The “micro-blogging” service Twitter has become more mainstream since the company’s inception in 2006. Twitter users now number well into the millions, with no signs of slowing growth. While Twitter is most popular on the West Coast, users are spreading rapidly throughout the world. Companies are finding many creative ways to use Twitter to benefit their businesses: to run promotions, provide high-quality customer service, get product feedback, manage their brands and perform market research.
Many companies are using Twitter as a means of rolling out cheap but effective promotions. One such company, Whole Foods Market, is using Twitter heavily to connect with customers. Whole Foods’ Twitter account has become a valuable way for the company to market specific products and boost store sales.
Whole Foods runs a weekly Twitter promotion where they “Tweet” (or send) a pass phrase and a specific store location; the first 5 people who go to that location and give the password receive a $25 store gift. Another way to earn a $25 gift certificate is the “Tweet of the Day”. Whole Foods monitors all of the Tweets about them using the Twitter search tool. Each day, the Tweet that was particularly funny or interesting wins the prize, with the Twitter user receiving a direct message alerting them that they have won.
At this time Whole Foods has more than 2,900 followers on Twitter.I believe that Twitter is a great place for larger companies to market their products and interact with customers because their customers are actively seeking it. Whole Foods’ thousands of followers have made the conscious decision to follow Whole Foods on Twitter. They want to know what is going on and what is new at Whole Foods. It’s like signing up for an e-mail newsletter, but people are more apt to simply follow someone on Twitter because it doesn’t fill up their inbox. And if they have a question, they can get a personal response as opposed to a stale e-mail reply.
Personally, during a recent salmonella poisoning scare in Georgia, I direct-messaged Whole Foods and asked what they were doing to help protect against the problem in their stores. I received a direct response three hours later. What a great customer service experience! They provided exactly the information I was looking for and displayed the power of reaching out to customers.
Many businesses are adopting Twitter as a means of providing customer service. On the flip side, consumers are finding that, often, Twitter is the best way to communicate with large companies whose customer service tends to lack at times. Comcast, for instance, is having success using Twitter to better address their customers’ concerns and issues. The most famous situation involves Comcast and TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington. Frustrated that his service had been out for hours, Arrington eventually lost his cool and began angrily Twittering his frustrations. Within 20 minutes he was contacted by a Twitter executive and his problem was resolved. It is true that Arrington is an influential person and this could have helped his cause, but every day Comcast is helping plenty of lesser-known customers, as well. Comcast reports that they receive millions of calls a day from customers looking for help.
Conversely, the 10-member Comcast team that manages Twitter and other social networks helps about 100 customers a day. Consequently, the Comcast reps managing their Twitter account are able to address the problem better and give a quick solution.Other large companies are also using Twitter to addressing customer service issues, including Southwest Air, Home Depot and Dell. Are your customers on Twitter? If you operate on the West Coast, the chances are yes. If not or if you don’t know, go to the Twitter search tool and type in your company’s name and products.
Maybe some potential customers are out there. Try searching for some of the services you provide. If you find some people out in the Twitter universe talking about your company or services, join the conversation and just watch how much they appreciate the personal contact.
Brand Management and Market Research
What if finding out what your customers are saying about your service or product was as easy as typing in your company name or product into a search bar? Once you searched, you were met with real customers talking in real time about your company and products. With Twitter, this is possible. Using the search tool, you can search all the Tweets made by every user in the Twitter network in real time. This can be a powerful way for your company to leverage your brand online. Imagine rolling out a new product and seeing in real time how it is being received by the public.
You can see what they are saying. If your customers are having any problems, you will know right away and can send them a message as to how best solve their issues. You can even set up a personalized system to alert you via e-mail if someone Tweets about your company using Tweet Scan.Want to find out what people are saying about the competition? Use the same search tools to type in your competitors’ names and see if there might be something you could use to your advantage. Find out what people like or don’t like about their products or services. Discover what their customers really like and consider implementing it yourself. Even if you can’t find someone talking about your company or services today, they likely will be in the future. Your company needs to be prepared for the day when Twitter is used even more widely. I would strongly encourage you to go to Twitter and at least sign-up your company with a handle (Twitter account name) that will protect your brand in the future. When creating your account, you can even modify your account page to have the same feel and color scheme as your website. You wouldn’t want someone to use your company’s name as their handle and spread bad or unauthorized information as Twitter grows.