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10/12/2011
11:57 AM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
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10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter

From recruiting to keeping an eye on the competition, Twitter can help your company do certain jobs much better. Check out these 10 tips.




Call it a social network, microblogging platform, networking site--by any description, Twitter is home to a rapidly growing audience. About 200 million registered Twitter accounts exist today. Recent Pew Research Center polling showed that 13% of all American adults online use Twitter as of May, 2011, good for a five-point jump from the November, 2010 adoption rate (8%). Moreover, Pew data indicates tweeters are skewing older, smarter, and more mobile. (The subtext: They have more purchasing power.)

All of this points to major potential for enterprises on Twitter. But before you unleash a torrent of tweets, it is a good idea for any business to ask a basic question: What am I using this for? It's not simply a matter of hanging out an "open" sign and watching the business pour in.

Twitter, perhaps more so than some other social sites, comes with certain guidelines--and we're not talking about the actual rules, like the 140-character limit per message. Rather, take time to learn the Twitter culture and how it's different. A prime example: The "always be closing" sales mentality isn't likely to generate much of a payoff. You should look to prove a return on investment, whether you're spending actual dollars, employee time, or other resources, but think beyond a pure sales and marketing mentality.

Another thing to remember is that Twitter, for the most part, is a conversation, a dialogue. You need to listen as well as talk, and you need to monitor the conversation to find out what people are saying about your company and its products. It isn't hard to become active on Twitter, but you should give some thought to what you want to accomplish and develop a plan for how you are going to participate. Fortunately, a growing number of tools can help.

Even the most conservative, laissez-faire social media strategies should incorporate some element of listening. As a commenter on a recent social story said: "Your brand and industry is being talked about on the networks. There is only one question: Are you part of the conversation?" The good news: There's a growing list of good monitoring tools to help you filter through the noise and amplify meaningful messages from customers and prospects. Be sure to check out The BrainYard's briefing on how to be a better listener on Twitter and other social media.

Now consider how your company could use Twitter to do better on 10 key tasks.


While "sales" might be something of a bad (or at least awkward) word on Twitter, "referrals" is not. In the context of learning, networking, and sharing (rather than buy, buy, buy), business referrals can provide real value--and ultimately a real ROI. Jim Milton, director of corporate strategy at SelectMinds, told me in a recent interview that one of the first places companies should look is among their current and former employees. "The business development use case with corporate alumni is definitely a proven one, and something where you can measure tangible results in terms of sales, especially in the B2B space," he says. Even if you don't have a formal corporate alumni network, following former supervisors, colleagues, and direct reports can keep you in the loop on what they're up to and how that might translate into mutual opportunities. (The image above is an example of how Microsoft's alumni use Twitter to promote and connect philanthropic efforts.) Twitter's Lists feature is a good tool in this regard. The integration with LinkedIn can help, too.

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Twitter: The Business Case For And Against




Like the technology and entertainment industries, the media business tends to be quite active on Twitter. (Whither the publication that doesn't have at least a basic presence?) Plenty of writers, editors, and other media pros tweet as individuals or under the header of their publication. Amy Ziari, senior associate at tech PR firm Bateman Group, offers this advice to executives and professionals on how to engage with the media via Twitter: "Think beyond the corporate Twitter handle and get involved personally. Follow the most important reporters to your company and when you have something of value to add, respond in an authentic way to their tweets--whether they're about stories they've written, anecdotes from their personal lives, or something else entirely," she says. "While corporate Twitter handles certainly have their place, the best relationships are still built on good old fashioned one-to-one human interaction. More reporters are also using Twitter to seek sources for their stories, so you never know when there will be an opportunity for you to help them out. "

RECOMMENDED READING:

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Twitter's not likely to replace your call center or email response team, but it could be part of a more effective overall approach to service--and potentially cut down on call and email volume in the process. Done right, it at least gives an otherwise faceless enterprise a chance to show its customers--rather than just tell them—that it cares about keeping them. Take Comcast: the cable giant operates in a business where customer service is a legitimate differentiator--The Discovery Channel is still The Discovery Channel with another provider. Comcast has put an actual face on its Twitter service efforts: Bill Gerth, also known as Comcast Bill. Under the latter moniker, he's something of a minor Internet celebrity, regularly responding via tweet to customer issues.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

What's Slowing Down Social Collaboration Inside SMBs?

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10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

Twitter: The Business Case For And Against


Twitter is increasingly a part of enterprise HR departments and how they attract and hire qualified job candidates. Huge concerns such as Merck, GE, Verizon, and others advertise openings and other hired-related news via Twitter. One upside: Those Pew findings that indicate the typical Twitter user has a high level of education. Another: Though by no means a be-all, end-all detail, engaging with the labor market via Twitter could increase the likelihood of finding forward-thinking, technology-driven candidates. This could be particularly important for certain job functions such as management, marketing, and sales. Lastly, while Twitter might not completely replace other recruiting channels, it's a low-cost venue: Unlike with paid listings, the only expense is employee time.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

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There is a place for promotion and marketing on Twitter. (The company itself would have to agree, given the rise of its promoted tweets feature.) Leo Widrich of Buffer, a Twitter scheduling app, notes that sales-y, product-oriented messages tend to turn into white noise. "Twitter gives your business a chance to become a real thought leader and authority in the space you are operating in. This builds trust and when the time comes to generate a lead or make a sale you are far more likely to achieve it. Seeing it purely as a sales channel can backfire badly," Widrich says. "The businesses I see performing best on Twitter are those that want to add value with their Tweets, without relating to their product. Choose your niche as narrowly as you can and then Tweet about the space, not your product." Once you're doing so, it's OK to mix in an offer or product info, but Widrich recommends limiting it to a one-to-six tweet ratio.

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Large enterprises need fast channels for communicating with their people, particular in emergency situations. Twitter's micro-format is about as fast as it gets. A mini-case study: Proctor & Gamble is a huge company, with 127,000 employees worldwide. The P&G media team recently used Twitter as a means of reaching out to staff in Norway after the recent shooting tragedy there, urging them to check in with its employee emergency assistance program. Twitter's brevity and accessibility offer a way to get messages to large numbers of employees fast, particularly in situations when other communications channels might be down or otherwise unrealistic.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

What's Slowing Down Social Collaboration Inside SMBs?

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Roomba Robots Listen To Social Media

10 Social Networking Don'ts

The Social Business And The Social Brand

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

Twitter: The Business Case For And Against




When it comes to social media and its business applications, Twitter can be about more than, well, Twitter. It's a good venue for keeping up with broader social and community developments--and how those might be useful in your business. You're likely to hear how another firm is engaging with another site such as Quora, for example. Invest the time to follow an appropriate mix of people and publications. (Cough, The BrainYard is a fine place to start.) Twitter chats, conducted via the famed hashtag, can be another valuable source of learning. An example: #blogchat meets every Sunday night at 8 p.m. CT for a discussion on blogging best practices, trends, and related topics. TweetChat is a third-party site that can help control the volume of various hashtag-based conversations.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

What's Slowing Down Social Collaboration Inside SMBs?

Social Sounds Sweet To A Symphony's CIO

Roomba Robots Listen To Social Media

10 Social Networking Don'ts

The Social Business And The Social Brand

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

Twitter: The Business Case For And Against




Twitter on its own offers a platform for engaging with executives and other influential people in your industry, but its integration with LinkedIn can kick networking into high gear. By pairing the two, you're able to add an interactive dimension to your modern Rolodex. Look for genuine ways to engage with people you know--even when you don't really know them--in the form of advice, recommendations, or even just a simple hello. Judicious use of the re-tweet can come in handy, too.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

What's Slowing Down Social Collaboration Inside SMBs?

Social Sounds Sweet To A Symphony's CIO

Roomba Robots Listen To Social Media

10 Social Networking Don'ts

The Social Business And The Social Brand

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

Twitter: The Business Case For And Against




Consider this part two of a listening-based strategy: Twitter can provide valuable information on what your competitors are doing, and what others are saying about them. Don't be bashful about following your competitors--both organizational handles and individuals. The list function can come in handy, particularly if the competition varies by product or service line. (It's also useful to keep tabs on indirect competitors.) Keep in mind that lists can be kept private: Though many Twitter users share their lists publicly, competitive intelligence gathering might qualify as a good one to keep to yourself. Give some thought to what other companies are doing well--inspiration can come from competitive sources, too. And rather than relish their (public) mistakes, learn from them. (OK, you can relish a little bit.)

RECOMMENDED READING:

Social Networking: Set Internal Collaboration Goals Early

What's Slowing Down Social Collaboration Inside SMBs?

Social Sounds Sweet To A Symphony's CIO

Roomba Robots Listen To Social Media

10 Social Networking Don'ts

The Social Business And The Social Brand

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools

Twitter: The Business Case For And Against

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