Twitter Means Business

September 19, 2008

That’s the title of a new book due out later this fall from Pioneer Press technology reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata. Julio was good enough to visit Fast Horse yesterday and lead a fascinating discussion about the business uses of Twitter.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata

Julio Ojeda-Zapata

For the uninitiated: Twitter is the leading microblogging service. It allows you to use your computer or phone to post short items, called “tweets,” that can’t be more than 140 characters long. Anybody who goes on Twitter can see your post, and there are currently an estimated 4 million people in the growing Twitterverse.

In his book, Julio profiles a number of companies that are successfully using Twitter to advance their business goals: Whole Foods, Comcast, Dell, Zappos and Graco among them (Graco the maker of baby gear, not the Nordeast industrial pump manufacturer).

There are three levels of use, he said:

– Silent monitoring, where companies simply track what’s being said about them

– One-way conversations, where companies use Twitter to push out information about their products and services

– Two-way conversations, where companies truly engage their customers and build relationships with them

Comcast is particularly aggressive about using Twitter to help solve customer problems. Julio leads his book with an anecdote about getting a tweet from a Comcast executive within minutes of tweeting with a negative comment about Comcast service.

Broberg makes a point

Broberg makes a point

As with the entire new online world, a hurdle is getting companies to realize that they can’t control what is being said about them online. People have new channels of communication, and they’re making full use of them. And woe to the company that refuses to recognize this, Julio said: “Ignore Twitter at your peril. It’s a big group and there are a lot of influential people using it.”

Time and again, however, discussion of the new technologies always seems to reaffirm the basics: Know your messages. Communicate them honestly. Strive to understand your customers and engage them on their terms. Build lasting relationships.

Twitter offers an exciting new way of achieving those age-old goals. And Julio welcomes your comments to his Twitter accounts: @jojeda, @twitinbiz and @PiPress.