Microblogging and More:Tweeting on Twitter - Customer Relationship Management

Those of you who either live under rocks or are traditionalists when it comes to CRM may never have heard of Twitter. Or,even if you have,you may be wondering why Twitter is in a chapter on blogging.

Twitter is,to many,a blogging tool—a microblogging tool. Those blogging entries,called “tweets,”are a maximum of 140 characters,shared in real time with people who have chosen to follow you or whom you have chosen to follow. I don’t mean stalking or being stalked,just to calm your already frazzled nerve-endings.

Figure shows what a Twitter client and Twitter messages look likeTwitter client and Twitter messages

Twitter Client Seesmic Desktop showing the sophistication of
Twitter conversations

It’s usually at this point in a discussion on Twitter with corporate execs (which you very well might be or aspire to) that I hear the following regular lament (which by the way,exceeds my 140-character limit):

“I get blogs,and I get podcasts and wikis and we’re trying to figure out this social networking ‘thing’ but I just don’t get Twitter. I don’t get it. I DON’T get it. I don’t GET it. It seems like such a waste of time.”

However,there are more than 23 million Twitter unique visitors in June 2009 and 11.5 million registered users as of July 2009,which tells you that there are more and more people getting it every day. The growth rate year over year from 2007 through 2009 is 2565 percent according to Technorati.

A Few Twitter Tales
When Research In Motion and SAP jointly announced their SAP CRM 2007 mobile sales application for the BlackBerry,CRM magazine managing editor Josh Weinberger live-tweeted the event (for those of you techno-Neanderthals,that means using Twitter to cover something live,broadcasting it moment by moment to Twitter followers). Not only were the updates nearly instant—as fast as he could type 140 characters—but his commentary was incisive and he could take questions from his followers.

On April 24,2008,IT Toolbox SaaS director Dennis Stevenson reported in his blog,Original Thinking,how SlideShare employees answered him via Twitter due to a tweet in which he expressed how slowly SlideShare was operating. SlideShare customer service used Twitter’s own search service to track text strings with the word “Slide- Share” in them so they could respond to customer service issues and track SlideShare feedback across the Twitterverse. They informed him that SlideShare was under a denial-of-service attack,at least giving him a reason for the problem he was having,if not solving it at that moment.

The business value of Twitter is certainly being recognized by the CRM vendors. Everyone from SAP and Oracle to salesforce.com and Microsoft to many of the smaller claimants to the Social CRM throne have multiple Twitter accounts that they use to broadcast their events,interact with their customers,generate possible leads,and even just do some blabbing. Many of them participate in groups which are indicated by hashmarks. For example,one of the dominant Twitter presences in the Social CRM Twitter group (#scrm) is Prem Kumar,who runs the Social CRM initiative for the CRM practice for Cognizant,a system integrator and consulting firm with a large CRM practice. He has been able to establish a leadership presence effectively without being seen as an “intruding vendor,”which is how vendors usually are seen when they try to participate. Twitter has given him the platform to present his very intelligent ideas without any suspicion around his motivations.

Business Benefits of Microblogging
Ithink you can see that marketing is a key application of Twitter—and by extension,microblogging—but there are some dangers inherent in it. One of them,perhaps the most dangerous,is pushing a corporate/personal agenda too hard without a return in value (as was going on with one unnamed person I used to follow). The equivalent is having your conversations constantly interrupted with “OMG! I’M AMAZING. I’M ON TV BIG TIME! HELP SELL ME! I’M TOO MUCH FOR WORDS—AT LEAST TOO MUCH FOR 140 CHARACTERS!!!That can be particularly irritating because this is a highly personalized albeit short message communications platform. No one wants the ego of another in the way. Rather than classic,distrusted corporate marketing hype,the hype gets personal but is even more distrusted because of how blatant the offenders are. The conciseness needed for messaging in 140 characters or less can work both ways.

If used effectively,as Cognizant is doing,microblogging,which at the moment is pretty much totally represented by Twitter or the corporate versions like Yammer,allows individuals who represent companies to become participants in the environment,akin to a conversation among friends at the bazaar. References to events or useful articles are looked upon with curiosity and interest,and traffic goes to them through the hyperlink embedded in the tweet (most of the time in the form of a tinyurl—a shortened proxy URL for a long address that takes up too many of the allotted 140 characters). Twitter’s potential is limitless as a marketing tool,microblogging tool,customer service tool,networking tool,and community participation tool.

Twitter’s value has been noticed and applied by multiple large enterprises or innovative smaller companies. In 2007,Dell created a Twitter presence they called @DellOutlet to give product offers to their prospective customers. It generated $3 million between 2007 and June 2009—not bad for something with no business value. The only “no” is zero marketing cost.

Tony Hsieh,Zappos CEO uses Twitter to give away shoes,invite his 965,000 followers to happy hour at the company and for frequent interaction. They even encourage Twitter use through their customers and hookups (via Twitter,you nasty minded creatures,you) with their employees. Hundreds of Zappos employees are on Twitter and they even compete for friends. Fun—and good business.

But customer service is really where Twitter shines. Companies like Jet Blue,H&R Block,and especially Comcast have used it that way to great effect. @ComcastCares,a Twitter-based customer service effort,gets this always-maligned cable company major kudos for its conscientious efforts to reach customers with issues through the program. They are smart cookies. Why? Because not only are they solvingcustomer service issues,they are doing it via a platform that is automatically viral and,thus,customers will talk about what they are doing. Check out Twitter search for @ComcastCares and see what I mean.


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