Twitter is the latest trend in social media, and while it is still unclear how Twitter will influence and change people and business, it is clear that something is happening around micro-blogging that is worth a closer look. If you haven’t heard of Twitter yet, Twitter is a free social-networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read each other’s updates.
The tremendous growth that Twitter has experienced in the last months clearly shows that the service has traction and is increasingly attracting not just early adopters but also the average Internet user. Below you will find a comparison of traffic between twitter.com and cnn.com.
Since Twitter has a more open platform than Facebook, this increasing adoption opens up significant opportunities for businesses to tap into the online conversations of their customers and initiate micro-interactions with them.
Based on my close observation of Twitter (I wrote my first article about Twitter in March 2007), I have identified five use cases that demonstrate how businesses can use Twitter. Additionally, you can now follow the Customer Experience Labs on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cxlabs.
The five use cases that I have identified are:
Voice of the Customer
When customers are talking, companies should listen, and while this has been difficult in the past, Twitter allows to listen to these conversations through various tools that allow to monitor online conversations. The easiest starting point is using Twitter search to search for conversations that include a certain term (i.e., your brand name). Popular brands such as Apple have a large volume of conversations, but there is probably somebody talking about your brand as well. Just open Twitter search, type in your brand name, and listen to the conversation. A more sophisticated tool for monitoring Twitter is monitter.com which allows to monitor three keywords at the same time.
Proactive Customer Service
After starting to listen to online conversations, the next step is to react to these conversations. While it is easy to say thanks to positive statements about your brand, a much higher impact is possible by providing proactive customer service when customer are complaining online. Here are some examples of customers complaining on Twitter:
Acting on complaints like this on Twitter is extremely important because the nature of the system is to start conversations that in the case of complaints lead to negative word of mouth. Monitoring when customers express their negative experiences with a brand and initiating proactive customer service can restore customer satisfaction. All you need is to create a Twitter account, setup Twitter searches for relevant terms, and be ready to act when customers complain.
The social network and messaging features on Twitter not only allow to talk with customers but could also be used to find potential employees. Especially if you are working in a media or technology-related industry, Twitter provides an additional proactive recruitment channel and could help you find your next employee. Research In Motion, the company that develops the BlackBerry smartphone, has recently started to actively recruit employees via Twitter. Two recruiters tap into the conversations and try to identify potential candidates on Twitter. To get an impression of how this is done, you can take a look at @BB_Recruiter and @eloisewalsh and see how they publish job opportunities and interact with potential employees.
Once you have established a sufficient followership on Twitter, you can use this channel to collect instant feedback about new products, services, and ideas. Twitter allows you, through its nature of near real-time conversations, to collect instant feedback about your organization’s activities. Here is one example of a survey done by Gillette:
Of course, this feedback doesn’t need to be collected openly as a Twitter conversation. Inviting customers to give feedback through a web-based survey tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Docs Forms has become really easy.
The social network features on Twitter provide a potential channel to build viral marketing campaigns. The essential point is NOT TO USE Twitter for your viral marketing campaign but to INTEGRATE Twitter into your viral marketing campaign. This means that a business should not just try to run a campaign and spread the word through Twitter but actually integrate Twitter as a channel in the campaign. If you are doing an online campaign, you can simply create a link through to Twitter with a link to Twitter that includes a certain message.
This can be done by creating a link to Twitter that includes the status update and looks like www.twitter.com/?status=Check out the Customer Experience Labs at www.customer-experience-labs.com. This presets a Twitter message and makes it easy to spread the word with your campaign. Once your campaign spreads on to Twitter and you have Twitter integrated as a campaign channel, your campaign is ready to go viral. An example is the integration of Twitter into the streaming music service grooveshark that allows listeners to share their music on Twitter. Below is a screenshot that shows the Twitter link in the lower left corner.
Some Companies that already use Twitter
The following Twitter users are companies or represent companies that use the service to interact with customers. All of them are confirmed; you can also find a complete list of major companies on Twitter.
British Airways http://twitter.com/BritishAirways
Intuit QuickBase http://twitter.com/IntuitQuickBase
Siemens PLM Software http://twitter.com/SiemensPLM
Vodafone Ireland http://twitter.com/VodafoneIreland
Vodafone Germany http://twitter.com/Vodafone_de
The steps to get active on Twitter are simple and can be done without much effort. Simply register on Twitter and you can start to follow other users. If you don’t want to start with your company’s brand name, you can simply use your own name to see how your use of Twitter evolves. If that works out well, you can switch to an account that represents your organization. Nevertheless, registering your company name now is a good idea to ensure that nobody else can use it.
Finding users to follow can be done through the integrated user search or by doing a Twitter search with your brand name and following the users who are talking about your brand. Additionally, you can set up the auto-follow functionality based on certain keywords through services like http://www.twollo.com/.
In order to work with Twitter efficiently, you can install a desktop client like TweetDeck, which offers a lot of functionality (i.e., user search, keyword search, URL shortening) and makes Twitter really easy to use.
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