Here’s another: What are you doing?
“Breakfast with the grandparents, woohoo!”
“I now have the theme from the Muppet Show playing in a loop in my head.”
“Spent too much money in kensington, but at least I got some really good cheese.”
Okay, next question: Who cares?
For the last couple of months I’ve been trying to get my head around Twitter, the microblogging community where “tweeple” “tweet” about what they’re doing—in 140 characters or less. Accessible via either the Internet or your mobile phone, it’s kind of like a 24/7 twilight bark for the ultra-plugged-in crowd, aka the “Twitterati.”
A recent article in The Oregonian reported that Twitter’s 1.3 million users exchange an estimated three million public messages each day. Yes, a lot of those tweets are about stuff you don’t need—or want—to know. Honestly, unless you’re pfs08, I really don’t care what you’re cooking for dinner. But the cool thing about Twitter is that you get to choose whose tweets you want to follow. And sometimes the information shared via the Twittersphere really is important. Just ask the student journalist who was nabbed by Egyptian police and alerted his followers with a one-word tweet: “arrested.”
Giving Twitter a twhirl
After creating a profile on Twitter.com, I downloaded twhirl, a desktop application that makes it easy to monitor incoming tweets and post your own. So far, I’m following 50 or so tweeple, including friends and colleagues, marketing gurus, professional organizations, traffic and business news, and several of the brands that are widely considered to be stars of the Twitterverse, including Southwest Airlines, Comcast and Zappos.com.
Among other things, I learned that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had a Chicago-style hotdog at the airport, got this PR tip from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang, and found out that I-5 Southbound was closed north of Vancouver.
So, if you choose your tweeps carefully, there’s definitely personal value to be found on Twitter, but what about business value? For marketers who live by the list, Twitter poses a bit of a challenge, because rather than simply targeting the prospects and customers you want to engage with, you have to entice them to target you.
“I think the value for B2B companies is to designate a Twitter representative to interact there,” says Ann Handley of MarketingProfs.com. “My guess is that companies will vary on how comfortable they are with that approach.”
We love to blog and it shows
Southwest Airlines is very comfortable with that approach—so much so that the company actually has a chief Twitter officer. As the Boston Globe reported last month, this CTO heads up a social media team at the company that tracks Twitter comments, monitors a Facebook group, checks facts and interacts with bloggers, and manages the company’s presence on sites such as YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn.
Dell has taken its Twitter strategy a step further, not only listening and talking to customers, but actually selling to them. Already this year the company has pulled in over $500K by tweeting discounts and special offers via @DellOutlet, @DellHomeOffers and other Twitter channels.
Even if you’re not using Twitter for direct selling, it pays to establish a presence and learn how to make the most of it. Because if you don’t own your brand on Twitter, someone else could, as Exxon Mobil discovered (to its chagrin).
Babcock & Jenkins Vice President of Technology Josh Siler says the most successful B2B Twitterers use it as kind of a PR channel rather than a marketing channel, pointing to AdaptivePath as an example. “They complement Twitter with a high value blogging strategy that given them strong brand recognition.”
A few days ago Josh got back in the Twitter saddle and encouraged other B&J employees to do the same. “Many companies that work like us (collaborative, service oriented) are even reporting that Twitter has become a valuable communication and productivity tool for them.” It’s too soon to say whether Twitter will stick this time, but we’re having a good time experimenting and seeing where it can add value, both internally and for our clients.
Follow B&J on Twitter:
Ready to get Twitterpated?
Google Twitter and you’ll get something like 70 million results. But here’s a starter set of useful links to help you get up to speed with Twitter. You’ll find some good primers in the list below, but in a nutshell, you just sign up at Twitter.com and start tweeting. See you in the Twittersphere!