Twitter is a relevant tool for businesses to tap into a vast audience of users. After all, every member of Twitter is a consumer and most, if not all, of your users on Twitter are already using the tool to talk about you. For businesses, Twitter is exceptional at connecting users with the companies they are already interested in. Twitter, therefore, can generate sales, act as a customer service tool, promote brand awareness, and even capture new prospects as clients. In the following examples, you will see how companies already using Twitter have found success.
Can you make money through Twitter? If you’re PC manufacturing company Dell, you certainly can. Over a period of approximately 24 months, Dell used Twitter to alert its users to exclusive deals and made over $3 million in revenue that can be sourced directly to the microblogging website.
While $3 million isn’t much for a company like Dell, it does show that companies can make this kind of revenue using Twitter, and it’s not hard to achieve. Dell has a significant presence on Twitter. News, community sites, offers and promotions, and international blogs associated with the Dell brand name are all active on Twitter. Further, numerous representatives from Dell’s different departments, such as its corporate communications team and sales team, are also actively present on Twitter (http://www.dell.com/twitter).
Since you can easily subscribe to updates from a variety of vendors through Twitter and access the site as you please, it’s relatively easy for users to tune into updates and act upon them. That’s exactly what Dell did, and that’s exactly how it made seven figures in 18 months.
If you’re looking to Twitter as a source of income, consider a strategy that allows you to broadcast sales that you can offer your Twitter followers exclusively. Perhaps you want to offer a deal that is not available anywhere else; use Twitter to share a coupon code that will be associated only with the Twitter account that you are posting from. Alternatively, create a custom URL for a Twitter-specific deal and promote that deal only on Twitter and not through other advertising channels. At least once a week, post a great deal that people will want to talk about. This is how you leverage word-of-mouth marketing via retweeting. To ensure that your customers know about your presence on Twitter, create a page for your website advertising your Twitter account or send an update to your customers via your standard newsletter.
Just remember that this strategy worked for Dell’s Home Outlet Store.
You may feel that Twitter really works best for the larger companies. After all, more people know about Dell products than your small business. However, small businesses have also successfully navigated the Twitter landscape and leveraged the community to see success.
Namecheap is a domain name registrar that capitalized on Twitter’s community in two contests held in late 2008 and early 2009. As an active user on the service, Michelle Greer, the company’s marketing specialist, noticed that Twitter can be a successful driver of traffic and sales without a significant financial investment. As such, the company ran a trivia promotion in which it asked questions every hour over the course of several weeks. The first three people to answer correctly were given a $9.69 credit in their Namecheap accounts, the price of one domain name, and the individuals who had the most answers correct at the very end of the contest received iPods.
The contests were extremely successful and saw thousands of individuals scrambling to participate and win prizes. However, while the community gained from this, Namecheap really emerged as the winner of the contest. During the December 2008 contest, the company saw an over 2000% increase of Twitter followers, a 20% increase in new domain name registrations, and 139 backlinks pointing to the specific contest page on the namecheap.com domain in addition to countless others pointing to the home page.
At the end of the day, this strategy was a significant time investment, and Greer acknowledges that a Twitter campaign of this sort takes a bit of work. After all, more than 600 questions were written for the purpose of this trivia contest, and $17,000 in domain names were offered as prizes. Greer says that four people participated in maintaining the account during the contest’s run: she wrote all of the questions and monitored the answers herself; the CEO of Namecheap, Richard Kirkendall, also occasionally monitored the account to ensure the smooth running of the contest; the CTO of Namecheap, Mohan Vettaikaran, wrote a script compatible with Twitter’s API that fed the questions to Twitter in a systematic fashion; and a fourth employee of the company fed the questions into the tool that was written by the company’s CTO.
Despite the manpower and commitment to the contest, Greer says Twitter is an extremely affordable alternative to other available solutions: “Honestly, it helps Namecheap become a better company because we can get feedback directly from our customers at a much lower expense than using surveys or consultants. We offer value to our customers with free domains, and they help us improve our company. It is a win/win for everyone.”
In social media, regardless of whether you are going to engage or not, conversations about you will be ongoing. That’s clearly the case with Twitter. If you are part of an established business, a Twitter search on your company will likely produce hundreds and perhaps thousands of results. You’ll get almost immediate feedback from customers and find out exactly what they think about your service or product offerings. Naturally, you’ll likely want to respond on behalf of your company to some of the not-so-positive commentary. As such, Twitter has become a grounds overflowing with customer service inquiries, and representatives of companies have taken the steering wheel on the situation to alleviate customer concerns.
Comcast is one example of Twitter customer service being taken to the next level (Figure 6.2). Frank Eliason, Director of Digital Care at Comcast, has successfully managed to set a customer service example for Twitter. According to Eliason, Comcast has been monitoring the conversation for years. However, over a year ago, Twitter was referred to the company as another potential communications channel. Initially, Comcast was hesitant to get involved on such foreign ground, but after interactions with bloggers and customers who were engaged in the technology space, the company realized that there was much benefit to be had by reaching out to these customers and having conversations with them. Eventually, Comcast’s involvement earned it mentions in blog articles and mainstream media, and because of this newfound fame, other companies are striving to emulate its example.
After several months, Comcast employees also saw the value of the community on Twitter. After all, the community considers them not only representatives of a company, but participants of the community. On Twitter, your affiliation with your brand perhaps reinforces real relationships with people.
In terms of monitoring, the company does not use any extravagant tools to search for mentions of its name. For Comcast, Twitter Search is the tool of choice. There are four Comcast employees manning Twitter at any given time.
Comcast customers like Rebecca Kelley are pleased with Comcast’s active involvement on the social network. Kelley writes of her engagement with ComcastBill on Twitter, “He remained prompt, pleasant, helpful, and understanding, which all equated to a positive customer experience for me.” Further, after her experience with Comcast ended, she “was extremely impressed with how Comcast leveraged Twitter to reach out to its customers and efficiently manage their reputation.”
Eliason is happy with how Comcast is engaging with the community via Twitter as well. He says, “I think it has been a tremendous way to communicate with our Customers and obtain Customer feedback quickly and easily. As we strive to improve Customer Service, this is a great way to obtain the Customer story in their own words. It is a great way to help improve the overall experience.”
JetBlue is another company that has been using Twitter successfully (Figure 6.3). Consumer issues blog Consumerist.com highlights an event that illustrates just how effective JetBlue support via Twitter has been. In the example, a Twitter user merely said, “JetBlue, I need a wheelchair!” on her Twitter stream. Shortly thereafter, she attempted to call JetBlue customer service to achieve this goal. But before she even spoke with an agent, JetBlue on Twitter came to her aid and connected her with someone who was able to offer her immediate assistance.
Morgan Johnston, a manager for Corporate Communications at JetBlue, explains that he uses new media tools to improve the company communications. Before JetBlue actually engaged heavily on Twitter, he observed the community and listened to see how individuals reacted and how other users responded. Initially, the company merely scanned Twitter for mentions of its name. Later, after noting some misconceptions about the company, JetBlue realized the benefits of becoming actively involved. This has given JetBlue the edge of being more than just a “faceless company.”
Johnston prefers TweetDeck, an Adobe AIR–powered application, to monitor mentions of JetBlue on Twitter. He says that this helps him run several search queries while monitoring direct messages in a single graphical interface (TweetDeck is discussed later in this chapter).
Adobe AIR is a new cross-platform technology that brings lightweight desktop applications to any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer.
With name monitoring comes more than just customer service, according to JetBlue. Johnston says, “I liken our current Twitter account style to that of an information booth—but it’s so much more.” Indeed, JetBlue has worked to communicate new developments in the company, such as its interactive “Where We Jet” map, and also to reach out to customers, often privately. Johnston admits that JetBlue’s public Twitter stream features less than 25% of the company’s total communications on Twitter and most customer service issues are handled via direct messaging.
The public perception of JetBlue, especially given its engagement on Twitter, has been positive, but Johnston acknowledges that there are some detractors. “There have been a few people who’ve felt that our @JetBlue account isn’t capable of providing the level of customer service they’d like to see. However, for the constraints of the tool, I think we’re doing a respectable job of keeping a level of dialogue going, and as always we continue to adapt our strategy according to what our customers would like to see from us on Twitter,” he notes. Indeed, given the limitations of Twitter, you’d think customer service wasn’t possible, but JetBlue shows that it definitely is. And it’s doing a lot more than other companies have even considered.
When you provide value to your followers, you will find that more people will become aware of you. When you are involved heavily in a community, and you bring more and more people along for the ride, your awareness goes up even further. Finally, if you have fun above all else, those around you will feel good and enjoy your company.
Online shoe retailer Zappos has a unique approach on Twitter. The company is heavily involved on the microblogging site, with over 400 employees using the service. The idea of Zappos’ involvement on the site stems from its desire to convey a positive company culture, which CEO Tony Hsieh says translates into great customer service and increased growth of the brand. With Twitter, Zappos is able to successfully form personal connections with customers and prospects just as they’d be doing on the phone.
Hsieh had been using Twitter since SXSW in 2007. When he saw the benefits of the service, he decided to introduce it to the company. In the spring of 2008, Zappos made Twitter a company priority. Today, new employees are introduced to Twitter during staff orientation, and Twitter classes are offered to all employees. Employees are encouraged but not forced to use the service, but as Hsieh says, “When there are so many Zappos employees using it, many employees just gravitate naturally to it.”
Today, the company culture is obvious on Twitter. Zappos clearly shows it can have a good time, but is also happily engaging the community on Twitter. In a Zappos blog post, Hsieh acknowledges that while reputation management crises are abundant online, the “reverse is true as well. A great experience with a company can be read by millions of people almost instantaneously as well.” And that’s exactly what is happening with Zappos. Twitter users feel overwhelmingly positive toward the Zappos brand with the company’s involvement both online and offline (through networking events, such as a party that corresponded to the PubCon search engine marketing conference in November 2008 in Las Vegas).
Internally, Twitter has connected the company in unforeseen ways as well. Hsieh recounts a story in which an employee tweeted that she wanted a cheeseburger, though she wasn’t expecting one. It just so happened that another Zappos employee was on her way to buy one when she saw that tweet. Within 10 minutes, Hsieh says, the employee longing for the food had the cheeseburger on her desk. These kinds of incidents help build the company culture internally.
Hsieh is very pleased with the company’s Twitter involvement. He says
I think [Twitter has] helped our culture in that employees have more of an opportunity to learn about each other personally. Twitter also allows us to expose our company culture to the world. I’ve been able to form personal connections with many of our employees and customers through Twitter, and it helps everyone feel like they are dealing with real people, not a faceless corporation or CEO.
Indeed, with Zappos’ involvement on Twitter, its brand is growing stronger and customers are enthusiastic about their engagement with the company.
Twitter has already been illustrated as a tool to generate sales, to assist customers with problems, and to increase a company’s brand awareness. Is it possible that Twitter can also help you locate prospects and clients?
Julio Ojeda-Zapata writes on the Touchbase Blog about an interesting client acquisition scenario in which one customer was wooed by two competing companies. In this particular instance, a doctor was disappointed with an arrogant Verizon technical service representative and expressed his dissatisfaction on Twitter. Immediately, a representative from Verizon came to his aid.
But Verizon wasn’t the only company who noticed Dr. Gary Kerkvliet’s disappointment. Frank Eliason of Comcast also observed that Kerkvliet was disappointed with his recent interaction with Verizon customer service. Initially, Eliason merely wanted to help the doctor smooth out his cable problems by offering technical advice, but after it became evident that the Kerkvliets were not interested in continuing their cable service with Verizon, Eliason was on the sidelines helping the family transition to Comcast—on a weekend, no less.
Meanwhile, due to Verizon’s involvement on Twitter, Dr. Kerkvliet became a champion of both companies. He has nothing negative to say about Verizon anymore. In fact, he says that if you are troubled by customer service, all you need to do is send out a tweet to get the companies to listen.
How can you acquire customers on Twitter? It’s as simple as monitoring for your competitors or industry terms and then participating in the conversation when it seems right. You may not want to make the first overt sell, as this may turn off the potential candidate. Be genuine and offer to help first, just as Eliason did before it became obvious that Dr. Kerkvliet was actually interested in pursuing service with the competitor. Eventually, you may find new and unforeseen opportunities to capitalize on the investment and later, to monetize—and the only thing you need to do is listen.
You can broadcast events on your website, but if nobody knows about your website, your message will have limited reach. After attacks in Israel’s Gaza region, the Israeli Consulate of New York decided to use Twitter to hold a “citizen’s press conference,” which it used to articulate the government’s stance on the recent response by Israel. For two hours, the consulate took questions that were tagged with “#AskIsrael” and gave honest and genuine answers about how the country perceives and is addressing the terrorist threat.
The press conference was an incredible success. While over 750 questions were asked of the Israeli Consulate in a short period of time, the consulate was able to successfully field 55 of them. Later, the Israeli Consulate’s official blog was used to answer other pressing questions that could not be addressed within the allocated period.
The Israeli Consulate used Twitter because of its vast reach and exposure and because traditional media is not necessarily the tool of choice among those heavily involved in the technology arena. Within 24 hours of the launch of the Israeli Consulate’s Twitter account, the account had over 2,000 followers, and many of these individuals were engaged in dialogue surrounding the press conference and the incidents in Israel (Figure 6.5).
The press conference was never intended to sway opinion, but rather to express Israel’s honest views on the recent attacks. As shown in Figure 6.6, the consulate provided detailed and thorough answers to the best of its ability given the 140-character limit. The feedback on the Israeli Consulate’s involvement on Twitter, especially because of its government status and its openness and involvement on this social media channel, was overwhelmingly positive and has likely set a precedent for other government entities to do the same in the future.
Figure 6.6. The Israeli Consulate hard at work addressing the community during the “Citizen’s Press Conference” in December of 2008; Consul David Saranga of the Media and Public Affairs Division dictates while four employees research and provide 140-character answers
Learn more about this topic from The New Community Rules.
The social web provides businesses with a largely untapped marketing channel for products and services -- the trick is knowing how to take advantage of it. With this book, you'll understand how social web technologies work, and learn the most practical and effective ways to reach the people who frequent these websites. You'll get intelligent advice and strategies -- including what works and what doesn't.