Twitter is one of the most powerful social media tools available today. Just as the people behind a brand define it, Twitter is defined by the people who use it. I love reading about all the different ways Twitter is being used on a daily basis. Some of my favorites include how people use it politically to liberate themselves from tyranny, how people receive their daily news, how we share moments of our daily lives, and how companies I admire are using this medium to enhance their brands. I’ll come back to that in a bit.
But there are always things that hinder new social media outlets, no matter how powerful they are in our online communication. Spam is always a major problem, along with the onslaught of advertising and the all-about-me user types.
I understand that advertisers gravitate to these tools, but brands are missing the point when they subject new tools the same archaic treatment as a traditional email campaign. In a fast-paced world where things are automated, efficient, and instant, these interactions can feel cold and impersonal.
So what would I like to see? Twitter is a social communication tool and what I like to call the SMS of the Internet. I would love to see more instances of it being used as a relationship builder – enhancing our experiences between the people we network with and the brands we do business with every day.
What are some of the built-in challenges when it comes to Twitter usage?
- With 200 million active users tweeting nearly a billion tweets every 60 hours, Twitter traffic is prone to be more of a one-way broadcast.
- It’s natural for brands to continue to apply the same traditional broadcast marketing formulas and tactics to social media.
- With so many users and the vast number of tweets, messages are simply getting lost in our Twitter streams.
So how do we go about building relationships with a personal touch?
I recently read a post by Rachel Meranus who had interviewed Vicky Harres Akers, the voice behind their corporate Twitter account @prnewswire. In her article, Take Advantage of Twitter, Akers presents some insight on how brands can get involved with Twitter and how they can benefit from using it.
She says, “The key is to understand your audience and to give them content they want…The No. 1 use for Twitter is and always shall be a means to listen to your customers, clients, colleagues, industry leaders and anyone else who might comment on your product or business. If you approach Twitter as just another medium for broadcasting your company’s communications, you will have missed the point completely…One of the best things Twitter can do for a company is simply to humanize it. Allowing a real person to put a voice to an otherwise impersonal entity can give a dimension to your relationships with clients that is otherwise not possible.”
Her words are an inspiration – as it’s exactly the right way to approach powerful social communication tools like Twitter! Now, if all brands had the means and the resources to do this, could they afford not to try? And if they were all successful, my personal ambition to see social media being used to help build relationships and to enhance our customer experiences would ultimately be realized.
So what inspiration can I offer you?
Charlie Minato of BusinessInsider provides a look at the companies that use Twitter effectively in his article, The Top 20 Brands on Twitter, Ranked By Influence With Customers.
He writes, “While some brands are still learning how to use social media, a few have already found that Twitter is an incredibly important customer relations management tool.”
No surprises here. The brands that are on track with Twitter are the ones that listen and engage. Among the ones that caught my eye:
- Whole Foods (@WholeFoods) has created an explicit, open dialogue with their customers. They actively collect and share customer stories and are available to answer questions 9-5 CST, M-F. Whole Foods has also localized their Twitter strategy by running accounts for individual stores.
- Best Buy (@Bestbuy) uses @BestBuySupport and @GeekSquad to provide support and meet the general needs of their customer. They also host chats connecting followers with influential experts/bloggers such as @wellconnectdmom for gift tips and with @amandapadgett for photography related questions.
- Starbucks (@Starbucks) created @MyStarbucksIdea to engage and listen to their customers’ ideas. Followers become part of the My Starbucks community – a place to share, discuss, and vote on community-generated ideas.
So what’s their secret, and how do they make it look so easy?
Most successful brands tend to follow Twitter’s Best Practices to build their following, their reputation, and customer’s trust. In essence, they share, listen, ask, respond, reward, demonstrate leadership on industry topics and know how, champion community members and communicate personally with their followers. To do so, they
- Assign experienced social media teams to handle their Twitter accounts, and some even list the names of the people to make the interaction more personal. They also include hours of availability so people know when they can expect an immediate response.
- Register multiple twitter accounts to handle specific brands, to localize their interests, and to focus on customer service.
- Promote dialogue and engage followers by hosting chats, asking questions, and following their own followers. By doing so, brands show that they are listening.
So how can Nestivity help brands use Twitter more effectively to build relationships and provide a better customer experience?
Our approach is to build a community layer right on top of social media’s best and fastest-growing communications tool so brands can easily organize discussions and engage in meaningful conversations.
Using Nestivity, customers that have a problem or product suggestion, or that simply want to share an experience can sign into a brand’s Nestivity community site and join a discussion. There, tweets will be seen and responded to either by the community manager or by another community member with a similar interest. Brands can also promote tweets from people with the most meaningful input, so others can find answers to questions that have already been asked and answered.
So how soon can we get started?
I’m proud to announce that we are gearing up to launch our first nests between SXSW 2013 and Social Media Marketing World. I welcome you to get started by reserving your Twitter handle atNestivity.com/register and signing up to be among the first to hear about our product updates.