We asked a PR agency recently about using Twitter and this is their response – we’ve published in full as it’s quite useful!
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if Twitter was only useful for PR agencies, and I can’t say I’m wholly surprised. There’s a definite divide between the early adopter crowd, and those in PR who have realised the potential of plugging into some extremely influential people via the site. But really, techie or communicator – the benefits are the same, just experienced in different ways. Twitter is a concise, and more immediate way of keeping up to date with friends, colleagues and customers alike, and it’s the speed involved that gives it such potential.
For those who aren’t familiar with Twitter, it’s a free ‘micro-blogging’ service that allows users to post status updates or ‘tweets’ lasting a maximum of 140 characters. You can ‘follow’ other users’ updates – which are listed on your homepage – and be ‘followed’ in return. There’s the option to restrict updates to your network of friends but the norm is to keep them open.
The site started life as a research project, then internal comms tool for San Francisco start-up Obvious. The potential for mass consumption soon outgrew the company, and they spun it off as a separate entity in April 2007. By July 2008, over 2,200,000 accounts had been registered.
Twitter is a faster, easier method of communication in complete contrast to the lengthy amount of time it takes to edit to draft a regular blog post. From a business perspective, it doesn’t need to be entirely brand-centric – often the most popular Twitter streams are those that mix a little bit of personality into their updates. Many companies – both large and small – have both a corporate account and separate personal accounts for those within the organisation. Sometimes this acts as a distinction between a personal and business life – but more often than not, the two are very much connected, positioning the ‘spokesperson’ as a more approachable face of the company.
Contributing to this is the fact that signing up to receive a company’s updates is a one-click process, and you can receive these in an almost endless number of ways. Plus, updating your own account can be fed through the website, email, text and RSS. This level of choice and a freedom to interact and influence reflects recent moves to hand the power back into the hands of consumers. It’s the technology that makes this possible, and Twitter is definitely up there with the best of them.
There’s a list as long as your arm of companies that have caught on to the fact that this is a more efficient way to seed news, a great example of which was NASA’s decision to update the ‘water ice on Mars’ story via its Twitter profile. There’s also the opportunity to send updates on new products and services, used by the likes of Cisco Systems. And then, the ability to respond or assist with complaints by using a profile as one avenue for customer support. James Whatley’s piece on the importance of responding to your customers is a perfect proof point of how important this really is.
This last point isn’t purely about customer service, it’s also about product development and research. The ability to interact with a network of people who’ve ‘opted-in’ as such to receive your updates means your network is a fantastic resource to do just that, almost like a very large, real-time focus group. You can follow your users in return, and delve into what they’re reading, writing, and truly interested in.
Some companies use scanning tools like Tweetscan to keep tabs on those needing information or to keep track of what kind of presence they have throughout the user base. After all, a ‘tweet’ reporting poor service could be read by hundreds or thousands of people – similarly, a user with something good to say is a far more credible source than any advert. Research shows that the user-base is a more aware, savvy audience – so its no surprise that technology companies have been amongst the first to use its potential for brand management.
The networking aspect is fairly obvious, but can be a source of new business as well. More and more, people are putting tenders out for immediate response. A friend of mine at a web design agency once secured five pieces of business within a week, and we responded and won the BIMA PR account in this way as well. The additional bonus from a PR perspective is the opportunity to from stronger relationships with journalists – many of whom use Twitter regularly.
The tool is evolving, and competitors are springing up all over the place. The most recent of which –Yammer – was launched at Techcrunch50 this week, positioned as an enterprise version of Twitter. There are two schools of thought here, either that a specialist network would be more beneficial for those attempting to reach a B2B audience, or that the place to which consumers gravitate towards (like Twitter), is where the businesses will be. Maybe it’s a question of presence on both, but the success of Yammer is yet to be seen. And even though some debate Twitter’s appeal for a wider audience, growth says otherwise – and that means a lot more opportunity for businesses.
Author – Vikki Chowney, Six Degrees
a specialist PR agency, working with business-to-business and consumer clients that have technology at their core.