Your Customers on Twitter

Twitter has a load of random uses. So far, I feel they fall into 4 categories: making things tweet, ridiculous, heart-warming and innovative.

Making things tweet: an office beer tap, pets, plants, unborn babies, laundry machines, electricity consumption meter, the oven, a chaira rocket, a house, your server.

Ridiculous: promote your brothel (Twitter might perhaps be a slightly too public medium for this to be that effective), “punk” your followers, send prayers to the “prayer wall” (believers would likely disagree with my categorization here), have a baby.

Heart-warming: Foodies exchanging “twifts” on Twitter, averting suicide, #blamedrewscancer, proposing on twitter, honoring Dumbledore.

Innovative: Restaurant reviews, test for paranormal abilities, burglars can use Twitter  to find out when you’re away and rob you (note, it’s the burglars being innovative, not the tweeter), reporting 311 (non urgent issues like potholes etc), travel tips, track down stolen bikes, sell your house (if you’re @Biz), explore sentiment, monitor the response to flying Air Force One over the statue of Liberty.

It has some practical business applications too. Again, I’ve tried to split them into categories.

Communicating: as a replacement or complement to job boards, a public message to your nemesis (Microsoft to Google), your competitor (Coca Cola and Pepsi), and the competition you describe as “a cancer” (Microsoft again – perhaps they changed their mind?)

Promoting: Twitter is a natural platform for contests and giveaways, and it’s share of the marketing budget is growing, american eagle is one example, for a small business it can make a huge impact, other small business users using twitter for marketing. Real estate agents and even an individual selling her house have been using the service too. Pepsi now include their Twitter handle on the can.

Money-making: traders use Twitter to help read the markets, sponsored tweets, affiliate fees.

Interesting article on 10 ways Twitter will change business is this one (from TIME). Quote:

As Twitter grows, it will increasingly become a place where companies build brands, do research, send information to customers, conduct e-commerce and create communities for their users. Some industries, like local retail, could be transformed by Twitter — both at one-store operations that cater to customers within a few blocks of their locations and at the individual stores of giant retail operations like Wal-Mart (WMT).

I think the biggest potential of twitter is to hear what you’re customers say about you to their friends. If you know what your word of mouth is… that’s phenomenal. There’s an interesting paper studying this.

Businesses have no excuse not to be on Twitter. See all the crazy things people are doing! Getting on there and tweeting the odd promotion or bit of company news shouldn’t seem like a big deal. Now, I make a point that when I have a mediocre experience somewhere – I tweet it. For instance, I had something really gross at Cora’s the other week, followed by lousy service when they mentioned “next time”. Buddy, there will be no next time! So I tweeted

Brunch at Cora's was a mistake

No response – but who cares? To be fair, when I have a great experience with a company I tweet it too. @Zappos were really good, and I twittered as much.

My supervisor has been having some issues with the Ning social network he set up for his class. They’d tried various means of reporting the problem – no response. I said, Twitter it. So I (and two of my office mates) did. Response:

Response from Ning

They get it. The opportunity to know what word of mouth you’re getting – big deal. And for customers – the opportunity to ask the question, flag the problem, and get a quick response? Isn’t that what CRM is all about?

We’re still waiting for Ning to resolve the issue, so we’ll see whether it translates into action. But still – a response is a start. If you want to see a company getting it wrong, search on “purolator” to see a stream of customer frustration. Their empty twitter account suggests they’re doing nothing about it.

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