Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Now, people are turning to Twitter as an effective way to reach out to businesses, too. From local stores to big brands, and from brick-and-mortar to internet-based or service sector, people are finding great value in the connections they make with businesses on Twitter.
When people working in the Empire State Building twittered that they were craving ice cream delivery, New York local chain Tasti D Lite was there to listen and meet their need. When electronics buyers look for good deals, the Dell Outlet Twitter account helps them save money with exclusive coupons. When Houston’s coffee drinkers decide where to get their daily dose, many choose Coffee Groundz, which lets them order via Twitter. Read on to learn what Twitter is and to get detailed examples of how companies are using it. On these pages, we’ll also reveal how Twitter can help your business right now.
Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.
So how does it work?
A brief history of Twitter
Initially inspired by the concept of an ‘away-message’ merged with the freedom and mobility of SMS, Twitter began as an experiment in 2006. When value as an instant communication network during shared events like earthquakes, conferences, and festivals emerged, Twitter began to grow—Twitter, Inc. was founded in 2007. Today, Twitter is a privately funded company based in San Francisco, CA.
Twitter lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters, or the very length of this sentence, including all punctuation and spaces. The messages are public and you decide what sort of messages you want to receive—Twitter being a recipient driven information network. In addition, you can send and receive Twitter messages, or tweets, equally well from your desktop or your mobile phone.
When you combine messages that are quick to write, easy to read, public, controlled by the recipient and exchangeable anywhere, you’ve got a powerful, real-time way to communicate. And real-time communication is turning out to be ground-breaking for users and businesses alike.
Tip: To listen in on the conversations happening right now, search Twitter for the name of your company, product or brand. If you have a Twitter account already, your home page has a handy search box on the right side. If you don’t yet have an account, try typing in the box below or go to search.twitter.com.
So how do businesses use Twitter?
What’s up with the name?
Twittering is the sound birds make when they communicate with each other—an apt description of the conversations here. As it turns out, because Twitter provides people with real-time public information, it also helps groups of people mimic the effortless way a flock of birds move in unison. On these pages, we’ll show you a few examples of that powerful Twitter characteristic.
Twitter connects you to your customers right now, in a way that was never before possible. For example, let’s say you work for a custom bike company. If you run a search for your brand, you may find people posting messages about how happy they are riding your bikes in the French Alps—giving you a chance to share tips about cyclist-friendly cafes along their route.
Others may post minor equipment complaints or desired features that they would never bother to contact you about—providing you with invaluable customer feedback that you can respond to right away or use for future planning. Still others may twitter about serious problems with your bikes—letting you offer customer service that can turn around a bad situation.
You don’t have to run a bike shop or a relatively small company to get good stuff out of Twitter. Businesses of all kinds, including major brands, increasingly find that listening and engaging on the service leads to happier customers, passionate advocates, key product improvements and, in many cases, more sales.
A key benefit
One of Twitter’s key benefits is that it gives you the chance to communicate casually with customers on their terms, creating friendly relationships along the way—tough for corporations to do in most other mediums.
But Twitter isn’t just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers. Plus, the platform lends itself to integration with your existing communication channels and strategies. In combination, those factors can make Twitter a critical piece of your company’s bigger digital footprint.
For instance, let’s say you run a big retail website. In addition to learning more about what your customers want, you can provide exclusive Twitter coupon codes, link to key posts on your blog, share tips for shopping online, and announce specials at store locations. And you can take things a step further by occasionally posting messages about fun, quirky events at your HQ, giving others a small but valuable connection with the people in your company.
Why 140 characters?
SMS (i.e., texting on your phone) limits each message to 160 characters. Twitter takes that limit and reserves 20 characters for your username, leaving you 140 characters to play with. That’s how it started and we’ve stuck with it!
Tip: Twitter can be “ground-breaking” for businesses—a big claim. We truly believe it because we’ve seen lots of examples, many of which we share here. But if you’re new to Twitter and still wondering what all the fuss is about, hang around the site (or a good third-party client) for a week or two and give it a few minutes a day. Twitter almost always delivers “Aha!” moments for people, but it can take some getting used to before you have your moment of enlightenment.