Twitter for your Business
Business Applications of Microblogging
Like most online social networking applications, Twitter is a free application but the time and effort it takes to operate it effectively is not free. One Twitter adherent estimates that to maintain a presence on Twitter, you would have to visit Twitter for a minimum of 15 minutes a day and update posts at least twice a day. That could equate to about $35-$75/day, if you consider the average rate of a public relations professional’s billable time.
There are many legitimate business uses for Twitter, however:
- Public Relations. Major news organizations such as CNN, Fox News, CBS and the BBC have a presence on Twitter, and it is possible to tweet some journalists. Twitter can be used to direct people to links to press releases and blogs. Businesses from Oracle to rock bands are trying this approach.
- Lobbying. Yes, you can tweet the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
- Respond to Consumer Queries. H&R Block uses Twitter to respond to questions.
- Consumer promotions. Companies can use Twitter to announce new products, sales, or send coupons. The important consideration is to remain completely transparent — to represent the company as itself on Twitter and not as an alias persona. The market segment would be limited, at this point, to early adopters who use Twitter. Twitter fans tend to be Millennial generation users who are comfortable with high-tech applications and social networking (e.g., web developers).
- Market Research. Companies can use Twitter as a “mini-polling” mechanism to get instant feedback on new products, websites, promotions, etc. The effectiveness and reach for this type of feedback is limited since responses would be restricted to short quips from Twitter members who follow the company.
- Conference Feedback. Twitter has been used by conference attendees to network with each other and to provide instant feedback and questions to presenters.
- Informal business communications for internal use, such as staff announcements, upcoming events, and good news.
Business-Use Reason #1: To Forestall Brand-Jacking
One additional and very compelling reason for creating a business profile on Twitter is that it may forestall (or at least mitigate the consequences of) “brand-jacking.” This is the instance when someone claims to represent your company, posts a profile and logo, and tweets as if they were an official representative of your company. This phenomenon made national news last week when someone named “Janet” falsely represented herself as a spokesperson for Exxon, and started tweeting about company business. Exxon was caught unawares by the online conversation because they were not monitoring their brand mentions online (something which we all should be doing, using Twitter’s word tracking feature, Google Alerts, and other monitoring mechanisms), and it was brought to their attention by an outside analyst who had suspicions about “Janet’s” authenticity.
Lesson: Not everyone online is who they purport to be! Creating a robust online presence for your company can create confidence in your brand and can help avoid viral crises. Your online presence is an opportunity to communicate accurate news about your company, as well as desirable key messages.