SURF THIS: Been avoiding Twitter? Time to reconsider

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Jim Cota

“Do you tweet?” More and more—at networking events, cocktail parties and even backyard barbecues—this question is popping up. To the uninitiated, it likely sounds a little strange. But if you’re among them, don’t worry. In a few minutes, you’ll not only understand the question, but you’ll know why the answer for you (and your business) needs to be, “Yes, I do.”

Tweeting is what users of the free online service Twitter (twitter.com) do. Twitter is a social network created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey. The idea started in a day-long brainstorming session in an attempt to break out of a creative slump. The original thought was that an individual could communicate with a small group by sending a short text message. In fact, it’s very similar to text messaging, except that you send your update to everyone who is “following” you. (Think broadcasting on a narrow scale, or narrowcasting.) So instead of sending a text message to just one person, it would automatically be delivered to everyone in your group.

In its purest form, it’s simply a very short blog. Each post is limited to 140 characters (including punctuation and spacing), so they’re necessarily short and sweet. Originally intended to answer the question, “What are you doing?,” Twitter usage has morphed into a wide collective of ongoing conversations, a research tool, a news delivery platform, a social network, and, of course, a marketing tool. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this character limitation has also given rise to an inelegant shorthand that may allow you to cram more content into your 140 characters at the expense of legibility. If not careful, people begin to come off sounding like a 12-year-old with grammatical issues. Still, when used correctly, Twitter can be valuable. Before you lose interest, let me illustrate how it can be useful.

Early in 2008, Comcast Customer Service Manager Frank Eliason decided to begin using Twitter to respond directly to customers. Anyone who had ever tried to contact the company to resolve a problem would immediately understand why this was a.) important, and b.) unheard of. At the time, Comcast had a reputation for poor customer service, and angry customers were considered the norm.

So Frank quietly began reaching out to people, via Twitter, when he found they were complaining about Comcast. The result was dramatic, and fairly immediate: customer satisfaction began rising, and now people began turning to Twitter (and Frank) first to cut through the red tape. With more than 25,000 following Frank’s missives, and with each of his responses posted in a very public forum, he’s single-handedly changing the perception of the Comcast brand and, at times, turning customers into brand evangelists. He recently returned from being out of the office (and away from Twitter) for a day to find that customers were answering questions for him in his absence.

For your business, Twitter may not turn your customers into evangelists, but it might help you connect in real time with them in a way that was previously impossible. For example, the search function allows you to see any posts that are made that reference your company or product. It’s like having instant business intelligence and market research at your fingertips. Since the posts are generally public, you can read and respond to anything that needs your attention.

The conversational nature of Twitter allows you to personify your company or brand, meaning you can address someone’s concerns or questions like a real person, instead of a nameless, faceless organization. The key is authenticity. There’s really no point in blindly “broadcasting” self-aggrandizing tidbits about your company; you’ll find much better results (and customer satisfaction) by getting involved in ongoing conversations and offering valued insight.

Why Twitter and not something like Facebook? Because a large number of Twitter readers do so from their phones and other handheld devices.

These are really the two primary ways to use Twitter—personally and professionally—and both of them require one main ingredient: authenticity. To be truly effective, you need to join the conversation and bring your unique voice. The point isn’t to garner the most followers or have the most updates; the point is to build better relationships. And no one wants to build a relationship with a phony.

So, will you tweet? You might find it’s the fastest, easiest way to have a direct impact on your brand and customer satisfaction.

You can find me at: www.twitter.com/jimcota. And IBJ also offers a wide range of Twitter activity, including IBJNews, IBJHealthcare, IBJDining, IBJArts, and Propertylines. Sign up for any or all to see what you’re missing.•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.