Tag Archives: Twitter

5 Reasons I Won’t Follow You On Twitter

Yes, I actually look at every follow request. I only have 1000+ followers and get maybe 10 requests a day–no complaints!–so I can take a moment to check them out. Unfortunately, the latest spam trend is killing me, but there is wheat mixed in with the chaff and I discovered a quick way to separate the spam from the real people.

Here’s five ways to make sure I won’t follow you and know you are Twitter spam: Continue reading

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Answering Why Businesses Should Blog

Earlier this morning I spoke about social media at a small networking group meeting. The question of why to blog came up.

In this case the questioner had employees tracking billable hours and he was not interested in losing billable hours to blogging or other social media activities. We quickly worked through a couple of scenarios that might meet his needs using current staff and then looked at what he could do through outsourcing or adding overhead. He immediately understood the idea of his company becoming a thought leader in his business through blogging and that his employees would showcase their acquired knowledge to customers and prospects.

What I failed to point out at the time, and covered in a subsequent email, was the added benefit that his blogging employees were also sharpening their relationship selling skills by applying conscious effort in writing about their professional expertise. A tweet in my Twitter stream reminded me of this sharpening effect when the tweeter linked to this 1:37 YouTube segment of Seth Godin and Tom Peters discussing the core value of blogging.

Listen near the end of the clip where Tom Peters says, “No single thing in the last 15 years, professionally, has been more important to my life than blogging. It [blogging] has changed my life, it has changed my perspective, it has changed my intellectual outlook….it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude I’ve ever had.”

This video is now in my favorites and I’ve added the quote to my slides for presentations. Maybe the best part about this is that it also proved the value of the Twitter stream and the serendipity that comes with checking the stream instead of always having completely narrow focus.

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Five Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Twitter

Small business marketing can be tricky, it needs to reach your customers quickly and easily without costing an arm and a leg. Twitter, no matter what the buzz you’ve heard, is a great communication tool that can help you with marketing and sales. Here’s why:

1. Most business is small business.
More than 99% of business in the U.S. is small business, defined by the SBA as under 500 employees (more staggering, the percentage is actually 99.7%). But 500 employees is a really large business in most of our eyes, so a more important number for this discussion is that over 98% of businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 100 employees. Mike Clough, a serial entrepreneur and SCORE consultant, has a very readable blog post that helps parse the dense SBA figures (and you might want to read Mike’s blog on a regular basis).

Why are these numbers important? They show that if Twitter can be used in business, and I’ll write more later on businesses using Twitter, then the overwhelming majority of businesses using Twitter will be small businesses.

2. Your customers are using Twitter.
And more will begin using it this week. According to Nielsen, Twitter grew 1382% between February 2008 and February 2009, rapidly expanding from less than a half-million to over 7 million users. The overall numbers are still small, but this growth rate means over 91 million people using Twitter next February.

Twitter users are not kids. Better yet, the sweet spot of Twitter use is in the 35-49 age group, this group represents roughly 42% of all Twitter users and the core age group of the working world. This number will definitely change as Twitter use continues to grow, but it is an important age group for small business sales.

3. Your competitors are probably using Twitter and they are talking to your customers.
Come one, you already know this. When was the last time you tried some marketing or sales activity and you didn’t find out or know that a competitor was already doing this? The boom in Twitter business use followed the boom in Twitter users, it’s an organic growth curve, but you can still get started now.

The New York Times recently covered business use of Twitter and mentioned some small retail business uses along with the typical array of large corporations, but they left out the backbone of American business. They left out the business-to-business, industrial/commercial aspect of business. Twitter talks to and through your distribution chain, reaching your reps, distributors, and retailers, as well as your end customers, affecting end-to-end marketing along your entire distribution chain, no matter how many tiers and branches in that chain.

4. You can extend customer loyalty.
There’s a period following the purchase process where the customer becomes loyal to your product or company. Continuing that loyalty can be hard for small businesses, especially when repeat business is spread over longer periods. You can use Twitter can keep customers in the loop on your product or service, keeping them in a positive purchase state long after the sale is complete, possibly through to the next sale. And the word-of-mouth

Even better, it doesn’t matter whether your customers are local or geographically dispersed. Your regular sales skills are the main requirement in Twitter, the same as the conversation on the phone or in the office. One good difference is you can reach multiple customers at one time and then handle individual conversations through other methods appropriate to the customer need.

5. You determine how much time you spend using Twitter.
Twitter use grows organically, it is a self-defining use responding to the conversations surrounding your business. Yes, there is the group that tweets what they had for breakfast, but far more serious questions and discussions also happen on a minute by minute basis. Finding these discussion depends on your customers and their habits, but the best place to start finding them and listening to their discussions is by using a form of search.

Use TweetDeck or Seesmic, desktop applications that will continually track and report uses of searchable terms used in your business. Or use TweetBeep to get search term uses emailed directly to you (be careful with TweetBeep, it’s great for lower search activity but can overwhelm your email inbox if a search term is heavily used). These tools can get you started effectively using Twitter in business, but there are many other methods as well.

So that’s five reasons to start using Twitter today. There are many more reasons, but they will be specific to your business needs, feel free to comment here or email me with specific questions and I’ll try to give you some quick general answers to your possible uses.

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Rethink Your Customer Contact Process: Is It Time For Texting?

Adjust your marketing to your market changes.

OK, that idea seems obvious to the extreme. But sometimes what should be obvious is hidden in the mundane.

A report came out recently from the CTIA, the mobile phone trade association, that points to some changes we all may want to make in our customer marketing, especially at the small business level. According to Nielsen Mobile, an arm of the familiar Nielsen survey folks, cell phone calls have remained at a fairly constant level each month for the past two years. But the CTIA reports, that Americans are now sending more texts than phone calls each month–by 150%, 357 text messages versus 204 calls!

June 2008 reported 75 billion text messages sent by Americans (yes, that’s billion, not a typo), a 160% increase over the 28.8 billion text messages sent in June 2007. Of course, this rise in use is driven by teens in the 13-17 year old age group, but my anecdotal evidence says some of those messages are also going to parents and their text numbers are rising along with the teens, just at a slower rate. I would show some of these charts, but the CTIA is being fairly protective of the information; you can download a 10-page summary of the report.

Here’s what this means for small business: It is time to think about changes in the ways we contact customers. Some customers will prefer a text message, especially when a simple notification is all that is required. Think about the dental appointment reminder call; the pharmacy pick-up call; waiting for a table at a restaurant; the car servicing reminder and the call for pick-up; the dry cleaning; all simple daily actions that take time for a business and time for the customer. This model extends to all sorts of services businesses where customer contact is infrequent, services such as landscapers and pest control businesses.

In the commercial business, this same texting works for businesses that have a regular product delivery to their customers. A simple follow-up text to the department head or purchasing agent after each delivery when the delivery is handled by a driver and the receipt is handled by receiving clerk, the text action fills in the gap between sales calls and operates as a constant positive reminder of service and products delivered.

A side benefit is that you collect the cell phone numbers of your customers; not to be abused and heavily marketed to, but to be used as a way to build your brand while delivering superior business value. This actually is a very efficient post-sales activity masquerading as great service. And you build a closer relationship with your customer as well as gaining another contact point through their cell number.

One drawback is that texting costs money, but many cell phone users have unlimited texting plans which are available for very little cost. You can hold the text cost down on the business end by using the online texting services or sending to the phone by email. You can even automate a portion of the action, but remember this is a post-sales activity and there should be some personal interaction in the message (quantity delivered, time delivered, any number of important aspects of the delivery). This represents an opportunity to head off mistakes before they become a big problem.

This is not social media as we generally define it these days, but it is a medium which is social and two-way communication is possible if the customer chooses to communicate. This is not the broadcast social media of Twitter, with Twitter’s constant status updates to a broad group of followers. Twitter has it’s place for business, especially following and solving service and brand problems (you can Google the stories on Comcast and others solving customer problems through picking up hints on Twitter).

This is definitely something to think about applying in your business before your competition gets there first.

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My First Anniversary With Twitter

Yes, I’ve been on Twitter longer than I’ve been blogging; although I think we can safely say that Twitter is a short-form blog, so maybe Twitter counts in my blogging  timeline.

What have I learned in this first year?

Twitter is something I really enjoy. I follow a small group of tech industry analysts, a few Web 2.0 proto-celebrities (a couple of whom I’ve known for a few years), a group of marketing and communications workers like myself, some new media workers, a large number of Portland, Oregon-area tech industry workers, and a few good friends that have no connection to technology other than using it on  a regular basis.

As a feedback mechanism, Twitter works pretty well. Twitter has a Virginia Woolf stream-of-consciousness about it that can be distracting, but it also gives a good feel for the emotions of the day outside my office. And I’ve gotten instant news reports on Twitter that beat the timeliness of any other communications medium.

Could all this Twitter stuff fall into group-think and garbage? Yes, but I think that depends on who you follow and pay attention to. I follow as many people as I can keep up with and I drop those who add nothing valuable to the daily conversation.

So, the first year with Twitter is up and I’m giving it a successful rating, with an expectation that the next year will be even better. Hope I can say that about my blogging activity.

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London to NYC Real-Time, Jules Verne Style

There’s a certain charm to Jules Verne. Maybe it’s the innocence of the era, the belief in a better world–notwithstanding his bleak view of the future in The Time Machine–or it could be that he was so right about our future technologies. Either way, today New York City and London are involved in a trans-Atlantic experiment that has a Jules Verne twist almost 200 years after his birth!

This BBC article spells it all out and adds video that gives a much better feel to the story.

What I find interesting is that today we can easily reach in our pocket, pull out a mobile phone and simply call someone in London. So why are so many people in two of the more sophisticated cities in the world enamored with this idea? Is it the steampunk physicality (check this site for more steampunk) or is it a basic human reflex of communicating?

Most of us spend a large portion of our day communicating. We talk, type, text and sign. We are drawn to the unique. As business people we look for new ways to get our message across, to excite and entice our audience to engage in conversation and purchase from us instead of the guy down the street (or from around the world in today’s Internet age).

Obviously, there is a human-interest draw in this art installation. There is the happenstance of connecting and meeting with people one does not know personally. The novelty of the installation removes the fear of strangers and helps people interact. My father would say “it’s just damn fun, stop thinking about it,” but we can all see how the idea of a novel way to communicate has removed the barriers between people.

With a little work, we can apply this same process to our business communications. Start a newsletter, follow and respond to customers on Twitter (build a customer group on Twitter), update our web sites more frequently with new information, there’s dozens of actions we can take to be more interesting and exciting, and to draw more customers. By doing something new and unexpected, people will follow, and business will follow the people.

What new twists on existing communications technology have you put in place or just think might be interesting?

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Even Better Package Tracking

Twitter seems to be the newsiest item around these days, but there’s good reason and it isn’t just for the geekiest of consumers. There is a great new application using the Twitter API that could have a major play for small business–TrackThis.

TrackThis is easy to use, just follow @trackthis on your existing Twitter account. If you don’t have a Twitter account, now is the time to sign up. Once you follow @trackthis, you get automatic updates on all the packages you want to follow. You can use this to track packages you are expecting, or track those packages you sent to customers.

Using TrackThis is simple, there’s only one page of information and two frequently asked questions. You can decide which or how many Twitter accounts you want notified to separate the different packages being tracked. You also decide how you want to receive the information, by email or the online Twitter screen or by SMS on a cell phone.

For instance, track that package of architect renderings scheduled to be presented at a meeting of city planners. Or rest assured that the RMA is on it’s way back to your facility. Or keep track of those handmade specialty items you shipped cross-country. This is a real benefit for small businesses of any size or design, as long as they use shipping services.

A sole-proprietor might want to follow packages ordered by SMS in order to more closely time a presentation or project due date, while a shipping department might simply want an on-screen update for all packages they have going to customers. There’s lots of opportunity to put this to use in business.

Tracking packages has traveled light years since the days when we would travel across our respective city to the shipping company office, fill out multi-part forms–taking care not to smudge black on our white shirts from the carbon paper–and then phone the tracking number to the receiver so they could track the receipt of the package. Let us know in your comments about the uses you come up with.

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