Twitter as a Marketing Tool

If you believe the hype, you may think that Twitter is useful for little more than hearing the inane comments of celebrities or finding out what your nephew had for dinner last night. But there’s much more to it than that. Canny companies are ramping up their use of the micro-blogging service to engage with customers, keep an eye on trends, monitor competition and test out new product concepts.

For product marketers, Twitter provides a great opportunity to connect, share and gain feedback. In this rant, we present five ways in which it can be used effectively:

  1. Testing out product concepts: Whether your product is a tangible good like a new MP3 player, or you offer services such as tax and accountancy, Twitter is a great way to test out new concepts. Why should you do this? Because your followers are the closest things to fans that a company can have. These are individuals and organisations that have voluntarily chosen to know more about you and your business. Given the opportunity, many would gladly give you feedback on your new product concepts. Phil & Ted’s, makers of prams and other parenting equipment use their Twitter site to share new product concepts, publish independent reviews and test out new ideas. Think about your portfolio and how valuable customer feedback would be at all stages of development. Twitter feedback may not provide you with as detailed or accurate information as focus groups, but given it costs you nothing, it’s a great way to test the water.
  2. Keeping abreast of customer sentiment: In this brave new web 2.0 world, consumers are speaking their minds directly to anyone who will listen and increasingly they use Twitter as the medium. The short message length and easy access from mobiles means people share their comments quickly, often during or immediately after the purchase of a product or service. It’s been widely speculated that the movie Bruno suffered its 39% opening weekend drop at the Box Office when millions of viewers around the world walked out after the credits and posted their dissatisfaction on twitter. Whilst this open dialogue may seem scary to a product marketer, it should be seen as an opportunity to gather insight and feedback from your customers directly. By monitoring trending topics and searching for discussions about your product or service you’ll be better equipped to proactively handle complaints and realise opportunities.
  3. Informing the market: If your organisation has lots of news such as product releases, enhancements and special offers then Twitter is a cost-effective way for you to share your message with the masses. Dick Smith regularly posts its latest promotions and offers on its Twitter site, driving traffic to their website and into their stores. If you have press releases to distribute or microsites to point people to, Twitter provides a way for you to get some Search Engine love – just include a link to your release in your Twitter post. You can even integrate with your existing analytics tools to track the success of the campaign. Make sure that you ‘Tweet with restraint’ – only post news that is relevant to your customers and consistent with your other messaging.
  4. Nurturing a community: Twitter helps to give your product or business a personality and ensures you stay connected with your customers as they themselves become increasingly web savvy. Even a light amount of Twitter activity will ensure you stay engaged in the conversations happening about your business online. Qantas has built up a community of frequent travellers by providing information and tips about key destinations including sight-seeing, restaurants and hotel recommendations. Set yourself apart from your competitors by adding value to your customers and helping them connect and learn from each other.
  5. Supporting customers: As consumers, we’ve all had to spend ten or twenty minutes waiting on the line to speak to a call centre agent to find out what’s happened to our service or why our widget stopped working. Often, the enquiry is handled quickly but because the wait was so long, customers are unlikely to have enjoyed the experience. To provide an alternative way of supporting customers, many companies are using Twitter to share key service information and to handle basic complaints or escalations. Optus uses Twitter to keep customers informed of network outages and impacts whilst also inviting anyone with issues to contact their customer support team. Think through some basic service issues your business must deal with – could any be handled quicker – and more cost effectively – on Twitter?

Every day there are new cases and examples of businesses using Twitter to engage, share and connect with their customers. Have we missed any applications? Do you have any examples from your own experience that you could share?

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