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Why Twitter matters

I spoke at an event last week to the Institute of Directors Chairmans Group.  It was a real honour as this group of people has driven the local business scene for the last 30 years or so.  Some great stories over the breaks.

My challenge was thinking what I could tell such an experienced group about technology that would be relevant for Public Company Chairpersons.

I talked about social media and especially Twitter.  Boards of Directors need to know about Twitter. Let me explain:Twitter started off as a pretty banal thing a few years ago.  In 140 characters you answer the question: “What are you doing”. Here’s what the standard Twitter entry screen looked like:

twitter1

A typical series of  twitter posts might go like this:

  • Just got out of bed
  • Making toast
  • Putting vegemite on my toast

Twitter went nuts and now has over 50 million users.  Companies started to use Twitter over Google Adwords because Twitter was providing great opportunities to talk to potential customers. This guy might be a candidate as an example:

Boba

You soon learn people don’t hold back on Twitter.  It is as raw as that. Cringeworthy but a good sales lead. Don’t worry we’ve had some rough ones as well.

A month or so ago the front page of Twitter changed. Profoundly. See if you can spot the difference.

Twitter2

Twitter hit critical mass and suddenly what Twitter was useful for flipped around.

See what people are saying about … YOUR COMPANY

Twitter has become a real time social graph on almost every business of significance.

Before Twitter, if you had a disgruntled customer, they were hidden in your call center queue. Now they have a voice than anyone can hear and even find some time well after the event.  And if you don’t join the conversation they still keep shouting.

So for the company Chairperson and Boards in general they have new risk surfaces they need to consider.

  1. What is being said online about your business?
  2. What are your risk minimisation strategies for dealing with social media?
  3. What additional resources are required to work with social media?
  4. Do we have an open culture that listens and responds to customers?

Before a board meeting you might just do a Twitter Search and be armed with the perfect question to the CEO :)

The executive team need to determine who in the business is authorised to engage online.

Significant companies are engaging on Twitter.  This exchange between a customer and one our partner banks was fascinating …

ASB

A conversation we were having with a technology group inside the bank is surfaced by a customer and the bank is forced to respond directly. Doesn’t that change the dynamic?

Just today another interesting example.  Real time, public, performance monitoring of our Sydney account managers:

TwitterSalesCall

Isn’t that wild? What if she had of said “Just had two clowns in from ….”?

Twitter is a great example of how business is changing so fast in the connected world.

Our strategy is to engage.  That is a real commitment but we feel it’s an investment we need to make. As we are a new company and we are growing quickly we can keep on top of it.  Our market is a word of mouth mouth ‘recommender’ model so we have to be on the ball.

But if you are a large company that has been around for a while how do you deal with it? I can understand this stuff is hard for larger organisations with a large customer base. They will likely have some dissatisfied users who have the potential to be very noisy.

I suggest being honest and put processes in place to gather the feedback so you can report on it.  I think customers do understand it can take a while to turn the ship around. If you provide a way for customers to engage and have the dialog they may understand and can at least take some satisfaction from venting.

I also suggest diverting some of your customer care staff into monitoring your twitter and blog exposure.

The simple tools to at least monitor what’s been said are:

Any other tips for managing social media? Do you agree Boards should be thinking about Twitter?

 

Read more about Technology, Marketing, Social Media

 

28 comments

david
8 October 2009 #

I think you’re completely right. Boards, executive teams, and organizations of all sorts should be extremely aware of their web presence, especially when it’s not generated by them (like many bad rep tweets). Personally, I’ve been helped numerous times by companies responding to my tweets of frustration; a great tool for both parties.

Vickster
8 October 2009 #

I know Comcast customer service actually improved after there were negative tweets about them. Talk about Twitter having an impact on business! Nonetheless there are still some Twitter haters out there.

NealR
8 October 2009 #

As someone who responds to tweets, forums and Blogs for NZ’s largest telecommunications provider, I am constantly amazed at how positive the customer response has been.

There was initially some scepticism around the intent with a fear that we were a sales/marketing channel but when customersfound they were talking to real engineers and actual product owners they could see we were/are here to help.

We cannot help everyone but are willing to give it a try.

It takes quite a bit of courage to enter this world as you are exposed to lots of different people. Some of whom just need to take their medication to calm the voices, some of whom are only 12 years old. But you never know who else is listening.

The feedback you get is direct, clear and instantaneous.

As Rod says, honesty is key. Especially when you make mistakes as I did yesterday with quoting the wrong terms and conditions for a product.

Facinating for me is that the question still exists within organisations as to whether they should engage with customers “online”. Perhaps a better question is “do we really want to communicate with our customers”, becuase that’s what the question really is.

I’m not saying ditch all other channels for communicating with customers, I’m just saying it is a channel you cannot ignore.

Neal

John Younger
8 October 2009 #

Hi Rod
Mixed feelings on this one….

Not everyone actually likes Twitter – I don’t have any desire whatsoever to read that a particular person cannot sleep because their girlfriend is farting in the bed (you know who you are). And let’s be honest about it – for every valid and useful tweet you might read on any given subject, there will be at least ten tweets that are just a complete waste of time.

But as you have pointed out, it’s with us whether we like it or not, and so I think that Boards of companies that rely on their Web presence should monitor it closely, yes.

David Kime
9 October 2009 #

A great article and I think I am going to “borrow” some of it to illustrate to a firm of accountants what is out there and how it can be used

David Saraiva
9 October 2009 #

Our Twitter collaboration app allows brands to listen/monitor for very specific tweets and then lets teams work in shared workspaces on this data. We’re in private beta, but you can feel free to contact us for more info or an invite.

http://chatterboxhq.com
http://twitter.com/chatterboxapp

-Dave
CoreBlox Co-founder

Greg
9 October 2009 #

The great thing about that conversation between @ASBBank and @TeamXero was that I got an answer in a short period of time (i.e. Oct/Nov 09 timeframe – looking forward to that!).

If organisations are motivated enough to be active on Twitter, then at least until Twitter becomes more mainstream it’s a great way to get quick answers or to engage. Compared to traditional online methods like submitting an enquiry via a website or sending an email to info@organisation it’s a lot more effective. And it’s all in the open – because others in the community no doubt have the same questions or issues.

@maddygp

Catherine Walker
10 October 2009 #

Hi @maddygp,

We’ve swapped Tweets a few times – I look after the @TeamXero account (I’m ^OG). I try to be online as much as possible to provide the quick answers or at least make sure questions and comments are sent on to the right people at Xero. It’s really cool to notice recently that more and more of our customers and partners are using Twitter and following us as well, and often before I get a chance to respond, one of you does instead! That’s the real power of a community and it’s very cool to see it starting to grow.

See you in the Twitsphere!
Regards, Catherine

Rusty
12 October 2009 #

I had a meeting with our business mentor last Friday and he was saying exactly what you have mentioned here. Word is getting around.
Take a peek at our website, you’ll be glad you did.
http://www.candleluxuries.co.nz
Regards
Rusty

Scott Barrington
12 October 2009 #

Great post!
we run constant twitter searches on a few different keywords & it’s amazing the information we can dig up.

Maria Mullane
12 October 2009 #

Great article Rod, I have just signed my company http://www.aspiresolutions.co.nz up to Twitter and will be eagerly following from here on in to see if it proves to be useful or not. It certainly can’t hurt to have that additional web presence in my opinion!

Sandra
12 October 2009 #

Hi Rod,

It is great that you are presenting to the audience you did a topic many would have heard about but not understood. Typical you!and thanks for adding that value. I am about to think about how I can use Twitter as a tool not to react but to act. i.e.to increase market awareness. Yes, in my opinion the users/customers and their tweets are important but to take your analogy we need to be aware of altering the course of the ship because there is a twig in the channel and keep in mind the destination. My concern is that it would be easy to become a slave to tweets. Your article has piqued my interest though and I look forward to digging deeper.

Miss MoneyPennys
12 October 2009 #

Hi Rod,

It works, I tweeted about you and their I am on your blog the same day with 3 extra followers that day also! one is now a new client…There is for sure a lot of “rubbish” but also a huge amount of potential. Karen

Miss MoneyPennys
12 October 2009 #

PS The guys from Xero although funny where no clowns! Wild not!

justin
12 October 2009 #

I’m reluctant to use a company if it’s not on twitter

Marilyn
12 October 2009 #

Rod, brilliant commentary – great to see technology may be hitting the heights but common sense & communication are still the foundations! Am just sticking my toe in tweeting/blogging waters as have taken role of non-tech (and how!) Director of Communication at E-conomic and trying to get to learn about other players in the field.

Ben Kepes
13 October 2009 #

@Justin – don’t get me wrong, I’m a big user and defender of the the utility of twitter but… to say that you’d be reluctant to use a company that didn’t utilise Twitter is just plain shortsighted dogma.

If a company can communicate well with it’s customers, provide the service they require and remain responsive to their needs, that is the touchstone NOT the comms channel they use to do that. In the same way that I’d not chose my dentist nor proctologist (disclaimer – I don’t actually have a proctologist) based on the car they drive or their dress sense, so to would I be reluctant to chose a product/service provider based on their communication channels of choice…

[...] Drury has a brief, coherent summary of the history of Twitter and why it actually matters to companies: Twitter started off as a pretty banal thing a few years ago. In 140 characters you [...]

Jenny
13 October 2009 #

WOW! I always thought Twitter was a load of Twit! I am seriously looking into this now!

Julian Stone
13 October 2009 #

great post Rod…

We’re always totally aware when doing customer service that we could end up talked about online. Makes us strive to be more helpful, this way people tweet nice comments. We also try to watch what we tweet as it is public domain and we don’t want to misrepresent our own companies views. It’s a powerful medium, but care is required if in business.

Julian Stone
hppt://www.proworkflow.com
Project Management Software

Adrian Pearson
14 October 2009 #

Rod, I am a bit of a Twitter Luddite but I found your article a bit of an eye-opener and a nudge towards converting me. I am testing the water by including a Twitter search for the term “Xero Accounting” on the homepage at my Xero Users Online Community.

One thing that struck be straight away though when I was configuring the search feed; one needs to be very careful with the choice of search term. When I initially searched just for the word “Xero”, the results were all off-topic and in Spanish. Adding “Accounting” to the search term gave a better result. However, if you are monitoring tweets about your company, surely you are bound to miss many, many tweets that do not specifically include your search terms? Adding too many terms is not the answer as you just get non-relevant garbage to sift through – and we all have enough of that in our email inboxes don’t we?

Catherine Walker
14 October 2009 #

Hi Adrian,
Good point! Had the same thing when we started out – I saw the feed on your user community so I’m guessing you found the advanced Twitter search – limiting results to English is a good start, although once I spotted a Tweet in German that was praising Xero which was cool to see. Personally I do have a couple of RSS feeds set up – however I keep an eye on the Tweets as they come in during the day when I’m at my desk and use the feed to catch up on any that came through in the night. I’m sure there’s a much smarter way to do it and I will keep investigating.

Regards,
Catherine

John Younger
14 October 2009 #

Hi Ben long time no talk

Hear hear to your post…

PS Nobody really believes you about the proctologist…

Ben Kepes
14 October 2009 #

@John – sssshhh – don’t tell everyone!

Graham Southwell
16 October 2009 #

Hi Rod,
Great article – we have put a back link to it from our blog http://www.bniblog.co.nz

Keep up the good work!

Graham Southwell
BNI New Zealand

Lyall Lukey
17 October 2009 #

Good stuff! Twitter certainly gives some extra locomotive power to the Cluetrain Manifesto of a decade ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cluetrain_Manifesto
A couple of my blogs may be of interest:
http://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/do-seagulls-twitter/
http://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/?s=Tweeting+as+a+revolutionary+act+

[...] up on some reading this weekend I read Rod Drury’s blogpost on xero.com (online accounting software company) about why Twitter matters for business. He does a [...]

[...] on from our post Why Twitter Matters back in October, the Institue of Directors asked me to write an article that introduces Social [...]

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