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Business-based Tweeting

October 27, 2008 , ,

As little as six months ago, marketing bloggers mused about Twitter as a much-hyped social media tool with few relevant business applications. Today’s WSJ article shows changing perceptions and realities among marketers: “Twitter Goes Mainstream: A lot more people–and businesses–are finding new ways to tweet.”

While businesses are experimenting with Twitter–mostly for advertising promotional events and sales to online “followers”–I would venture to say that few enterprises use Twitter in innovative or effective ways (after all… do you really want even one more channel for receiving online promos. Dell uses Twitter for pushing out promo newsflashes. I already get junk mail and email from Dell. Twiiter?? No thanks).

Here are some truly innovative tweeting habits for business:

Event Tweeting: Maybe it started with folks accidentally finding themselves at the same airport gate through tweeting… but Twitter seems to be used more and more for seeking out peer-groups at events.

Mr. Stone, the Twitter co-founder, notes that the service typically gains a bunch of new users around big and small events, everything from political debates and concerts to hurricanes. As a result, Twitter is looking at ways to allow people to indicate that they are attending a particular event, so they can more easily share updates with others who are there… Andrew Flusche, an attorney in Fredericksburg, Va., recently used Twitter to promote a webinar he was holding on trademark registration. The session got 15 attendees, compared with seven for a subsequent seminar he didn’t promote on the service.  –WSJ 10/27/08

Portfolio Tweeting: Are you a solo consultant trying to keep your clients and prospects up-to-date on recent projects and wins? Twitter is inceasingly used by consultants in professional services to post snapshots of work completed. Rather than checking in by phone, a quick tweet is less intrusive: “Just delivered a 20-pg report on ‘leadership in crisis’ to a top 5 search firm.” I think this application has real merit–but still too early to be successful due to low adoption (unless you work in technology consulting, where you may find higher adoption rates).

Investigative Tweeting: Comcast is often held up as an example of WOM marketing gone terribly wrong. Consider that if you type in “comcast” on You Tube, you get this amusing video of a comcast technician sleeping on a customer’s couch. So it surprised me to learn that Comcast is using Twitter to monitor public tweets to get a first-glimpse at customer complaints. Rather than waiting to be called, Comcast contacts complaining customers through Twitter to help resolve their issues. Pretty interesting!

The biggest problem? Most of your friends and colleagues aren’t tweeting yet. Until there is more widespread adoption, you may just be howling in the wind. There are, of course, some standout Twitter promoters. Tony Hsieh of Zappos is most-cited as the Twitter oracle. But consider, Zappos’ culture–to elevate client service to a religion–and you’ll see why Twitter makes sense for Hsieh and his army of service fanatics.

I love to hear of innovative–and effective–uses for Twitter in a business setting. As far as I can tell, so far lots of talk but few results.


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Hi Solo Portfolio

Appreciate your comments about use of Twitter by companies and your perspective that it is mostly for advertising or promotional events. I find that not to be the case.

At Dell we use Twitter for a range of activities beyond promotion or sales. We use Twitter to keep up with what is going on on the web in real time and engage with customers.

We use “event tweeting” to connect with people we know on Twitter. We have Tweeted from various technology events to share information with others on Twitter. We also use Twitter to answer questions, real-time, during the launch of the new Latitude E-series notebooks — answering questions from people, not just reporters at a news conference.

We find Twitter especially helpful to listen, learn and enage with people commenting about Dell, and in some cases to step in to help folks with computer issues.

For those that follow Dell folks on Twitter, I think you will find prettty robust conversations that result in Dell the company having “human faces”…a means to build relationships. Many of customers enjoy the chance to connect, learn of Dell news and share perspectives.

Many Dell customers not only connect with Dell people but also subscribe to Twitter feeds of the Dell blogs or Dell’s Ideastorm in order to keep up with company and technology news.

Think it is also worth noting that if you do not want tweets from Dell about promotions, it’s easy. Don’t subscribe to the Twitter accounts that offer that information. However, that are lots of people on Twitter who do want that information and they can get it. Its the great thing about Twitter…if you dont want it, dont subscribe for it.

As you note, it really is all pretty new and not mainstream yet. We are still exploring innovative and effective business uses of twitter. We experiment and try all kinds of things and look to learn from others too. However, fundamentally, we start from the premise that this is not mere promotion but a solid way to connect with customers everyday…and that is what matters.


October 27, 2008

Hi Richard @ Dell: Thanks for your comment. I’ve been very impressed with Dell’s Ideastorm conversation and often quote it to clients as a great example of crowd-sourcing. And yes, of course, you’re right that you won’t receive tweets from Dell unless you sign up for them. Thanks for the update on Dell’s social web strategies.


October 27, 2008

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