Many who first hear about the micro-blogging communication phenomenon Twitter just don’t get it. The unfamiliar ponder the need for an update on someone’s every move in 140 characters or less: “Woke up.” “Having coffee.” “In traffic.” Etc. But Twitter is a fast-growing platform even as it faces technical challenges in maintaining growth. Apparently, Twitter users have remained patient. A Twitter tracker, Twitdir, reported on 2.1 million “twitterers” in May.
A look at who is using Twitter gives a bigger picture: Twitter is widely used by bloggers to complement their blogs, and Twitter feeds are often embedded into blogs allowing for timely updates that may not have worked well as full blog posts. Recently business applications for Twitter have begun popping up, such as political candidates posting updates from the road (40,000 followers stay connected to Barack Obama on the campaign trail). Media outlets such as CNN, BBC, and the NY Times have embraced the technology for posting breaking news. Even organizations such as the Red Cross use Twitter to send out directions and information on disasters. During the California Wildfires, the Red Cross communicated to the public about the disaster, and recently responded to the severe weather throughout the Midwest via Twitter.
Because of its ability to reach customers at no cost, Twitter has found its place in marketing. Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool for informing customers of new promotions, sales and developing stories. Marketing examples of Twitter include: JetBlue promoting special offers, travel tips and weather advisories. Comcast uses the technology for customer support. The online retailer Woot posts deals throughout the day. GM uses Twitter as an extension of their blog. The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, tweets about his life, asks for feedback on company projects and has done a great job attracting followers with giveaways.
Marketing uses for Twitter are expanding beyond simple promotional messaging. Twitter can be used for conversing, apologizing, recruiting, crisis management, network building, etc. Maintaining a Twitter profile isn’t for every marketer. Still, advertisers can benefit simply by monitoring the conversation for brand mentions, influencer identification, and competitive analysis. Southwest scans Twitter for conversations about the airline and responds directly to Southwest customers via their profile.
You can identify trends and sort through “tweets” in real time at their new search engine (http://search.twitter.com/) powered by Summize.Twitter currently does not accept advertising. But the Japanese version runs banner ads and can likely expect the same in the US. It’s fascinating to watch companies develop new creative new ways to use Twitter. The site may prove to be a powerful marketing weapon, with that unique, social-media quality that allows brands to communicate with customers at no cost.