In 2009, I predict a lot of marketers will finally figure out that Twitter is much, much more than the confusing chaos of an online chat, forum, time-wasting thing they now believe it to be. I’m going to attempt to help them in that journey by using this blog to make simple suggestions on ways marketers at associations, companies or any organization can use Twitter and other conversational media (also called “social media”) tools to sell, promote and better serve customers, members, alumni, donors, backers, etc.
Lots of companies have already registered a Twitter username for their company. For example, I recently mentioned how Dell uses Twitter to promote special deals at its “outlet”. Dell has also registered many other Twitter accounts that are used in various ways.
Many savvy marketers have a designated individual or group of individuals who use Twitter Search to track any mention of their brand or product names appearing on Twitter. Unlike a typical search engine, Twitter Search is designed to provide “real time” results of a search query. Once a search results page appears, it continues to collect results as long as you keep the page open in a browser tab. It won’t automatically refresh, however, a message at the top of the page displays a tally of how may times users have included the search-term in a “tweet” since you last manually “refreshed” the page. Click on the refresh link, and the new tweets appear.
But don’t think of Twitter as merely a “tracking” tool or a “broadcasting” tool. It is a conversational tool. Here are a couple of examples (there are many) that I’ve personally encountered on Twitter during the past couple of days — days when many marketers who use Twitter had set up a “see you next week” message on their accounts.
The first example is an easy one for me to select, as it’s from a Nashville-based (my hometown) company, Griffin Techology, and the employee who maintains it is, separate from his job at Griffin, a highly visible member of the local blogosphere. I was trying to locate a place locally to purchase a Griffin product called the Clarifi that serves as a case or “skin” for an iPhone, but also includes a small lens filter you can slide over the phone’s camera lens for taking closeup photos of documents or business cards. (I want it to use it with what is quickly becoming the software I’m currently obsessing over, Evernotes — and thought it would make a good stocking-stuffer for, uh, Santa to give me).
When a phone call to the Apple Store led to a dead-end (you can purchase it online, they said), I decided to tweet a request for help. Within moments, (again, this was Christmas Eve) Dave @ Twitter, the person who is the “@” at @griffintech posted a “tweet” suggesting I check Best Buy. He then tweeted to me a coupon-code for a “stocking stuffer” discount if I couldn’t find it there and needed to order it online. Sure enough, it had sold out at the Best Buy closest to my house, so I used the coupon code.
The other example is a product called EyeFi. It’s a rather amazing product as it looks like a regular memory card for a digital camera, but it has built-in wifi that automagically (without any wires or docking) uploads photos to your computer or via your home or office’s wi-fi, to a web-based photo hosting/sharing service like Flickr. Yesterday, on Christmas morning, I mentioned on a tweet that I’d received and EyeFi for Christmas and within moments, @eyeficard was following me. The service was a little clunky on Christmas morning, but whoever was responsible for maintaining the @eyeficard Twitter account was responding to any tweets for assistance. It was impressive.
For customer service, these companies also probably use forums, wikis, knowledge-bases and a lot of people answering phone-calls. But yesterday, a 30-second tweet reassured lots of customers that help was within 140 characters and a few seconds away.