Twitter: How and why Australian businesses should start tweeting
What is Twitter?
Established in March 2006, Twitter is a micro-blogging website which publishes 140 character
updates from its estimated 8 million plus users. The site asks users to post replies to “What are you
doing?”, and the resulting updates are instantaneous, text-only, and can be sent from mobile phones,
the website itself and third party applications. Users choose other users to “follow”, whose updates
appear to them when they log in.
Who should use Twitter?
Your organisation should considering using Twitter if:
• Your products include broadcast news services. Update Twitter with links to your most
recent articles and draw users to your website or blog.
• You want to be proactive in managing your customer relations. Track what Twitter users
are saying about your product and services, and respond quickly to negative feedback.
• You want to promote yourself as media-savvy, and attract a similar audience. Use
Twitter appropriately as part of your online presence to gather respect and interest.
Why should you use Twitter?
Twitter offers the opportunity to add further communication and brand management tools to your
integrated, assertive and open online presence. Public business-to-consumer interactions, targeted
product and service promotion and responsive, proactive management of feedback are all benefits
your organisation can realise by creating and operating an account on Twitter. As Twitter increases
in popularity (by around 400% in 2008 (source: Twitdir)) and visibility, your account will become
even more important in positioning your organisation as forward-thinking, media-savvy and
dedicated to communicating with your customers. Some specific reasons for using Twitter follow.
1. Build an online presence. In the 1990s, organisations learned about the importance of
having their own website. In the 2000s, the emphasis has shifted beyond a single site, and
now social media and social networking sites are immensely popular, and constantly
growing. Expanding your online activities beyond a website, into these new sites such as
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs, is part of creating an integrated online presence
which will be increasingly important as the public moves away from television and print
media and towards a fully networked existence.
2. Keep in touch. Use Twitter to keep your admirers, followers and even critics informed
about upcoming product releases and conferences or conventions you will be presenting at,
and to elicit feedback about new products and services. Create a dialogue with your
customers and present an approachable, human face to your organisation. As part of a
comprehensive online presence, Twitter helps humanise your organisation and encourage
discussion and involvement with your customers. Dissatisfied customers can also be
communicated with and a resolution found speedily and publicly.
Twitterers who communicate with their audiences:
1. ScottMonty: written by Scott Monty from Ford, 17,237 followers
2. Marvel: written by Ryan Penagos, editor at Marvel.com, 14,679 followers
3. Zappos: written by CEO Tony Hsieh, 381,272 followers
3. Protect your brand. Just like purchasing www.yourname.com, creating accounts under
your organisation name, your CEO's name, or even your major product's name, helps protect
your online profile. Even if you have no immediate plans to use Twitter, it's a good idea to
stay one step ahead – the online world moves so quickly that you may regret your decision
to 'wait and see'.
Twitter accounts run by someone external to the organisation, and therefore not
controlled by the organisation:
1. Disney: Run by Cheri Thomas of California, 276 followers
2. BMW: Written by Brian M. Westbrook, 1,509 followers
3. Hummer: Written by Yuji Yamamoto, 68 followers
4. Stay one step ahead. Although Twitter isn't as popular yet as social networking sites such
as Facebook, it is growing, and fast. Twitter accounts increased from approximately
900,000 to 5,000,000 during 2008 (source: Twitdir), web traffic to Twitter.com increased in
Australia by 517.9% during 2008 (source: Hitwise), and up to two million updates are
posted every day (source: TweetRush). Creating a presence on Twitter after all your
competitors have joined and the network has become louder and busier will make it more
difficult to attract new followers. Gathering followers now, and benefiting from a likely
upsurge in Twitter's popularity and coverage, makes a lot more sense.
Australian organisations already on Twitter:
1. Crikey_News: Crikey, started May 12th 2008, now 2,891 followers
2. SuziDafnis: National General Manager of Australian Businesswomen’s Network,
started June 21st 2008, now 1,114 followers
3. LMFF: Chair of L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival, Laura Anderson, started
February 9th 2009, now 548 followers
How should you use Twitter?
1. Reply to your readers. If you want your customers, fans or the general public to continue
reading your tweets, you should consider create personalised communication which is
directly engaging, even if it seems less “efficient” by requiring consideration of every
incoming tweet. Twitter is about being effective, not efficient, and using Twitter effectively
involves leveraging the directness it offers between users, rather than risking an automated
reply which is insensitive, unhelpful or simply confusing.
Twitterers who reply:
1. NeilHimself: Newbery award winning author Neil Gaiman, 178,983 followers
2. Queensland: written by a member of Queensland Tourism, 3,594 followers
3. BigPondTeam: written by a BigPond team, online 9am-6:30pm, M-F, 857 followers
2. Keep informed. Similar to how media monitoring can watch for keywords and alert you to
coverage you would otherwise miss, Twitter technology allows you to receive notification of
keyword usage by other Twitter users. Twitter is a quick and easy way for people to talk
about what is happening to them right then – which can often translate into a way to express
frustration or praise at a product or service they are using. Being away from Twitter won't
mean missing out on tweets you should be aware of, or even replying to – and you can retain
the personalised touch by crafting each individual reply.
Twitterers who receive automatic alerts:
1. ComcastCares: Comcast is working to improve its dramatically low customer
approval ratings by being alerted to tweets about their service, 15,157 followers
(source: The New York Times)
2. AdamDenison: a PR representative from Chevrolet tracks tweets about their cars
and tweets with enthusiasts, 1,328 followers (source: Mashable)
3. Be creative. Engage your audience by tweeting a story in instalments, or by having some
fun with your brand. Any narratives your organisation is experiencing can be written as a
Twitter story. Narratives can span the traditional – a new TV show, movie or publication –
to the more ambitious – organisational change, expansion, a new product line. By playing
out a narrative on Twitter, in some cases by a fictional character, or by providing
entertaining updates, you can engage your audience with passion and creativity. Even
without a pre-existing, offline narrative, or if your corporate image is unified, Twitter offers
an opportunity to create a contemplative, enthusiastic and honest human presence online.
1. PopeyesChicken: written by an anonymous employee who constantly puns about
chicken, 2,799 followers
2. LaReinaDelSass: written as a character from web TV series “Gemini Division”, 30
4. Give yourself a voice. Your brand may already have a defined voice, but Twitter allows
you to vary that voice and create a broader online persona. Your Twitter can be written by
'the organisation', an excited new hire who chronicles their experiences, the CEO about his
or her strategic vision, an enthusiastic helpdesk member, or any other involved and
passionate employee. Multiple Twitter accounts can be created, for multiple voices, through
which your organisation can demonstrate its flexibility, unique qualities and multiple
Example Twitter accounts:
1. TVGuide: written by executive VP Paul Greenberg, 6,755 followers
2. Starbucks: written by former barista Brad Nelson, 130,324 followers
3. JDickerson: written by John Dickerson, Slate magazine political correspondent,
5. Broadcast on Twitter. If your organisation is a broadcaster in the traditional media space,
use Twitter to reach an audience who are not as interested in television, print or radio. By
partnering Twitter with your existing website, you can automatically publish tweets which
direct Twitterers to your updates: at September 2008, an informal review of American
newspapers on Twitter showed around half used automatic updating services (source:
GraphicDesignr.net). The nature of Twitter provides an immediacy to your message, and
can increase your credibility and improving your profile.
Example broadcasters tweeting automatic broadcasts of all articles on Twitter:
1. NYTimes: New York Times, 537,748 followers
2. ABCNews: Australian ABC News, 8,421 followers
3. TheAge: The Age, 1,165 followers
How to promote your Twitter account
The simplest method of promoting your new Twitter account is to write about it on your website.
• If your organisation’s website contains a blog:
Devote an entry to talking about your account and what you hope to achieve
Add a plug-in to publish your recent updates in your blog’s sidebar
Add your Twitter details to your contact information
• If your organisation’s website doesn’t contain a blog:
Create a “news” piece about your account
Add your Twitter details to your contact information
• Include your Twitter account details wherever you publish your website address,
specifically where customers see it
• Write about your account in the next newsletter sent to customers
Risk management when using Twitter
1. Negative feedback. By establishing a presence on Twitter, you may receive more direct
feedback from other users about your products and services, and this feedback will
sometimes be negative. Take the opportunity to respond quickly and appropriately, by
providing assistance or information where possible and directing the user to an alternative
communication channel if appropriate. From a negative update, create a positive interaction
with the customer. This direct and personalised communication is where Twitter shines.
2. Falling behind. Effective use of Twitter entails being aware of all relevant updates,
responding promptly where necessary, and keeping your followers informed of your latest
news. Twitter is not a “set and forget” tool, so it is imperative your organisation allocates
adequate resources to manage your account on a daily basis. A slow, silent Twitter account
will do more damage to your online presence than no account at all.
3. Under-resourcing. Just as your organisation needs to be up-to-date in its management of
Twitter, you also need to consider who will be managing your account. A resource will need
to be allocated, with enough time every day dedicated to read relevant updates, respond
appropriately and update with the latest news. Although Twitter seems simple, don’t risk
under-resourcing your approach to it, and reducing its effectiveness for your organisation.
How not to use Twitter:
These tips are relevant for any organisations which aren’t involved in broadcast news.
1. Posting nothing new. If all your tweets direct your followers to read your blog, you risk
losing their interest. They may already follow your blog, and decide that your Twitter isn't
worth following as well. Or, if their first contact with you online is via Twitter, they may be
disappointed that you aren't using it in a more communicative and interesting way, and stop
following you as a result. Make sure you are posting relevant, interesting, entertaining, or
simply informative tweets which followers will benefit from if they continue reading.
2. Automating too much. Getting automatic alerts whenever a user mentions your brand is
valuable and useful. Sending automatic replies to users' inquiries can be insulting,
insensitive or just rude. Twitter is a personalised communication system, and some of the
most popular users are those who recognise and capitalise on this fact. If you want to
personalise your organisation’s online presence by using Twitter, but aren't ready to
communicate with users in a personal fashion, then you may not be ready for Twitter yet.
3. Ignoring your users. Your Twitter account is there to help you connect to your audience.
If your Twitter feed is full of updates about your organisation, is regularly updated, and
shows no interest in incoming contact from interested users, you will show you aren't
interested in communicating – but simply in advertising. Social media is about promoting
personal interaction, and an organisation which ignores this fact is one which will not
benefit from social networking technologies, and one which will be left behind. Exceptions
to this rule are news organisations or emergency services – for these Twitterers, being able
to provide updates without being pressured to respond to queries is imperative.
The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/technology/25comcast.html?_r=1
Katherine Milesi firstname.lastname@example.org
Partner, Online Services, Deloitte (03) 9208 7561
Naomi Civins email@example.com
Social Media Analyst, Deloitte (03) 9208 7359