In the past few months, the Twitter phenomenon has reached epic proportions. Personally, I chalk this up to the malaise that is gripping us all as we struggle to make sense of both the economic crisis and the political seismic shifts that are upon us. Not content to consume news media and blogs, we now all want to make sense of it, to share our observations, and most of all to connect. So this odd 140-character microblogging platform, known as Twitter, has ballooned in importance. In the last week, the Financial Times published a full-page article about Twitter. U.S. Congresspeople tweeted during Obama’s speech to the joint houses of Congress, and Keith Olbermann’s CountDown described the Congressional "Twits tweeting," and John Stewart ran a great spoof on the new Congressional pastime of tweeting. (The software is called Twitter; the short messages you send are called “tweets.” And yes, anyone who IS anyone is doing it.) The best way to get up to speed on Twitter in my opinion is to use the Twitter How To's and links at Mashable. Feel free to drop me a note. My twitter handle is pattyinboothbay.
How Should Your Company Deal with Twitter?
No matter what your personal opinion is about this phenomenon/fad, you should take note about how your customers and prospects are using Twitter and how your company should be engaging with them using this popular tool.
1. Best Use of Twitter: Real-Time Customer Support. The best way to win the hearts and minds of customers and prospects is to set up a twitter search filter on your company’s and product’s name(s) and to ensure that your customer support organization is tracking and responding to these tweets in real time. Oddly enough, when someone is stuck in line at an airport, having trouble with your Web site, or having difficulty using your product, they are highly likely to tweet about it (before they send you an email or call your support line or while they’re doing so). It’s an easy way for people to vent frustration and reach out to the world. If your customer support team responds quickly, both with a public tweet (so others will know you’re listening) and with a Direct Message to offer personal assistance, you will not only solve that customer’s issue but have that positive experience re-tweeted. Here are a couple of good examples:
• Andybeal: Ordered from Office Depot for the first time—won’t use them again. No delivery Thurs—too busy to deliver. Friday? No explanation & no package
• edwinaoki: Comcast outage. Can't get to anything east of Denver. They say "they hope to have it fixed by 8pm". That's 13 hours!
• TESFox: I have to say, Comcast is doing an excellent job of being there for customer service. Hats off for @comcastcares and the live chat team!
2. Planning and Managing Events. Whatever event you’re planning—whether it’s a local gathering of wine connoisseurs, a training class, a big user conference or a new product launch, Twitter should be part of your pre-, during and post-event communications plan. You can create a buzz before the event and encourage participants to tweet their notes, impressions and commentary during the event, and buzz after the event. You can make it easy for groupies and participants to retweet by providing hashtags (#ourevent) that they can embed in each tweet to make it easy to filter and search.
• gavangibson: #UBL Saul Kaplan: innovation=better way to deliver value to customer; zappo.com, virgin
• UserAdvocate: So far #drupalcon:solr is a breath of fresh air. Looking forward to see where he's going with his take on information architecture
• RobynGreenspan: RT @HSMAmericas #WIF09 Patricia Seybold Confirms as Featured Blogger at the World Innovation Forum http://tinyurl.com/abbrxy
3. New Product Launches. Twitter is a great way to get the word out in seductive and non-intrusive ways about upcoming new products or services. Most companies offer a limited number of “beta invites” via Twitter. These become coveted and people start asking for them so they can be part of the in crowd.
• aneel: rt @somic: CohesiveFT launches VPN-Cubed for EC2 - Build-your-own [transatlantic] [on-demand] private network in cloud! http://bit.ly/xqUqa
• utopiah: @tonylucas a friend told me I should ask for a beta invite, since Im curious about cloud computing services, here I tweet ;)
4. Customer Outreach and Gentle Evangelism. Many brand managers have managed to find the perfect tone in their Tweets. They don’t barrage you with blatant PR or marketing. They ask for reactions. They thank you when you DO tweet about their products or brands. They float ideas. They engage with people.
• angie1234p: @RockYourDay Morning Dave. Have I got news for you lol Molson Canadian is on Twitter (@MolsonFerg) Thought you might find it interesting :) [PBS: Fans notice your presence!]
• BlakeSunshine: @jessiecarp I work at National Instruments on www.ni.com/community- hope your semester is off to a great start
5. Drive Traffic to Your Site, Blog, E-Store, YouTube. Apart from free give-aways, twitterers don’t appreciate blatant product pitches. They’ll “unfollow” you quickly. But we do love to pass around links to great funny videos, useful commentary, insightful analysis, useful tips and tricks. Make sure that your contributions include seductive links that people will value.
• artrox: RT @thebrandbuilder @alydesigns @peopledesign: '5 Lessons in Business Innovation' http://tinyurl.com/bnwmvb (design around your customer) [PBS: Note the ReTweet—being passed along—also the use of a “tinyurl” which saves space]
• it_world: The cloud and the public sector - water and oil?: Public sector CIOs should look to the leading cloud computing .. http://tinyurl.com/d7hmep
• QuadrilleKnits: we now have over 3,000 followers on twitter..Quadrille_Books, QuadrilleFood, QuadrilleEco, QuadrilleHome, Student Cook, Jewish_Princess etc!
• doingmedia: @christinawodtke Congrats on the 2nd edition of Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web http://ping.fm/Tlv8A
6. Monitor Your Brand/Reputation. Twitter is the least expensive and most effective way to track your brand’s reputation online. You can just set up a search filter, turn the feed into an RSS feed (so you can capture and analyze it as it flies by) and then take actions to improve customer experience and/or amplify the good vibes.
• tivogrrl: “Enjoyed seeing USAA at Mx 2009. They are a financial services company that really gets customer service.”
• AdayVA: “@VistaPrint Thanks for ease of use and great customer service :)”
• richsharples: “Innovation loves a crisis, but only after customer have stepped out from under their desks” - classic Jonathan Schwartz quote [PBS: Jonathan Schwartz is the CEO of Sun—monitor execs’ names as well as company, brand and product names]
• josephnasto: Wal-Mart Customer Finds Human Teeth in New Wallet http://tinyurl.com/bt7zan
Analyzing Twitter Activity in an Integrated Web Analytics Platform
What if you are in charge of monitoring all search and social media activity around your products and your brands and constantly tuning your brand’s SEO and site merchandising? Ideally, you want an integrated approach for monitoring, analyzing, and taking action on the searches, tweets, blog posts, and buzz that’s swirling around your brand and your products. There are two keys to success:
1. Put the responsibility to monitor, analyze, and take action in the hands of a single coordinated team, don’t silo it across your firm’s PR, social media, e-commerce, SEO and site search, product and promotion merchandising, and customer support teams. Things move fast. You need to be able to get in front of the customer parade, not behind it! It’s fine to have distributed responsibilities for analyzing, tracking, and acting on customers’ buzz, interactions, and activity, but you’ll want to function as a virtual team, and ideally to use an integrated platform—one that lets you spot trends quickly and take action quickly.
2. Provide your team with integrated tools that let you monitor and analyze activity in real time across all of the different internal and external traffic sources that you monitor—those you control and those you don’t control.
The good news is that the leading-edge search analytics and e-merchandising platforms are embracing the leading edge social media trends.
Omniture Embraces Twitter
One of the top search analytics and e-merchandising platforms—the one used by the majority of large brands—is Omniture. It’s good news that the Mercedes Benz of e-commerce search and merchandising is moving with Porsche-like agility to embrace the leading edge social media platform. In a Mashable blog post, entitled: Omniture Adds Twitter Analytics for Brands, Jennifer Van Grove writes:
“You could try one of these 10 reputation tracking tools, but Omniture’s already powerful analytics product, SiteCatalyst, is now the first of its kind to actually import Twitter data for better measurement of brand activity. Omniture’s already powerful analytics product, SiteCatalyst, is now the first of its kind to actually import Twitter data for better measurement of brand activity.
Omniture currently boasts 5,100 clients—think AOL, Microsoft, Oracle, and eBay—capturing more than 1 trillion online transactions per quarter, and is now hoping to support their clients looking for Twitter insights on par with the standard Web analytics they’re used to receiving.
After importing Twitter data into SiteCatalyst, Omniture customers will be able to identify brand advocates and detractors, better acknowledge feature requests from loyal users, categorize Twitterers as customers, vendors, or employees, and get real-time alerts via email or SMS based on specified criteria like spikes in brand mentions. Users will even be able to generate limitless keyword reports - via tweet text scanning - to further segment, analyze, and dissect Twitter-related brand data.”