Building a Collaborative Enterprise: Twitter (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of blog posts focusing on ways to integrate specific collaborative technology platforms into your enterprise.

We’ll do this by examining cutting-edge companies who have embraced collaborative technology, and provide some suggestions as to how these technologies might be applicable in different industries.

If you’re new to collaboration in the enterprise, we suggest you read this post by Edgewater’s Ori Fishler, reviewing McKinsey’s research on “enterprise 2.0” collaborative technologies.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a public, free microblogging service. It allows users to publish short — 140 characters or less — updates to anyone who chooses to listen (the Twitter term is “follow”). Here’s a video to explain more succinctly (and humorously!) than I can:

Chances are, your company already has a public corporate blog presence (a recent study says over 55% of companies do). Your corporate blog is probably much like ours, providing insights, expertise, and guidance to your customers and potential customers. Blogs are generally written in an expository, formal style, providing rich and deep content, and an ability to converse through comments.

Contrast this with Twitter, where the 140 character limit profoundly restrains the amount of detailed dialog your can provide to (and have with) your followers. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Dell Computer, and Comcast have embraced this communication mechanism. The Wall Street Journal recently declared that Twitter is going mainstream. Why?

Why Twitter?: External Collaboration

While much of the focus around Twitter has been on enhancing interpersonal relationships, Twitter serves a unique niche for enterprises that early adopters can take advantage of. It is very difficult (or expensive) to get as close to your customers as Twitter allows through other means.

Areas such as customer relationship management, engagement, and marketing strategy are well-served by the opportunity provided through Twitter.

Brand Monitoring

Much like traditional media outlet monitoring, companies are advised to set up a strategy for watching Twitter for tweets about them.

Since Twitter is often a channel for stream-of-consciousness writing, mentions of companies are often interrelated with visceral experiences, both positive and negative. Delving into the subconscious is a savvy marketer’s dream come true!

A nascent industry has appeared with all sorts of tools to monitor companies’ mentions on Twitter, allowing them to be aware of what people are thinking. Smart companies such as Southwest and Zappos have taken this monitoring a step further, to an intervention approach.

“Today, whatever you say inside of a company will end up on a blog.” — Rusty Rueff

Much like blog/website watching services (such as Google Alerts), tweets regarding layoffs, client information, and other sensitive data must be carefully monitored so that information leaks can be identified before they lead to serious consequences (data or confidentiality breaches at worst, PR nightmares at best) for the company.

Customer Service

Twitter allows for a uniquely personal approach to customer service, providing customers with a way to bypass your standard support structure and (at least have the appearance of) talking to a real, live person. Unlike standard support or CRM systems, however, by default all Twitter conversations are public.

This openness allows a company that is willing to invest in well-trained and highly disciplined customer-focused service to shine in a way that was impossible before Twitter. Your concern for, and engagement on, customer issues will be visible for the whole world to see.

Many companies using Twitter for customer service make wise use of the Twitter direct messaging feature to bifurcate between directing responses containing personal information privately to the requester, while directing less sensitive responses as general replies for the public to see.

Marketing

While the ability to drive a rich marketing campaign through Twitter is limited to 140 characters, it’s possible that, by building a robust following through the techniques previously mentioned, you can deliver a strong message to your company’s followers, who are also likely to be your most ardent supporters.

Zappos created great, low-cost buzz when they randomly selected 10 of their 1,000+ followers to receive free pairs of shoes – brilliant marketing strategy targeted at their most loyal fans. Dell Computer Corporation regularly distributes exclusive coupon offers to their followers.

Sales

While there aren’t a lot of good examples of deals being brokered via Twitter, a couple bigger companies are experimenting and have shown marked success.

An Irish insurance company, FBD Insurance, has begun using Twitter to provide auto insurance quotes and other product information to potential customers.

Dell Computer Corporation launched its @DellOutlet Twitter account in June 2007. By the time 1 year had passed, Dell could trace over $500,000 in sales to links clicked through its twitstream.

To be Continued…

In our next post on Twitter, we’ll cover enterprise options, other creative uses, and potential downsides.

Related Links

2 thoughts on “Building a Collaborative Enterprise: Twitter (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Measuring the Value of Twitter for Business « Edgewater Technology Weblog

  2. Want advice from professional in auto insurane. It seems that a number people who have submitted their specific information into one of the many “online auto insurance quotes” and after this they’ve got solicitors all over them, emails, on the telephone, junk mail and not to mention one case of Social Security Id theft. Thus my question for you is: Are these online auto insurance quotes honestly safe? Doesn’t it make sense to stay with a local auto insurance agent that can be done business with both on the phone or even in person.

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