Following is an abbreviated excerpt from Engage, a new book that helps businesses build, cultivate, and measure success in social media.
Last year, Forbes magazine assembled a visual list for its Top 21 Twitter Tips to showcase business examples on how to use Twitter for marketing, service, sales, and ideation. The original compilation served as inspiration for a new list, one that helps businesses of all shapes, sizes, and focus embrace not only Twitter, but all social networks of relevance.
While many of the examples and quotes remain the same, the list is modified based on my observations and personal experiences.
Number 1. Special Offers
People are making decisions on what to read, view, purchase, visit, and sample based on the information that filters through their attention dash- boards. At best, even the most qualified information sourced from the most trusted contacts will receive only a cursory overview. The trick is to concisely introduce the value up front. If the offer is compelling and affiliated with their interests, the consumer will make the connection to personal value and benefits and click-through to redeem the special or coupon when ready or so inclined.
For example, California Tortilla (@caltort), a chain of 39 casual Mexican restaurants based in Rockville, MD, sends coupon passwords via Twitter, which customers must say at checkout to redeem the offer.
Number 2. Ordering
While the distance between introduction and action is only separated by a link, many businesses are using Twitter to log orders. Coffee Groundz (@coffeegroundz) uses the direct message channel on Twitter to receive and prepare orders. Using Twitter as a promotion and marketing channel, Coffee Groundz reports 20 to 30 percent increased sales and market share.
Number 3. Word of Mouth Marketing
Moonfruit offered 11 Macbook Pros and 10 iPod Touches to celebrate its 10th anniversary. In order to qualify, contestants had to send a tweettweet using the hashtag #moonfruit. One month following the completion of the contest, Moonfruit site traffic was up 300 percent and sales also increased by 20 percent—and all because of a meager investment of $15,000. The company also realized SEO benefits, by landing on the first results page on Google for “free website builder.”
Number 4. Conversation Marketing
Zappos (@zappos) doesn’t necessarily market on Twitter; instead, it “unmarkets” via conversations and engagement. At current count, 436 Zappos employees use Twitter, including CEO Tony Hsieh. For the record, Tony has over 1.6 million followers.
Aaron Magness, director of business development at Zappos, acknowledges that proactively sharing the company culture and values creates a humanizing effect that invites people to be part of the community, and also acts as a sales driver. “It’s easier for them to embrace openness,” he said.
Number 5. Customer Service
Frank Eliason of Comcast (@comcastcares) and Richard Binhammer of Dell (@richardatdell) are paving the way for service-focused organizations on Twitter.
Eliason, whose title is director of digital care at Comcast, uses Twitter to help 200 to 300 subscribers a day. Frank and his 10-person help desk receive direct questions, but also proactively seek out complaints. His key to success lies in his desire to earn relations, not bark advice or chat people up. “If they want assistance, they’ll let me know,” he said.
Number 6. Focus Groups
Wisdom and creativity are widespread in social media. Tuning in to the frequency of conversations related to the brand or marketplace can serve as a real-time focus group for innovation and adaptation.
Over 3 million mentions of Starbucks populated Twitter in May 2009 and, as the company learned, the price for paying attention is less than that for a caramel macchiato, but the value is priceless.
Morgan Johnston, Manager of Corporate Communications at Jet Blue, was inspired to change policy because of Twitter. He helped eliminate a $50 fee for carry-on bikes after hearing complaints via Twitter.
Johnston listens to the people who are active on the Social Web in order to improve company processes and customer service. “Think of Twitter as the canary in the coal mine. We watch for customers’ discussions about amenities we have, and what they’d like to see made better.”
Number 7. Direct Sales
Brian Simpson (@BSIMI) has helped The Roger Smith in New York monitor dialogue related to hotel stays and travel in order to offer specials in the hopes of attracting new guests. Using Twitter search, he can identify prospects and offer them a 10 percent discount on the lowest-rate rooms. Simpson estimates that Twitter and other forms of social media have netted between $15,000 to $20,000 in additional revenue.
Simpson also professed the necessity of cultivating community in social networks: “It validates us more when other people talk about us than when we talk about ourselves,” he noted.
Number 8. Business Development
Twitter, along with blogs, blog comments, and other social networks, is abundant with conversations that broadcast and echo dissatisfaction with brands and products. One company’s crisis is another’s opportunity.
Monitoring conversations (social reconnaissance) related to competitors provides the ability to “save the day” with better service or monetary incentives.
Number 9. Curation
I’ve written in the past that Twitter is not necessarily most advantageous when used as a conversation platform. Embracing it as a broadcast channel is also beneficial when used strategically.
For example, Google maintains over 2 million followers, but only follows 230. It employs a strategy that I refer to as a “curation” feed. It compiles links to content and company posts elsewhere and aggregates them into one channel. I recommend that companies use this for information collected from customers and influencers, as well in order to truly curate the best, most helpful content from around the Web while building good will in the process.
However, Twitter accounts can also create and portray a persona around an social objects. For example Albion’s Oven, a bakery in London, notifies followers when fresh croissants are ready.
Number 10. Information Networks
Unlike a curated network that keeps followers in sync with trends, services, and solutions, Information Networks can serve up helpful alerts and notices to help followers avert problems, change plans, and also pursue new opportunities.
The Michigan Department of Transportation uses Facebook and Twitter to alert friends and followers of traffic and road closures. Oakland County Parks uses Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about events and news and also conducts polls to improve local programs and services.
In business, customers could also benefit from updates and alerts that they might not have otherwise have encountered on their own.
Number 11. Dedicated and Branded Channels
On Twitter, Ford Motor uses distinct accounts for sharing information about specific models and products. For example, @forddrivegreen focuses on sustainability, whereas @fordmustang, well, you guessed it, shares content related to the Mustang.
Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford, recognizes that social media reveals the people who formerly comprised the audience: “We give customers a choice as to how they want to consume information.”
Whole Foods maintains independent channels, as well, to better serve customers. For example, the healthy foods retailer channels specific information and updates for wine and beer, cheese, and recipes.
Number 12. Mobile and Geo Location Marketing
Local businesses are using social tools to identify customers within the area to attract new business and also extend the online interaction into a full-blown community in the real world. Because I was there when this story was just about to unfold, I will reference my good friend Mike Prasad and the great work he’s done for Kogi, a mobile force of Korean BBQ taco trucks @kogiBBQ.
One night in Hollywood, Mike and I were talking about getting a late night snack. He told me about the company he was working with and how if we sent a tweet out requesting their presence, there was a good chance that they’d stop by the neighborhood to serve us dinner. Thirty minutes later, Kogi was indeed outside our hotel and a group of about 25 to 30 people immediately began proclaiming their appreciation for on Twitter.
Prasad echoes this sentiment and is helping to lead the way: “We try to foster a culture by interaction with the people around us. Now, Kogi isn’t about getting a taco, it’s about having an experience.”
Expect to see this trend continue in mobile social networks dedicated to locale and accessible via mobile phones.
Number 13. Hosted Conversations That Generate Traffic and Referrers
Social Media Dashboards are the future of hosted and aggregated conversations. As we’re observing, those sites that integrate Twitter chat functionality can not only thread conversations in one place for easy following, but also send out tweets in the Twitter stream for all followers to see, and hopefully feel compelled or curious to join, as well.
During the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, Turner Broadcasting integrated Twitter into TNT.com with the help of Gigya. Visitors could log into the site with their Twitter ID and respond directly in the hosted timeline. As such, their tweets not only appeared on TNT.com but also in Twitter, attracting more fans into the site.
Number 14. User-Generated Change
As we’ve seen and will continue to see, in social media tiny online social revolutions can manifest and ultimately ignite change.
Historically, the 2009 Iran Election will serve as an inflection point for the rise of user-generated change. While the results of election itself weren’t altered, the Iran government was forced to respond.
Two services mentioned in the Forbes Top Twitter Tips article, Twitition and TinyPetition, are dedicated to organizing people on Twitter to call for change officially.
Number 15. Vendor Relationship Management
A form of relationship management introduced by Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Searls, Vendor Relationships Management (VRM) flips the workflow of CRM (customer relationship management) from companies to customers.
Whereas people are relegated to faceless customers when e-mailing or calling into the service department, social media takes the power once held exclusively by the brand and injects balance.
UK-based Wiggly Wigglers, a marketer of farming and gardening supplies, was surprised to learn that British Telecom overcharged the company by $10,000. After five months of a stalemate and without any promise or hope of resolution, company owner Heather Gorringe took her story to the Twitterverse. Within 30 minutes, @BTCare responded with help and two days later, the bill was adjusted.
Number 16. Ideation
As we’ve witnessed with My Starbucks Idea (http://mystarbucksidea. force.com) and Dell’s IdeaStorm (www.ideastorm.com), crowdsourcing ideas can not only be an excellent source for innovation, but also an effective means for establishing goodwill.
IBM uses Twitter to test concepts and solicit feedback and ideas through @ibmresearch.
Number 17. Employee Recruitment
Recruiters and hiring managers are turning to Twitter to seek referrals and applicants for open positions. Twitter and social networks can spark a social effect that galvanizes community support and action. Not only can companies save a significant amount of money on listing and referral fees using traditional outlets and resources, they essentially create a presence through the practice of “unmarketing” itself through the process of seeking qualified candidates.
Number 18. Events
Organizing and promoting events are natural applications for Twitter. Tweetups transcend online relationships and become real-world connections.
Using Coffee Groundz as an example again, the Houston-based business regularly organizes tweetups to draw hundreds of customers into the store for each event.
Number 19. Research and Intelligence
The Social Web is a real-time collective and assembly of valuable information that mostly goes unnoticed. A few existing services are dedicated to applying a magnifying lens into the dialogue that leads to insight, direction, creativity, and inventiveness.
For example, celebrity.peoplebrowsr.com provides real-time insight into the most actively discussed celebrities on Twitter at any moment in time, while also revealing the sentiment that is most associated with each. If you notice at the top, you can also view the latest on Airlines industry or stock market sentiment and associated tweets.
StockTwits provides an open, community-powered idea and information service for investments. Users can listen to traders and investors, or contribute to the conversation. The service leverages Twitter as a content production platform and transforms tweets into financial related data structured by stock, user, and reputation.
Number 20. Fund Raising
This is a big opportunity and one that will yield amazing stories on how people are using Twitter and social media to raise money for charitable causes and capital for projects and companies. It’s the art of spurring contributions through information and education, not solicitation.
When it comes to social media for Social Good, we don’t have to look much further than anything Beth Kanter touches or spotlights. She’s one of the most influential people in using social media for raising awareness, support and money for causes. One of the projects that she remains dedicated to is helping orphans in Cambodia and, to date, it has raised over $200,000. She has also used Twitter, Widgets, and other social networks to help many other organizations and causes. In one live demonstration, which still leaves me in awe, she raised over $2,500 to send a young Cambodian woman to college while she was on stage at Gnomedex in Seattle.
Number 21. Words of Wisdom
As reiterated throughout these top tips, listening and responding is helpful and efficacious in luring new customers, empowering advocacy, and instilling loyalty.
Serving as a resource for your community or industry positions, proactively responding to online users who are posing questions, and assisting those who are seeking advice and guidance can garner trust, respect, and camaraderie for you and the causes you espouse.
There are measurable and also incalculable benefits to dedicating resources to lead individuals and organizations to resolution.
For example, @homedepot monitors dialogue related to the company, but also those individuals who are tackling home projects and seeking tips and instructions.
BestBuy’s @Twelpforce has authorized its entire staff of trained employees to seek out discussions related to consumer electronics, home theaters, gaming, music, appliances, and technology, and to answer questions, whether or not they’re directly tied to the BestBuy brand.
Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:
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