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How are businesses using Twitter?

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 25 Feb, 2009
Essential Essential topic

Update, June 2009 - see my review of O'Reilly Book on developing Twitter business strategy.

Everyone is familiar with the rapid growth in followers of celebrities such as @stephenfry and @britneyspears on Twitter. As the chart from Twitter Counter shows there has been an acceleration in adoption in 2009 has celebs have used offline media to drive their followers.


You may also have seen my post on the top digital marketers (consultants, publishers and agencies) to follow on Twitter - this shows how many digital marketers are learning from each other through Twitter.

But how are businesses using Twitter? And is Twitter worthwhile for all types of business? In this post I will review some examples of how companies from the UK and US are using Twitter in different categories of benefits.

How Dell use Twitter for different business applications

Before I look at different types of business applications, Kudos to Dell who have enthusiastically adopted Twitter AND integrated it into other Web 2.0 features such as Ideastorm customer feedback, blogs and videos through their Dell on Twitter page:

- Dell Outlet (Promotions) : 71,000 followers

- Direct to Dell (blog syndication) : 1,800 followers

Feeds are segmented by customer type: company / personal and country. Numbers of followers are small, but many are just syndicating from an existing RSS feed using Twitterfeed, so providing more customer choice.

Different types of company marketing applications of  Twitter

Using Twitter for branding

My favourite example of brand use of Twitter, which may be unfamiliar to US readers is the Comparethemeerkat - a brand campaign for which is in the deathly dull and highly competitive insurance quotes market.


The brand personality here is who has 5,000 followers, but more importantly is part of a great example of customer engagement which has seen the site double the number of daily visitors according to Google Trends.


Other brands on Twitter have had variable success. It seems it works best when there is a CEO brand personality such as @richardbranson (30,000 followers)

Customer service via Twitter

Comcast personalises this through the blog by presenting posts from Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care (10,000) followers

With a slightly different take B2B CRM company post customer success stories (800 followers)

Market research

Similar to Dell Ideastorm, Starbucks uses Twitter to ask customers about ideas and to highlight promotions: (1,800 followrs)

Event marketing

Event organisers are successfuly using Twitter to promote their events - e.g. @tfma_event , @UXlondon, @w2e (7,000 followers)

Retailer use of Twitter

Retailers have limited success with Twitter in turns of number of followers suggesting it is not worthwhile for most unless it is an alternative channel for customer service, customer feedback or discounted promotions.


Publishing is where Twitter excels, particularly for the latest as with (29,000 followers). The Twitter top 100 shows many news organizations such as CNN Breaking , The New York Times and The Telegraph within the Top 100 amongst the celebrities.

In online business publishing and analysis, particularly with a tech audience a Twitter feed with contributions from different analysts or journalists is definitely worthwhile as this listing of business/tech analysts shows. Forrester analyst has over 32,000 followers.

Conclusion - should our business be on Twitter

So is worth twittering for business? As always, the answer is "€œit depends"€. But the short answer is "probably not".

Certainly, if you have a popular blog, a publisher or a smaller business positioning yourself as innovative, I definitely recommend offering Twitter as an choice for your subscribers beyond email and RSS feeds.

Use Twitterfeed to automatically syndicate your blog postings, but don"€™t just push stories "€“ remember to elicit feedback and participate. Twitter is also useful for web startup companies and larger agencies to position their business.

The costs needn't be too high since you are repurposing or resyndicating content from feeds, but you will need to control staff costs since some will get distracted from their main job.

Otherwise, I believe Twitter won't have a dramatic incremental impact on your business in terms of building the brand, customer service or sales since most of the options that Twitter provides can be equally provided through the main site, email alerts or a blog. That's why most retailers have limited numbers of followers on their Twitter accounts - there are better options available for the customer.

But  if you want to give customers choice, reach brand advocates and journalists and so improve perception of the brand, Twitter is a good low-cost addition to your digital marketing communications.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site,, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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