Tweet your way to marketing success
Social networking giant Twitter has grown from an internet gimmick into a full-blown marketing tool. For SMEs, being able to spread your message and sell to millions of people with no cash required is an offer too good to refuse.
Twitter may be known as a single website, but really operates as millions of public conversations between users all around the world. Businesses have an incredible opportunity to tell customers and potential customers about their products and services and receive honest feedback.
Shayne Tilley, marketing director for sitepoint.com, says it's time to stop thinking about creating a Twitter account and start figuring out your strategy.
"We realised we were behind the game in establishing a Twitter presence, so we ran a campaign to give free eBooks to anyone who signed up to follow our feed. That was a massive success, and really kick started our Twitter account. Businesses really need to look at Twitter to expand their market."
Businesses of all sizes around the world are using Twitter in new and creative ways. Here are 15 examples of how businesses have made Twitter a key part of their sales and marketing efforts.
Capitalising on the mistakes of others
An Australian software company recently used Twitter to scout for new customers after a rival experienced a service outage - and it used SmartCompany's account to do so.
After a series of SmartCompany stories on outages at web hosting provider WebCentral, Sydney-based Cleartext sent out a tweet offering a 20% discount on its services to former WebCentral customers who were willing to switch their service.
Chief executive David Banes said the company uses social media to prospect for new clients.
"I'm sort of pushing the boundaries with our social networking to see where people start pushing back."
"You can respond to issues quickly with this method, and spot PR or sales opportunities. If you're waiting for Google to index your page it takes a couple of hours and you might miss the opportunity. We've got business already using this mechanism and we've got leads and one conversion in the last month."
Drinking to Twitter success
A British online wine retailer recently decided to create a campaign that combines two things entrepreneurs love most: Web 2.0 and wine. Nakedwines.com was hungry for more products from Australia, so it teamed up with AusTrade to establish the first wine tasting auction through Twitter.
Several customers took part in the tasting, which even provided access to computers for discussions with the wine makers via the social networking service.
The night started with 90 different wines, which was then whittled down to just 15 finalists. The makers of those 15 wines not only exposed themselves to a new market, but even made thousands of dollars.
Austrade says winemaker Dave Johnson from Western Australia says he achieved great success through the auction. "I got woken up by a call at 3.30am, I was online by 4am and by 5am I had an order for $12,000," Johnson says.
Tweeted discounts add up to sales
Getting your message out on Twitter and handling complaints is one thing, but a division of computer manufacturer Dell found that selling to your online followers is another topic entirely.
The company was surprised when it first set up its account and gained some followers, according to Stefanie Nelson, manager of demand generation at Dell Outlet.
"They wanted to ask questions. They wanted to share their experiences, good and bad," Nelson told Twitter. "We realised that people were really interested in talking with us."
The company began to offer coupons through its Twitter feed, which have not only become incredibly popular but have contributed $US3 million to the company's revenue.
Nelson said the key is simply talking to the followers you have at your disposal and giving them relevant information. "When we respond to people on Twitter, they get really excited, and we gain advocates."
Twitter's travelling canteen
A Los Angeles mobile food business created a cult following after starting a policy whereby it announced its current location exclusively through its Twitter feed.
The business, "Kogi Korean BBQ", operates two trucks within the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Customers wanting to purchase food must first check the Twitter feed, and then hurry to the truck's location.
The LA Times affectionately labelled the company as "a burgeoning cyber-hippie movement affectionately referred to as ‘Kogi Kulture'". The service has successfully tapped into the young, 20-something user base on Twitter, with queues for the trucks sometimes hundreds of people long.
Coolhaus, a mobile ice-cream business also in the LA area, has adopted the same technique with similar success.
Tweeting for a cause
During the tragic Victorian bushfires in February, Australian entrepreneur Mark Harbottle used Twitter to help raise money for victims who had lost their homes, or even friends and family.
Harbottle, who runs Sitepoint.com and online marketplace 99Designs, says he decided to donate about $5,000 on behalf of his business, but figured he could do more by using the site's massive exposure on Twitter. (The site has over 22,000 followers).
The company ran a sale for three days, selling five eBooks for the price of one at $US30. The sale was an astonishing success and 16 hours after it was announced the campaign had raised $75,000.
"It doesn't cost us to deliver the books, so the cost was staff time to put the offer together...I just can't believe how you can reach so many people in such a short amount of time," Harbottle says.
Getting out the vote
While governments are often slow to jump onto the Web 2.0 bandwagon, they seem to have changed that trend with Twitter. Politicians around the world now have accounts, with some even personally updating their feeds instead of relying on staff.
The use of Twitter by public servants was led by US President Barack Obama, who used Twitter throughout his 2008 campaign. His massive youth following is a testament to his presence on the site, including tweets that would invite users to rallies in their hometowns.
But the use of Twitter in government has expanded beyond the United States' borders. Both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull operate Twitter accounts, while the British Government has even developed a 20-page document for its departments on how to use the social networking service.
Tweeting your way to thought leadership
Shayne Tilley says Problogger, an online blogging "guru", was one of the first Australians to start using Twitter in interesting ways and businesses should follow his lead.
"Problogger used a live streaming interview, during which he had people asking him questions via Twitter. They would come up in his live screen and he would answer them live on line, which was pretty good and innovative."
Tilley says businesses should take notice of the stunt as a good example of instant communication with followers, who will appreciate a quick response.