What is Twitter?For Immediate Release, September 2009
HOT TIP: TWITTER
By LOU HAMMOND & ASSOCIATES
What is Twitter?
o A free social networking and micro-blogging platform composed entirely of 140 character answers to one simple question. “What are you doing?”
o The service allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.
o Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter Web site, cell phone text messaging, RSS, email, or through applications such as Tweetie, Twinkle, TwitterFox, Twitterrific, Feedalizr, and Facebook.
o A “handle” is a Twitter profile operated by a person representing themselves, an organization or a particular interest.
o Other micro-blogging platforms include Friendfeed, Jaiku, and Plurk.
Why is this important?
o Twitter remains the most popular among micro-blogging services with more than 12 million registered users and between 5,000 and 10,000 new accounts created everyday.
o In December 2008, Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 11 percent of online Americans were using Twitter, up from nine percent in November 2008.
o According to Time magazine, males make up more than 60 percent of Twitter users.
o Twitter’s largest demographic is 35-to-44 year olds who comprise 26 percent of its users.
o In December 2008, Pew Internet & American Life Project claimed that the median age of a Twitter user is 31, compared to 27 for MySpace, 26 for Facebook and 40 for LinkedIn.
Uses for Business Communication
o Customer relations
o Twitter allows companies to listen and respond to customer feedback in real time before problems escalate and to engage brand ambassadors. Organizations can find out what customers are saying to each other with Twitter search engines such as Tweetscan.
o Comcast initiated Comcastcares in response to customer conversations organically occurring on Twitter. Through Twitter, Comcast customer service representatives offer customers specific troubleshooting tips, online resources, new product information and personality to what can be perceived as a faceless corporation.
o Crisis management
o Twitter is an open channel and therefore a real-time method to respond to urgent situations as well as a preventative tool to help identify and address isolated incidents before they turn into larger crises.
o Companies such as JetBlue have used Twitter to keep in touch with customers during crises while they are happening, fielding questions and concerns, and providing real-time updates to alleviate confusion. It frequently responds to tweets by directing people to tools already available for their use, such as flight-status updates and weather alerts.
o Twitter is also used by several U.S. universities to relay information and safety updates to students.
o Corporate reputation management
o Twitter offers a channel for a brand’s personality and humanity. The 140-character limit forces companies to cut to the chase and just tell followers what they need to know without rhetorical corporate speak.
o The commerce Web site, Zappos.com has more than 17,000 followers and provides customers with an inside look at the company, its core values, thought leadership initiatives, and resources.
o Event activation
o Live tweeting at an event can be used to enhance physical event participation by offering an alternative method of communication and a way to meet people with common interests.
o # votereport was a Twitter handle created specifically for Election Day 2008 to track and share both positive and negative voting experiences. More than 11,000 posted messages to this handle on Election Day.
o Issue advocacy
o Twitter can be used as a public service and fund raising tool, as it both provides information and unites people with common interests.
o The American Red Cross uses Twitter to get important information out to affected people in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Preparedness tips and health alert resources are also provided via this tool.
o Product promotion and sales
o Companies can promote sales and coupons directly to target audiences and directly engage loyal customers through special offers via Twitter.
o @delloutlet is a handle that allows Twitter users to be the first to know about online deals from Dell.
o Media communication
o The media wants to receive short and concise messages that quickly get to the point. Since Twitter has a 140-character limit, it has become a favored tool of the media to send queries and receive pitches from people they know.
o TwitPitch is gaining popularity with media and public relations professionals. However, it is essential to enter this area slowly, monitoring first before engaging the media using this service.
News outlets such as BBC, CNN and NPR are using Twitter to disseminate breaking news and sporting news.
How to start:
The first step is to create a Twitter handle and profile that sets expectations for followers. As it is with blogs, it is best to update Twitter regularly and honestly and do not use to push ads or brand messaging. The next step is to choose friends; who to follow. Before jumping into the conversation, it is best to monitor for a while to get a sense for the interests and motivations of the participants.
According to Cision, a global industry leader in business and communication intelligence, marketers and public relations professionals should establish relationships with key influencers on Twitter before pitching. In fact, it advises that many influencers who are on Twitter would bristle at unsolicited direct pitches. However, the information gained on Twitter should help with pitches moving forward, be they via email, telephone call or other method.
Cision also advises that it is acceptable to post client news but it should be labeled as such and kept to a minimum. Cision has plans to add Twitter contact information to its subscriber database in 2009.
Twitter is best used to:
o See what other businesses are doing
o Learn what customers are saying and their concerns
o Start a conversation; ask questions and get feedback
o Engage stakeholders and get insights for future progress
o Use Twitter search engines for keyword searches around brands and topics of interest
Real World Applications:
Twitter is changing journalism by allowing citizens to break stories
o On January 15, 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed in the river off
Midtown Manhattan, Janis Krums from Sarasota, Fl was on the ferry that rushed to help the survivors. En route, Krums took a photo on his iPhone and shared the photo on Twitter. "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy," Krums wrote when posting the photo online at TwitPic.com. Within the hour, Krums (or 'jkrums' on Twitter) was talking to MSNBC about the rescue and photo, which attracted nearly 40,000 views in the first four hours after the crash. He was the first person in the world to break the story.
o One month earlier, the story of Continental Flight 1404, which skidded off the
runway in Denver and burst into flames, was broke on Twitter by user Mike Wilson (or '2drinksbehind' on Twitter) who told the story from his seat on the plane.
Answering travelers questions and addressing concerns in real time
o The Marriott hotel group has two Twitter accounts — one serves public relations and customer service, the other focuses on Marriott's efforts to go green. Twitter was essential in communicating with its stakeholders after the September 20, 2008 bombing in Islamabad.
o Oregon's Twitter site offers tips on everything from the best happy hour spots in Portland to its new sesquicentennial stamp.
o In San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System uses Twitter to communicate information about delays.
o The U.S. State Department issues travel warnings and even the Transportation Security Administration is on Twitter.
o Twitter is also being utilized by tourism officials in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia tourism, offering tips from restaurants to shopping.