, gets tweeted about and — apparently — written about.

  • See how your brand is perceived —
  • Watching the conversation about your brand can yield important insights into public perception, issues and trends that you can use to your advantage.

  • Share content or information
  • Twitter is an amazing venue for sharing information or getting answers to questions. If you’ve got content to promote, Twitter can get it in front of a lot of people quickly. And if they like it, chances are they’ll get it in front of more people. See how that works?

  • Crowdsource –

    You also get questions in front of a lot of people quickly. People are generally more than happy to help, whether you’re looking for insights into a market or a nitty-gritty answer to a software question.

    Dan Cohen conducted a crowdsourcing experiment during the Digital Dilemmas Symposium in New York, using Twitter for a line of inquiry that traditionally queries journal readership:

    I set up what in the age of the print journal would have been a ridiculous deadline: only one hour for the crowd to solve the mystery. For a bit of theater (”stunt lecturing”?) I flashed the Twitter stream behind me from time to time during my talk.

    It took much less time than an hour for a solution: nine minutes, to be exact, for a preliminary answer and 29 minutes for a fairly rich description of the object to emerge from the collective responses of roughly a hundred participants.

    …Twitter was remarkably effective in multiplying my voice. Indeed, in the first five minutes about a dozen others on Twitter retweeted (rebroadcast) my mystery to their followers. This “Twitter multiplier effect” meant that within minutes many thousands of people got word of my experiment

  • Connect with industry leaders –

    In 5 Twitter Tactics for Building a Stellar Brand, Andy Beal explains the wrong / right way to connect:

    “Don’t be the guy that jumps on Twitter, “follows” 10,000 people, then tweets “@” them every two minutes. That’s not the type of reputation you want to build for yourself.

    Do be the guy that follows those that have influence and audience in your industry. You’ll learn a lot just from listening to their often unguarded comments, but if you have something valuable to add to their conversation, send them an @andybeal or @chrisbrogan, or @garyvee. If you can engage them in a conversation, they might just @ you back–alerting their thousands of followers that you’re a person worthy of their time, in the process.

More resources:
Chris Brogan’s 50 ideas on using Twitter for Business
Bruce Clay’s http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/archives/2009/03/twitter_your_we.html”>Twitter: Your Weapon in the Internet Marketing War
Michael Stelzner’s How to use Twitter to grow your business

Need help getting started? See Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book.

~ Ivy Wigmore

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