Twitter – the mobile-based microblogging service – has become the new darling among social media marketers and internet geeks since the SXSWi conference in 2007. Lacking any kind of monetization model, Twitter seems a trendy but not sustainable company, like PointCast in the 1990s.
Maybe Twitter wont be around to see 2010, yet many major brands have moved in to communicate with consumers and the world via Twitter: H&R Block (Finance), 10 Downing Street (The UK equivalent of US “White House”), Zappos (Online Retailer) and countless others like BBC News to Yahoo’s Marketing Team and Amazon.com to the New York LaGuardia airport. Is this wasted energy by the PR/Marketing offices of H&R Block or even US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s social media team?
The short answer is: no.
But to expand more, let’s discuss two subjects:
Two Reasons to Twitter
1. Understanding Social Media Better
Just by utilizing twitter, these brands through experimentation are learning and understanding more about social media and their customers. Twitter may not have a business model yet, but reaching out and getting to know customers is part of the business process these brands need to have to survive. Be it blogging, facebook-ing or twittering – the same core skills in understanding how to reach customers are similar. Learning how to do it on twitter is a skillset that can be applied to feature social media mediums.
2. Keeping Track of the “Linkerati” (Highly vocal and connected influencers)
Despite the buzz and activity of Twitter.com, their membership of just over 1 million users seem a paltry sum compared to MySpace, Facebook , Bebo and others.
However, Twitter is definitely on the bleeding edge of early adopters, specifically the “Linkerati” (as coined by Rand Fishkin). The Linkerati are the special type of early adopters who are very vocal on the Internet – be it twittering, blogging or doing a Yelp/Amazon review of your business or product. Current Twitter members, due to their Linkerati demographic, may have a higher than average say on influencing your brand.
The 3 Different Types of Twittering Brands
1. Conversational Twitters: H&R Block, Zappos, 10 Downing Street
H&R Block, Zappos and 10 Downing Street are incredibly innovate in that they truly embrace twitter as a conversational & microblogging platform.
H&R Block reaches out to Twitter members complaining about taxes and assist as customer service for those dissatisfied with their H&R Block experience. And yes, H&R Block – a financial services company – even does the occasional fart-related humor on twitter.
Zappos‘ twitter is run by the Zappos CEO. He covers daily events and going-ons at Zappos to askings for feedback on their new beta website and throwing a free shoe prize here and there. His comments go from the serious and jovial. The Zappos CEO is twittering as someone who just happens to work for Zappos (Steve from Zappos) instead of sounding like a press release channel for Zappos.
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, while a highly public and political office, attempts to humanize itself with mentions of everything from how a visit from George Clooney caused “quite the stir” with the 10 Downing Street staff to answering questions from fellow twitter members.
2. News Item Twitters: Amazon.com, New York Times
Both Amazon.com and New York Times utilize Twitter as another distribution platform to send their audience updates. For Amazon.com, this means pushing out news about their news sales (Gold Box), while the New York Times publishes their latest headlines. For them twitter is based used as a one way microblogging platform.
This is definitely not very *social* media, but it allows yet another route by which to reach their audience in a relatively low cost (same mechanism as an RSS feed) method. They are embracing the idea that they benefit from being present wherever and how ever people view and digest information, specifically their information.
3. Reputation Monitoring Twitters: Radian6 & GeekSquad
Finally, there companies like Radian6 and the GeekSquad, which while not necessarily on Twitter, they do monitor, track and respond to Twitter comments. Of course, tracking and responding to Twitter messages are more important than being on Twitter itself.
GeekSquad is fairly well known American at-home computer servicing company. Recently, a fellow blogger friend, Michael Brito, twittered about a poor experience he received from Geek Squad on Twitter:
Only a few hours after twitter, Michael learns:
A few hours later, I get an email from Robert Stephens, the Founder and Chief Inspector of the Geek Squad. He asked me what my issues were and that he would look into it. Letâ€™s see if he lives up to his promise of personally resolving the complaints of those who read the The Consumerist(lol, not really a consumerist reader though).
Nonetheless, this is a great illustration of how a company can use social media to track conversations and (hopefully) take action. We will soon find out if the Geek Squad is going to create a loyal customer, with lots and lots of friends, family and acquaintances. ; )
Radian6 is a social media monitoring company, so no surprise here. Recently, a representative from Radian6 reached out to me and mentioned he saw my twitter on social media and wanted to know if I needed a demo.