With Twitter set to pass the magic 100 Million user mark later this month, or early May, and the company having been valued at around a Billion Dollars last year, it’s moved from the realms of novelty. So, should business sit up and take note; is it the “Next Big Thing” as a business tool?
Speaking with business leaders and marketers, one gets mixed responses – the enthusiastic advocates on the one hand, and those that hope it will fade away as it can potentially damage their company, they believe, on the other.
There’s no question that any public forum can be used by people to disparage, or worse, a company, but is that a reason to abstain from that forum, or should one take the opportunity to embrace it and counter any adverse remarks? After all, unhappy customers that are turned around tend to become the most loyal advocates…
Others look at Twitter and ask whether 140 characters is really enough for any sort of meaningful dialogue with customers and dismiss it on this basis. But in our information-overloaded world, is brevity not a blessing?
Properly used, there is no question in my mind that Twitter really can become a significant business tool:
- Customer service – probably the first Twitter application area to be embraced, companies like Southwest Airlines, Staples and Zappos have found it invaluable to track unhappy customers, respond quickly and show a great service ethos.
- Sales leads – of course, great customer service leads to sales, but many more companies, like Dell, Sony and Starbucks are using Twitter to promote products; in fact an article last month reported Sony measuring over £1 Million in sales directly attributable to its Vaio Twitter account.
- Promotions – an extension of the sales leads application is using Twitter for promoting special offers to followers. As the integration of GPS technology with phones increases, these could even be location and time specific, making them highly targeted.
- Product feedback – companies are often accused of making products that customers don’t need, or of not including “obvious” features. Twitter can give a window for listening to the needs and views of a very wide customer base.
- Order tracking – an area I’ve yet to see, but one I think is an obvious one: imagine being able to Direct Tweet to a courier company and get an automated response as to where your special delivery is in the system…
In fact, the possibilities are endless – limited only by imagination. With Twitter, companies have access to an incredible mass direct marketing tool without the dangers of being considered spammers – people would simply unfollow those they consider annoying – and one which can provide real-time, real-person feedback on an incredibly wide range of issues.
Twitter, I firmly believe, is poised to be the “Next Big Thing” for business, and companies that ignore it do so at their peril.
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Have used Twitter for a year and have about 1,300 followers. However, only use Twitter to update them when I have published a new article. Twitter is good for communicating that kind of information. Do keep in mind that most tweets are just silly jokes between students and teenagers. The good thing about Twitter is that a lot of people are members, as you say, but it is definitely not the next big thing in business.
Thanks for your comments, Catarina. It’s interesting how the demographics change – contrary to your experience, I see a lot of business use being made of Twitter and there are well documented companies around the world – large and small – using Twitter very successfully for business.
There are even companies that have come into being solely as a result of social media, in which Twitter plays a major role – see Threadless (.com) and Local-motors (.com) in the US, and Wildpeeta (.com) for a UAE success story with Twitter.
This on top of the major brands like Dell, Southwest Airlines, Sony, Staples, Zappos and many others that already have Twitter as a central element in their marketing strategy.
I see Twitter being an increasingly important element for business and believe it will evolve into the “Next Big Thing.”
I have to agree with you Guy and disagree with Catarina’s view of Twitter “that most tweets are just silly jokes between students and teenagers”.
Twitter is a great way to share resources, information – not just your own – with like minded people, understand trends. If I have any questions that need answering, I can be sure of receiving responses from the Twitter community.
I am a strong advocate that Twitter (or any social media for that matter) is the way forward to forge strong customer relationships in the community it operates.
Its a question of finding the right one for your business.
Isn’t the point that the Web is creating new channels of communication? Twitter has the same characteristics of any other communication: Twitter has a dual nature. It has a trivial side and a business side. (Look at TV. Look at magazines.) I think the Web will create, destroy, re-create many new channels to communicate as we go forward. Like a hammer hitting an anvil and hundreds of sparks fly off. Some will catch, some won’t. Marketers have to constantly evaluate how to use these as they will change like fashion. The spark may flame for a while but the fire may never catch or even die out shortly if it runs out of fuel. At the moment, I hate Twitter for personal use. I like Twitter for business use. I even like Twitter on the trivial side if you are trying to market consumer goods because that’s where a lot of the customers live.
I like your hammer/sparks analogy, Bob. Also agree with you on Twitter for business rather than personal use.