What is twitter?
Twitter is what we call a "microblogging" service, allowing you to post frequent tiny updates on what you're doing. It is a free way for friends, family, co–workers and other to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length, also known as "Tweets".
Users can receive and send updates about what they're doing via the Twitter website but also through several other ways. Check out the official Twitter Downloads page and the list of all third party applications on the Twitter Fan Wiki.
As of October 2008, Twitter claims to have over 3,200,000 accounts registered. Twitter is the most popular microblogging service, but other similar services have emerged: Identi.ca, friendfeed, Plurk, Jaiku (acquired by Google end of 2007), Pownce and also Yammer known as the enterprise version of Twitter.
Why you should get on Twitter?
People on Twitter talk about where they are, what they like, hate, do, plan, read, eat and they also communicate about their good or bad experiences with brands. Indeed, Twitter is a very good place to LISTEN to what people are saying on your products, your services, and to learn about their experiences with the brand. (See my last post: Do marketers and consumers understand each other anymore)
Conversations happening on Twitter are public, searchable and even trackable. To find out when anyone mentions your brand name, your product name, or the name of your employees, you can use the Twitter search tool or Tweetscan. A great feature allows you to subscribe to any keywords and get alerts whenever a new Tweet appears!
By listening, you will be able to spot who is encouraging those conversations and more importantly why. Only then, join in the conversations, follow any person who talks about you and who looks interesting and make sure you reply to anyone talking about your brand, even if you don't have a solution yet. By answering their questions, responding to their opinions, and engaging with them in a real human voice, you'll positively surprise most Twitterers. You can even expect to generate a positive buzz and inspire a blog!
There are some great examples: Michael Arrington complained publicly on Twitter after Comcast support failed to resolve his issue. Comcast was actually listening and settled the matter quite quickly. Michael Arrington posted an article on his blog about it: Comcast, Twitter And The Chicken (trust me, I have a point).
Another similar story started when the famous blogger Louis Gray tweeted about the issue he had to run on his blog with Disqus, a third-party commenting system. One hour later, Daniel Ha, co-founder of Disqus replied to Gray and manage to help him to integrate Disqus comments on his blog. Gray was so pleased that he blogged about it: Disqus' Excellent Customer Service Enables Comments Integration.
Companies already using Twitter
- Comcast is reaching out to customers online and tries to improve its customer service.
- Southwest Airlines answers customer questions about ticket prices, flight delays, news...
- Whole Foods Market posts details about discounts, recipes... and are quite interactive with twitterers.
- The CEO of Zappos shares details of his life with more than 15,000 "followers" and he also encourages his employees to join, currently 460 employees are on Twitter.
- Dell has several Twitter accounts for offers, news, promotions, communities, blogs...
- Ultimate Rugby Sevens (UR7s) uses Twitter to publish insider Rugby Sevens news.
If you want to get a complete directory of brands using Twitter, the Social Brand Index offers a very good listing of companies on Twitter.
Some tips when using Twitter as a part of your Social Media Strategy
- Remember it's all about honesty. Be transparent and authentic with people.
Include a real name on your Twitter profile and not just the brand name. Yes, you are running this Twitter account for your company but there must be somebody writing all these Tweets! People want to know who they are talking to. JetBlue is doing well by providing the customer support employee's name currently on duty:
Make the most of the "Bio": use this section to explain why you are on Twitter and to give important information like an email address. Comcast for instance gives the customer support contact:
Listen to people talking about you both negatively and positively. But also try to find people with similar interests, who are passionate about your industry. For example, if you are a food company, look who's talking about recipes, diet, healthy eating... Then follow those people. The screenshot below is a good example of what you shouldn't do! How do you want to build a two-way communication if you are only talking to and about yourself? By following people you show you care for them and you are willing to listen to them.
- Interact and communicate using the "@replies": Twitter is not a broadcast medium where you can only talk about yourself and your products. It's all about engaging and creating a real dialogue with people! Help them to solve problems they encounter with your products/services and offer them value.
These are just some tips I learnt and which I thought it is worth sharing with you. Please feel free to make any comments or to share your experience using Twitter. I'm also using Twitter so, if you wish, you can follow me here.