twitter has been an emerging phenomenon for a little while now. There were some very public performance problems and outages in the beginning, but the company seems to have moved past those now. twitter usage seems to be gaining critical mass, crossing over from the technology early-adopters to non-technology leaders, companies and celebrities (imagine Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart of Comedy Central bantering about twitter on Election night).
There has been much discussion and debate recently about whether it is appropriate and worthwhile for businesses to spend time marketing their brands on twitter. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the advantages of doing so.
Given the ongoing dramatic growth of twitter usage, and if twitter adoption has indeed crossed over to the mainstream, then it seems inevitable that brand marketing will eventually catch up with it on a large-scale; adding twitter marketing to company budgets will become an increasingly easier decision once "everyone is doing it". However there are compelling reasons why you should consider starting your twitter marketing efforts right now rather than wait until there is a herd.
So if you need to convince your boss to let you spend time on this activity - promoting your brand on twitter - here is a list of reasons to get into twitter-marketing now:
Early mover Advantage
Years ago Seth Godin's book, Permission Marketing, launched a revolution in brand-customer interaction. Imagine if you had gotten into Email Marketing at that time, when it was first getting started - it would have been so much easier to get and hold consumer attention, make your brand stand out, and establish a solid position. In contrast, getting the same level of attention today using email is almost impossible, since practically every company practices email marketing; consumers face email fatigue and get deluged by spam, and are reluctant to give out their real email addresses to companies.
For twitter marketing it's not too late, however - it is still in its early stages, and this time you do have a chance to jump on it before most of your competitors (as @Southwest Airlines, @Whole Foods, @Baskin Robbins and @Zappos have already done), gaining momentum as it becomes mainstream.
Influencing the Influencers
A common argument against the twitter marketing strategy is that many of the users of your non-technical product may not yet be twitter users, and you should always market where your users are. This seems like common sense. However, it overlooks a fundamental truth: users often tune out the direct messaging coming from a company anyway, and instead use indirect sources to help them make decisions.
In Malcolm Gladwell's influential book, The Tipping Point, he describes how word-of-mouth influences brand popularity, trends and buying decisions. If you can get some of the super-connectors and influencers to adopt and evangelize your product, then interest in your product spreads like wildfire and demand soars.
How do you reach these influencers? In today's world, it's a safe bet that the influencers are heavy users of new media methods like blogs, social networks and twitter, even if your field of interest is not particularly technical. twitter is especially effective in encouraging and responding to these highly-connected users; the medium gives you direct, instant access to even the most popular of these folks at all levels. (For example, here are the twitter accounts for publishing guru Tim O'Reilly: @timoreilly, VC Fred Wilson: @fredwilson, VoIP pioneer Jeff Pulver: @jeffpulver, and even celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal: @the_Real_Shaq and Lance Armstrong: @lancearmstrong ). By connecting with them and interacting directly, you have a much better chance of getting mentioned on blogs, in forums and discussions, and being highlighted in their media outreach.
More than any other medium, twitter allows you to connect directly with your users and engage them in a direct, immediate, two-way information exchange. You can get timely feedback: users with negative comments can be heard and their concerns addressed; users with positive comments can be encouraged to become evangelists. You can even learn of alternative ways your product is being used, or discover new markets that can be targeted.
This strategy of connecting with individual users and building a "long tail" following nicely complements the previous strategy of targeting "influencers". Some studies contradict Gladwell's conclusions, showing instead that users trust recommendations from peers and friends far more than those of a few super-connected individuals; the safest bet is to court both types.
In general, twitter marketing is very cheap and easy, and shouldn't have any significant impact on spending for your other Marketing programs; important, since cost is a major concern in the current challenging economic climate. Success in connecting via twitter takes time and authenticity, not a large budget!
And if your company still doesn't buy it? Create a personal account on twitter (hey, it's free) and start connecting! You can begin engaging others in your field and thought leaders in other fields - by engaging at a personal level, you can start to build your own network of followers.
Oh, and if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me as @nitink on twitter - I always follow everyone back!
For further reading, here are some great articles on twitter Marketing:
Great Examples of Corporate twitter use - Jennifer Laycock
Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities - Dawn Foster
How to use Twitter as a Twool - Guy Kawasaki
Looking for Mr. Goodtweet - How to pick up followers on twitter - Guy Kawasaki
Free (but welcome) advice on the corporate use of twitter - Elliot Ng
A User's Guide to Twittering - Wall Street Journal
Professional Branding Comes to Twitter - Svetlana Gladkova
Why I Love Twitter - Tim O'Reilly