Connect to your customers using Twitter

Think you don’t really need to know about twitter? It’s just something teenagers do. Read on to find out the reasons why a growing number of CEO’s are twittering, what businesses are using twitter for and how twitter can extend your corporate communications to reach out and connect with your customers. 

What is Twitter? 
Twitter is a communications tool, enabling you to send an instant real time message up to 140 characters long. This message is called a tweet. Your tweets are displayed on your twitter webpage and sent to your followers or subscribers via SMS on mobile phones and other external applications. Twittering is also known as microblogging. 

Tweets can contain links allowing you to point to information you have found on the internet and tweets can be re tweeted or forwarded on by your followers, spreading the information further. Twitter can be searched, enabling you to find out what people are saying right now about a topic. Twitter topics can be set up as alerts, so an organisation can track what people are saying about it and respond. You can also create groups or lists of people you follow on twitter to make recommendations to other users and view what one list is twittering, eg your family, at a glance. Twitter is dynamic and can be manipulated by various plug in style third party applications that extend the functionality of the media. 

How many people use Twitter?
According to Site analytics in March 2010 there were over 21 million visitors to the twitter website. But how many of those people are actually twittering? eMarketer predict that number is around 12.1 million registered users, with further growth to 18 million during this year, but no one really knows the true figure. 

Why would I twitter?
You tweet to share information, to connect and communicate with other interested people. Businesses use twitter to connect with customers, learn what people are saying about their brand and then respond. Twitter gives you instant two way communication that extends the reach of your brand. This can give your organisation a real competitive edge. 
"(1) I get great insight when I ask questions, 
(2) let’s face it, I get traffic and 
(3) people on Twitter spread my thoughts to new places.” John Jantsch Marketing Founder of Duct Tape 

"With Twitter, I can [release] new features and ideas to Mahalo's 'superfans' ahead of time and get their input. Many of the bloggers and press watch my twitter stream as well, so if I want to leak something to the press, I can do it by just saying 'what do you think about this...?' and if it's notable, it will be on 10 blogs in a day. So, for me it's part focus group, part press release system, and a lot of fun to interact with users and fans." Jason Calacanis Chief Executive, 

"I subscribe to lots of people who say interesting things, and I listen [and] read a lot. I find that these people become a sounding board for ideas, and I learn a lot from them. When I post to Twitter, sometimes it's about interesting things I've seen or observed, and sometimes it's 'questions to the world'—where to find a good consultant for a particular niche specialty—or I ask questions that I can't find easy or reliable answers [to] just by searching Google or reference works." David Sifry , Chairman, Technorati 

What do people tweet? 

According to research completed by Pear Analytics *, Tweets generally fit into six categories: 
40.55% Babble                        
37.55% Conversational           
 8.70%  Pass-along value ( re-tweet worthy information) 
 8.85%  Self-promotion         
 3.75%  Spam                         
 3.60%  News 

While babble may make up the most common type of tweet, there have been many innovative uses of twitter that have not only helped individuals, but also raised the profile of organisations. Businesses are using twitter to provide timely customer support, promote new products, offer an additional service level, and broadcast news. Twitter has also come into its own providing timely alert style information during emergencies. 

During the Mumbai Terrorist attacks people were using twitter to find out what was going on, including people trapped within theTrident Hotel . A tweet from the time; 
2 major blasts in the top floors of the Trident smoke visible times now forces on 18th floor terrorists on 19th 

Emergency services are twittering alerts for their local communities as potential emergency situations arise. 

The Los Angeles fire department tweets real time alerts @ a recent tweet was; 
*UPDATE: 24001 W. Sylvan St.* Fire now knocked down with 39 firefighters in 20 minutes; with no injuries. - Devin Gales### 

Weather warnings are issued by metoffice in the U.K. Here’s an example; 
FLASH Warning of Widespread Icy Roads for SW Scotland, Lothian & Borders valid from 0140 Thu 04 Feb to 1000 Thu 04 Feb 

Twitter is able to be manipulated by third party applications to offer more functionality. Tweetbeep is an application that runs continuously alerting you when someone mentions a particular word, be it a location, company name or your personal name.Tweetbeep lets you know when someone mentions your name, product name, competitor name, etc. on Twitter. I heart tweetbeep.A third party application Myskystatus automatically sends your flight’s progress to twitter or facebook, great for relatives and for anyone collecting you if your flight is delayed. 

Customer support
Twitter offers organisations an alternative customer support medium, an immediate personal voice and timely responsive reply. Jet Blue airways in America has over 1.6 million followers, they state on their twitter page “Have a question? Follow us and let us help!” A recent tweet in response to a customer complaining via twitter was; 
Sorry. Our agents are doing what they can to assist our customers and working through the hold queue as quickly as possible. 

Ford motor company has a twitter customer service page which has direct conversations with their enabling another medium to have contact with customers, they recently tweeted; 
Thanks. Please let us know if there is anything Customer Service can do to assist you, Shawn. 

HRBlock have a twitter page devoted to tax related questions and answers. They tweet tax tips as well as fun facts like this; 
You may think you pay a lot of taxes, but the top earners in the US paid 94% of their salaries to taxes in 1945! 


Twitter is being used successfully to promote special deals and new products to loyal customers. South Australian Fruchocs manufacturer Menz @ recently had a countdown to a new product giveaway, they tweeted; 
One more hour until we give away a bag of GIANT FruChocs to an SA-based follower!!! Attention all #Adelaide FruChoc fans! 

Albion’s Oven , a London based bakery has nearly 2000 followers. Its freshly baked bread sells out in minutes because the bakery tweets the latest goods to come out the oven with a specially made device. To avoid the interruption and flour mess on a computer or mobile device the Bakery Tweet is simple wall mounted dial that sends out tweets like this: 
Breakfast on the run? #Marmite and Montgomerys scrolls are fresh from the oven! 

Computer retailer Dell offers customers special deals through A recent offer they tweeted was; 
Looking for a good deal on a monitor? Dell Outlet has 20” HD flat panels starting as low as $99! Limited time offer! 

However American shoe retailer Zappos takes their promotion and customer relations a step further encouraging customer engagement. Currently 436 Zappo employees twitter and the CEO, Tony Hsieh tweets himself, at including his thoughts, and activities. He has been known to begin conversations with people on twitter, not just respond to tweets and Zappos have spontaneously given away shoes to random twitter followers. Followers have also been invited to company picnics and give feedback directly via twitter. Plus the Zappo tweets have personality and humour. 
Hong Kong cab driver decided halfway in trip he didn't want to go entire way, so I had to get out. Good thing he's not a pilot. 

Customer Service
Twitter offers a new avenue of customer service, providing timely information to stakeholders of a business or organisation. The Tower Bridge in London uses twitter @ to promote the times the bridge will open to vessels on the river Thames. This information is intended for commuters to aid their journey via the bridge. It’s tweets look like this; 
I am opening for the Maintenance lift, which is passing upstream. 

Employees of IBM near Winchester can catch a staff bus to work which tweets its whereabouts . This service enables people to save waiting time. 
I'm at Hursley House (bus stop A) (6 passengers) provides an accommodation booking service using twitter. Their twitter page states “Need help finding & booking a hotel? We're here to help - we make it easy to find the perfect room at a great rate.” This one to one service is a business operating on the twitter platform. A Resideo tweet looks like this; 
We'd be happy to help! Are you looking to go over Valentine's Weekend? Any particular budget in mind? 

News can be provided as it happens to people that want to know using twitter. The limitations of 140 characters mean that most news tweets contain links to the full article on the corporate website. 
AT&T news updates look like this; 
Penn State Hershey Medical Center to Provide Complimentary AT&T Wi-Fi in Patient Rooms:’ 

The Australian newspaper twitters its breaking stories as they happen @ 
Global markets hit by debt woes: THE Australian sharemarket opened sharply lower today after Wall Street slumped a... 

Nasa offers its latest news @ 
This just in from Hubble -- The Faces of Pluto. New images online now. 


Twitter provides a mechanism to get in touch with the locals, find out what people recommend in an area or are saying about and area. The twittering locals have banded together in Queensland to offer accommodation, travel and touring assistance to followers @ 
What travel agents don't want you to know: Preying on those in grief to lying about cheap trips, 

Twitter started as a simple instant messaging service for internal communications in 2006, Twitter really took off at the 2007 South by Southwest festival where tweets were displayed on large plasma screens around the event. The festival goers were instantly informed about what great things were happening where, creating much buzz about the speakers and events, but also about Twitter. We are living in times where our information sources are changing. Twitter offers a medium for businesses to reach out and engage with customers, listen in real time and respond to their thoughts. Talk to them, ask them questions, learn about them, and offer them a new type of service. This is the future, as traditional forms of advertising no longer hit the mark. Twitter has been with us for nearly 4 years. The innovation is in its early days. Hold onto your mobile phone as this is only the beginning. Don’t be left behind. 

Fusion can help you plan and deliver ways to use Twitter for your business or brand. Follow us @ Fusion_com_au

Learn more from these sources: 

*Pear Analytics analysed 2,000 tweets over two weeks.

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