Tata Sky Active Services new mascot is a happy puppet that helps viewers to teach, learn, cook, shop and have fun, through Tata Sky's interactive services. When the company wanted to let the puppet mingle with the public, and make its presence felt beyond the television, its media firm decided to launch him on Twitter, which they felt was the best way to interact in real-time with a growing audience in India! Plus, they felt that creating a Twitter presence for Active would result in long-lasting benefits, beyond the campaign period itself. But, how would people know that Active could talk?
The company set up a banner ad on MSN India, through which users could directly engage in a Twitter interaction with Active. They even made it possible for those without a Twitter account to tweet with Active without registering on the site. In a six-hour period, Active received three tweets per minute and interacted with as many users as was possible - so there were more than 1500 tweets exchanged overall! Total impressions of the banner crossed 1.3 million, and Tata Sky's landing page (which could be accessed through the banner) received more than 15,000 views! The company is planning to give Active a permanent social media presence, so he can continue interacting and building business in a natural, matter-of-fact way.
When PepsiCo managers decided to go online to connect with their customers, they found that Twitter was much more helpful than calls on their toll-free number, because the tweeters seemed to share more insights-rather than talk just about the products, they openly shared views on marketing methods, articles they read in the media, and even the promotional offers by the company. Levi's went a step ahead and recruited a college graduate to be Levi's Guy, the company's Twitter presence. Being a born tweeter, he immediately built a rapport with the customer base. He tweets about photo shoots, product launch parties, cool Levi's jean sightings and new collaborations. He provides fans with Levi's product giveaways and free gift cards, invites and tickets to exclusive events. In short, he tries to make Levi's as familiar as the guy next door!
When a coffee house started allowing customers to place their orders via Twitter, their business grew multi-fold. Every time a Dell outlet noticed a customer tweeting about plans to buy a new laptop, it would deliver a special discount coupon to that tweeter, increasing the chances of her deciding on a Dell! When a bakery found tweets from a college group about their plans for a get-together, they immediately sent them their menu and latest offers, grabbing their order within an hour. When an apparel store found a dad-to-be tweeting about how well a particular brand's apparel fitted his wife all through her pregnancy, they found an all-new marketing angle!
It is obvious is that Twitter is more than a teenage chat room. It is a tool that businesses can use to connect with their customer-base in an unobtrusive way. They can not only talk to the business, but also listen to what the customers need and meet those requirements before anybody else does. Let us see how.
Keep reading tweets...James Cameron, in one of his pre-Avatar interviews, had mentioned that it would be difficult to sum up any concept worth discussing in so little a number of words. Doug Dvorak, CEO of Digital Marketing Group, says that is the hesitation that most businessmen have. That is, how can one have a meaningful conversation in 140 characters (or less), which is Twitter's word limit per post?
"Isn't tweeting a fad used only by teenagers? Not according to comScore, which says that Twitter now has 20 million users, up from 2 million users a year back. That is a 100 per cent growth in a year! You may have read successful case studies of airlines and media companies using Twitter to their benefit. But, how can a small business use Twitter to its advantage," Dvorak asks. He also explains how following and posting on Twitter can help your business.
First let us consider why you have to follow Twitter feeds, and read what your potential customer base tweets about. "Well to answer that, let us take a step back and ask this question. What is it that your potential customers want? If I put myself in my customer's shoes, the one thing that really bugs me is that if I have any problem, I have to call or email a business. Some of the new age companies also provide customer chat support. But then, it usually takes time to explain the problem, only to be told that I have to talk to someone in a different department. And then, many times I am sent back and forth between departments. As a customer, I would love it if I just have to talk about my problem and someone (the right person) can come and solve my problem themselves. That is exactly how Twitter can help a customer. If they have a grievance, they can post about it. The onus then shifts on you as a businessman to try and solve your customer's problem. If you are able to do that, not only do you help your customer, but you differentiate your business from others."
Incidentally, Twitter also has a location feature, which you can use to see what the users close to your location are posting on their Twitter accounts. You can search for people trying to buy something near your business location and help them out. Not only can you identify such leads to improve your sales, but you could also read about what customers like or dislike about your brand (so you can change that), identify ideas for new products or services, and more.
...and keep tweetingTweeting is as helpful as following others' Twitter feeds. For one, it gives your business a human touch, and conveys your ideas to the public. It makes you and your business familiar to the typical customers of your company. It engages your customers in meaningful conversation, keeps them up-to-date about your business, and enables them to reflect on your ideas and empathize with you.
For example, if you sell trendy college bags, you would probably write about latest fashions, international designs, what kind of bag to sport with what dress, what kind of bags today's college-goers prefer, and in between also write about what your company is making, the offers you are running at the moment, non-confidential business plans and activities (for e.g., what is happening during a road show), and so on.
That is, you need to tweet about things that will interest your customer so that they will subscribe to your feed and hang on your every word!
Search engines are also indexing twitter feeds. So, the more you tweet, the easier it is for people to find your business while searching for something on Google.
"Businessmen can post thoughts, which they think their customers would like to know. It is about being open and honest. They can create a blog post about how to buy a product or service in their industry, and then tweet the link to such blog posts. They can provide customer service on their Twitter account. If they have enough followers, they can do spot customer surveys. Additionally they can, sometimes, run offers for their Twitter users. They can also run quizzes or contests where they can give away prizes. The possibilities are endless," enumerates Dvorak.
In short, Twitter works for businesses; and you know it now from the examples mentioned. But, you need to go about it the right way. Start by creating a Twitter account and first quietly observing the kind of activity that goes on there; then start with small and safe tweets, and then go on to mingle with your peers and customers. Always remember to listen a lot.
Here are some golden mantras that will help you to use Twitter as a ticket to business success!
- Focus on service and not sales pitches. While Twitter will ultimately improve sales, that should not be the only motive behind tweeting. As a businessman, you need to broaden your horizon, and understand that customers care more about 'service' than a 'sales pitch'. "Let us take the example of Domino's Pizza. What is the first thing you remember about it? I have asked this question to many people and the answer I get is: "30 minutes or its FREE". If you think about it, Domino's Pizza has built their whole marketing scheme around their fast and superior delivery. So, the whole marketing campaign revolves around their service. And, customers care more about service than sales pitches," explains Dvorak.
Once businessmen can wrap their head around the idea that Twitter can help them provide superior customer service (although we still need to have many more users on Twitter - to justify Twitter as a complete customer service tool), they can then start thinking of what else they can do.
- Build relationships If you are into B2B, then you already know that most B2B selling is relationship-based selling. People will buy from you if they like you. You cannot force anyone to like you. But, you can start posting your thoughts online on Twitter. So people who follow you or your business know that you are an actual human being. If you are posting genuine thoughts and initiating interesting conversations, people will start respecting you and liking you. This can no doubt help your business.
Engagement is a key prerequisite for building long-term relationships. You need to engage your followers in meaningful conversations, and not boss over them. Doug Dvorak, who is co-authoring Sales 3.0 - The New Contact Sport; How To Use And Leverage Social Media Marketing For Small Business Sales Success, explains: "Engagement, not control, is a key ingredient to success on social media sites like Twitter. Quite often, small business owners are control freaks. It might be one of the reasons for the success of their businesses. But it's essential to remember that while using Twitter, not to try and always be in control of the conversation. The rules of engagement are quite the same as any face-to-face interaction. When a potential customer talks with you, would you listen to him or would you toot your own horn? Never make the mistake of thinking that you can hold sway over social media conversations."
- Do more than just talking and listening... Also act on the information gathered! If you find a potential customer, reach out to him. If you hear a few people say they did not like your new promotional scheme, find out what and try to change it. "Make it a point to learn from every engagement and use it to improve your business," says Dvorak.
Plus, when you do something based on customer feedback, talk about it on Twitter. This will let your customers (and potential customers) know that you care about their opinions.
- Never make blatant marketing statements You need to say so many interesting things every day that will make the customers subscribe to your Twitter feed and hang on to every word you say. If all you do through your Twitter account is offer information about your products and services, and what you do, customers would just stop following it.
"Start conversations on problems your customers face or provide tips on how to buy a product or service in your industry, what to look out for, etc. These should be honest opinions and not promotional messages. Don't treat Twitter like a one way megaphone, which you use to bombard your users with blatant promotional messages," warns Dvorak.
"Tweet links to whitepapers and thought leadership articles that take people back to your website," offers Alok Pant, senior vice president - Marketing & Strategic Alliances, Intelligroup. This not only engages the user with interesting information, but also draws traffic to your website.
- Character and discretion matters, even for your online avatar. The three essential ingredients of a successful social media interaction are honesty, transparency and authenticity. These characteristics should be reflected in all your online interactions. In case you decide to put somebody else in charge of your company's Twitter account, make sure they represent these qualities too.
Next to character, one needs to be tactful and discretionary, when conversing on Twitter. Never let loose any confidential information about your business, and then repent about it-news spreads like wildfire on the Web. So, be extra careful.
"Do not tweet anything that is even remotely inappropriate, be aware of international relations, and do not tweet on politics or religion," adds Pant.
Keep these five points in mind before starting off with your tweeting adventures. But, always remember to first develop a broad social media strategy, and align your Twitter strategy to that, so that you do not just end up tweeting loosely about this and that, without it contributing in any way to your customer service or business goals.
A businessman himself, Dvorak signs off saying, "My experience tweeting has been mixed. I originally came to tweeting as a sceptic (you can say I agreed with James Cameron). But then I realised that small businesses cannot afford to be James Cameron. They have to be present where their potential customers are present. I definitely think there is potential in this medium. I consider the customer service and the ability to communicate and listen to potential customers (to improve your business) as great assets of Twitter. What I hate is the direct promotional messages that I receive from followers everyday."
What is Twitter?Twitter is a micro-blog platform. Assume that instead of large blog articles, you write small messages that are less than 140 characters (that would approximately be one long sentence or two small ones). These SMS-like messages can be posted through your mobile phone, or on the Web. Nowadays, most smart phones include Twitter applications, which make tweeting very easy.
So, what makes twitter posts or tweets different from SMS messages? Basically, Twitter is recipient-driven. The messages you post are automatically sent to all the people who choose to receive it, that is, all those who subscribe to your feed to follow you! Apart from that, they can also be read by anybody who browses the message pool on Twitter, or searches for keywords related to your posts.
Others can also reply to your tweets and continue the discussion. Similarly, you can also read the messages posted by others and reply to those, as well as subscribe to the message feeds of those you wish to follow closely.
Tweet, twitter, chip, chirp, birdie language!
What is this 'tweeting'? Sounds like a bird. Well, it is a verb cum noun from the new Web 2.0 lingo!
- To tweet is to post a message on Twitter.
- A tweet is a message on Twitter.
- To follow a person, is to subscribe to his Twitter account (or message feed) and read all the messages the person posts.
Best practices recommended by Twitter for businessmen
- Think about Twitter as a place to build relationships. Instead of approaching Twitter as a place to broadcast information about your company, think of it as a place to build relationships.
- Include in your bio and/or custom background, the names (or @usernames) of the people twittering from your company account. It is also a good idea to include additional contact information, like email addresses.
- Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products-and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service or thank people for praise.
- Use a casual, friendly tone in your messages.
- While you should not feel compelled to follow everyone who follows you, do respond to some questions or comments addressed to you.
- If you like a particular message, re-tweet it. People often appreciate the sharing and amplification of their ideas, so look to re-tweet cool stuff.
- Post links to articles and sites you think folks would find interesting-even if they are not your sites or about your company.
- Make sure your tweets provide some real value: Offer Twitter exclusive coupons or deals. Take people behind the scenes of your company. Post pictures from your offices, stores, warehouses, etc. Share sneak peeks of projects or events in development.
- Do not spam people. Twitter's following model means that you have to respect the interests and desires of other people here or they will un-follow you.
- Test the waters by sending just a few promos to start, and then continue only if people show interest.
- Understand the real-time nature of Twitter. Messages on Twitter are short, quick and able to reach people wherever they happen to be. Make use of that to keep in touch with your target audience.
- You can ask questions, float ideas and solicit feedback on Twitter-and expect pretty quick replies most of the time.
- If you have just launched a product, ask users what they think or search for real-time tweets from people talking about your product. You can also ask or search for feedback on new ad campaigns you have launched, stores you have opened or murky issues you have to handle.
- When people raise customer service issues on Twitter, they generally expect a quick reply-within a day, if not within a few hours, depending on the nature of your business. Keep an eye on your @mentions.
Is Twitter working for you?Nobody would like to invest time in anything that does not provide returns, especially when it is related to one's business. If you have taken to Twitter for purely business reasons-that is, to please your customers and build your business, you will probably want to look back after sometime and see how you have fared.
Here are some ways in which you can measure the effect of your tweeting...
- What does your gut feeling say? How is the interaction with your followers? Are you responding to most of the messages? Are you tweeting frequently?
- Have more people started talking about your company? Are most tweets about you positive? Or if they started out largely negative, are they becoming more positive now?
- Although the effect of Twitter is largely qualitative, it can be measured in a few ways. To do that, you first need to set yourself some targets before you start out... that is, define how you wish things to change for your business in three, six or twelve months after you start tweeting.
- When you offer deals via Twitter, use a unique coupon code so that you can find out how many people have taken up those offers.
- If you have an online presence, you can also set up a landing page for a promotion, so that you can track how many people have arrived there through Twitter, and how they acted further on reaching there. That is, did it materialise into a business deal?
- Use third-party tools to figure out how much traffic your websites are receiving from Twitter. Also use such tools to track click-throughs on any link you post in a tweet.
- Keep a tally of questions answered, customer problems resolved and positive exchanges held on Twitter. Do the percentages change over time?