Discovering The Tao of Twitter

The following is an excerpt from the blogger's released book, 'The Tao of Twitter.'

More Twitter Benefits

I think that, if you follow the guidelines in this book, you will see the benefits. No matter your industry or specialty, whether you're a profit or non-profit, whether you work for a Fortune 500 of for yourself, Twitter can absolutely be applied to the business world.

But I still observe many companies stumbling around, debating their return on investment, while their competitors are establishing a social media foothold on a business communication platform that is:

An effective promotional tool -- 79 percent of Twitter followers (versus 60 percent of Facebook fans) are more likely to recommend brands since becoming a fan or follower. And 67 percent of Twitter followers (versus 51 percent of Facebook fans) are more likely to buy the brands they follow. Daily Twitter users are about three times as likely as Internet users on average to upload photos, four times as likely to blog, three times as likely to post ratings and reviews, and nearly six times as likely to upload

Lead generator -- Marketing firm SocialTwist analyzed more than one million links on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook's shared links average only three clicks, while Twitter's tweets generate nineteen clicks on average. Another study showed that, among many small and medium companies, Twitter users generated double the median monthly leads of non-Twitter users. That result held across company size.

Customer satisfier -- Service-related companies from appliance manufacturers to the local pizza joint are incorporating Twitter as a cost-effective and popular customer-service connection.

Product development engine -- One software company developed an entirely new product line after learning from tweets that people were using their product in new ways. Interesting experiments are emerging to crowd-source innovation through Twitter.

Problem solver -- David Sifry, CEO of Technorati was quoted5 as saying he used Twitter as a sounding board. "I subscribe to lots of people who say interesting things, and I listen [and] read a lot. I find that these people become a sounding board for ideas, and I learn a lot from them. When I post to Twitter, sometimes it's about interesting things I've seen or observed, and sometimes it's 'questions to the world' -- where to find a good consultant for a particular niche specialty -- or I ask questions that I can't find easy or reliable answers [to] just by searching Google or reference works."

Using Twitter as a Strategic Weapon

Here's an example of how I realized an exceptional and unexpected benefit from Twitter -- developing a PR strategy!

I have a "virtual" company. Well, it's a real company, but I don't have a building and employees and all that traditional stuff. I work with a posse of talented freelancers who may be spread out all over the country. So, I have the best of both worlds. Great company, great people, but no pressure about meeting payroll every month (except my own!).

Everything works great about this model except for one thing. You can't brainstorm by yourself.

This was the problem I was facing recently when I needed to come up with creative ideas to help a client company mark its thirtieth anniversary. I had some ideas, but I've been around long enough to know they weren't the best ideas. For that, I needed to put some creative minds together. But how? I was on a tight deadline and needed to write a proposal quickly.

I needed some smart friends that could help me think through this problem in a pinch. And then it dawned on me! That's exactly what I had on Twitter. This is what the social web is all about -- networking, sharing, helping, creating. So, with literally no planning, I sent out one single tweet with an invitation for my Twitter tribe to join me on a web meeting at 4 p.m. that very day.

I was fortunate that seven people were able to join me on the spur of the moment, including one from Brazil and one from Spain. Some I didn't know at all, others had become my friends over months of interaction on Twitter.

All were enthusiastic, helpful, and eager to try out this idea of mine!

I used an online service for the actual meeting interface and conference call. To start the meeting, I described the problem and said I was simply looking for a brainstorm of promotional options.

As the ideas were shared, I wrote them out on my shared computer screen, so all participants could build on what was being said. At the end of 30 minutes, I had two pages filled with great ideas. Later that day I massaged the ideas into a proposal, presented it to company management and -- ta-da! -- they loved it! I had successfully "crowdsourced" a promotional plan!

There were unexpected side benefits, too:

  • I explained to my client how I came up with the ideas, which further strengthened their interest and commitment to the social web.

  • The people who connected on the call enjoyed the exercise and have reached out to stay connected with each other.
  • I had an idea that worked, that can be repeated, and now shared with you in a book!
  • Creating a New Product Line

    One of the readers of my blog, Fara Hain, described how Twitter search helped her discover an entirely new market for her company's product:

    I admit my initial impression of Twitter was that it was pointless. But it didn't take too long to
    make me a believer, because I saw first-hand how Twitter helped our company create an entirely new line of business.

    While working at Gizmoz [now DigiMe], I was pulled into the world of Twitter by two friends who were early adopters. They encouraged me to try it out, and I started by "listening" through a daily search for Gizmoz on the Twitter search box. I thought it would be interesting to see what, if anything, people were saying about us. I collated responses into a spreadsheet to see if I could find a theme or locate emerging influencers. I found that there was a group of people using my site in a completely different way than I had expected. Gizmoz is a B2C 3D animation company that had launched a web-based tool for teens to create greetings and videos using 3D avatars. On Twitter, our tool was being discussed with hashtags like #edtech.

    It turns out we were being discussed on the podium at a major education conference! To my surprise, teachers had been using Gizmoz in the classroom as an interactive tool for students to create presentations (science classes, social studies, even a kindergarten class!). We were blown away.

    By making some simple changes to our product and asking teachers for their direct feedback, we were able to make Gizmoz more classroom-friendly. We added avatars like Albert Einstein and other historical figures, and we started to be more aggressive about hiding public posts that featured less appropriate content.

    In our new marketing effort, we actively targeted teachers -- who are, in fact, major viral influencers -- one teacher influencing 30 students is a marketer's dream!

    It's doubtful that I would have ever discovered this amazing new market for our products without Twitter.

    The Power of the Twitter Universe

    One last potential business benefit you might not have considered is the power of the Twitter users to be advocates for your products and brands. A study found that consumers active on Twitter are three times more likely than the average consumer to affect a brand's online reputation through syndicated Tweets, blog posts, articles, and product reviews!

    The ExactTarget survey of more than 1,500 consumers concludes that Twitter has become the gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every other corner of the internet.

    • Twitter users are the most influential online consumers -- More than 70 percent publish blog posts at least monthly, 70 percent comment on blogs, 61 percent write at least one product review monthly, and 61 percent comment on news sites.

  • Daily Twitter users are six times more likely to publish articles, five times more likely to post blogs, seven times more likely to post to Wikis, and three times more likely to post product reviews at least monthly, compared to non-Twitter users.
  • 11 percent of online consumers read Twitter updates, but do not have a Twitter account themselves!
  • 20 percent of consumers indicate they have followed a brand on Twitter in order to interact with the company -- more than email subscribers or Facebook fans.
  • And while Twitter is not used as frequently as Facebook or YouTube, an Edison Research study showed that 40 percent of all Americans see tweets or hear about Twitter on a daily basis.

    That's why I've spent so much space discussing benefits. Can you really afford to miss out?

    Balance. Common sense. Quantitative measurements when you can get them and qualitative measurements when you can't.

    Don't let your company miss out on these benefits, if traditional measurements don't fit any more. Don't get caught in analysis paralysis because you can't determine the ROI. To realize these powerful benefits, you need to master the Tao of Twitter, so let's get to it, step-by-step, beginning with those all-important targeted connections.