To tweet or not tweet…

Business News - Local News

Friday, May 29, 2009

With Twitter, you can promote your business and brand in real time

Sacramento Business Journal – by Debi Hammond Contributing writer

Although Twitter might not be the best vehicle for Shakespearean prose, it’s fast becoming a marketing powerhouse.

Twitter is a social networking tool that answers the question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less.

Originally designed as a personal social networking tool for friends, family and co-workers, marketers and other business professionals recognized its potential and are now seizing it for everything from customer service and brand perception monitoring to promotion of new products and services.

Best of all, it’s all in real time.

Even the president of the United States (@BarackObama) was all a-Twitter during the campaign, as well as national news sources such as CNN (@cnn). Heck, even Oprah Winfrey (@oprah) “tweets.”

So, should you start tweeting? Well, consider these statistics.

According to, Twitter had 19.44 million unique visitors in April, up from 1.5 million in April 2008. Nielsen, however, recently reported that more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter members abandon the site after one month of use.

But don’t let that discourage you. There are still close to 20 million users on Twitter from which you can create your very own following. And, once you do, you can reach them with your message in real time.

Tell customers what you’re up to

So, how are companies using Twitter to promote their businesses? Here are just a few examples:

Zappos (@zappos): With more than 600,000 followers, Zappos chief executive officer Tony Hsieh understands the power of Twitter. He sells shoes online, and through Twitter, and has become a one-man customer service and marketing machine for the online shoe retailer.

Although some might find Twitter to be a bit impersonal, he uses it at Zappos for building more personal connections with both the company’s employees and customers. And given the fact that the company was featured on Fortune Magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list, the guy must be doing something right. He continues to foster brand and employee loyalty one tweet at a time.

• High-end food vendors: I know, as odd as it sounds, mobile food vendors are using Twitter to draw more customers. The drivers tweet via their cell phones to alert customers to their whereabouts and menu options.

That’s true in the case of Kogi BBQ, which is, according to the Associated Press, an almost cultishly popular Korean-Mexican style taco vendor in Los Angeles. According to Jane Goldman, editor-in-chief of CHOW Magazine, “the Kogi folks have shown themselves to be adept at turning those mini-missives into a hugely successful marketing machine.”

Comcast Cares (@comcastcares): Not known for their customer service acumen, Comcast was able to take a barrage of negative comments and stories in the blogosphere and, via Twitter, turn them into one of the most successful customer service case studies on the Web.

How might you use Twitter to promote your business? Depending on the type of business you’re in, here are a few ways you might capitalize on the craze:

• Restaurants: Tweet about your food and drink specials, events, new menu items, etc. Chefs can tweet about what they’re picking up from the farmers market and the sommelier can tweet about the new Bordeaux she just added to the wine list.

• Retailers: As a retailer, what you want is traffic, and Twitter can help you get it. Tweet about your new arrivals, sales, specials, discounts and exclusive lines.

• Grocers: From fresh strawberries to succulent salmon, tweet about seasonal specials and sales. Given the real-time nature of Twitter, during hot summer months you can tweet about cold concoctions to satisfy one’s thirst. This list could go on and on.

• Theaters/concert venues: Let people know there are still seats available at a discounted price. Tweet about the arrival of a celebrity. With great movies and music, the topics are endless.

• Marketers: Yes, I tweet, along with many of my peers. At our agency, we use it to communicate with editors, writers and reporters, as well as colleagues, clients and other followers.

To borrow a line from Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage. …” Isn’t it time you started tweeting from it?

So grab a twitter handle (that’s the name you’ll go by following the @ symbol) and get to tweeting. Feel free to follow me at @DebiHammond or

Debi Hammond is president and chief executive officer of Sacramento-based Merlot Marketing Inc. Reach her at
All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.

1 Comment
  1. Glenn Mandelkern
    June 14, 2009

    That's really good that you've listed several ideas and possibilities for using Twitter with goals in mind, from Customer Service to Promotions.

    It's also interesting to note the rate of people abandoning their Twitter account is as high as 60%. This happens a lot with technology, when we expect just the machine to work its magic.

    Whether we're talking a quick lead via Twitter or getting customers to notice our products, the one thing missing from many forms of presenting is the whole concept of "Purpose." If you don't know why you're doing something, you can't very well drive and expect meaningful results. Conversely, a Twitter account can be deliberately used for branding. (Twitter the company could itself use some rebranding besides getting portrayed as an updating mechanism to let others know you tripped, spilled your latte and have to get another.)

    One communicator who speaks a lot about the need for Purpose and Point of View in presentations is Bert Decker of San Francisco. He's shown people for years how to create messages that cause others to take action. He's now exploring how to do that effectively with Twitter,

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