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: www.dell.com/twitter.
- 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 ComparetheMarket.com which is in the deathly dull and highly competitive insurance quotes market.
The brand personality here is http://twitter.com/Aleksandr_orlov 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 http://twitter.com/comcastcares (10,000) followers
With a slightly different take B2B CRM company Salesforce.com post customer success stories http://twitter.com/successforce (800 followers)
Similar to Dell Ideastorm, Starbucks uses Twitter to ask customers about ideas and to highlight promotions: http://twitter.com/mystarbucksidea (1,800 followrs)
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 http://twitter.com/bbcbreaking (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 http://twitter.com/jowyang 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.