How Should Brand Managers Think About Twitter?

I have been meaning to write about Twitter for awhile now, but every time I got around to it, the site seemed to be experiencing either extreme fandom (like around SXSW) or extreme hatred (with all the site outages).  Well it seems like things have calmed down a bit at the moment so I was finally about to put my thoughts together.

Let’s start with a little Twitter 101

Now first, if you haven’t heard about Twitter yet, David Armano provides my favorite summaries with the two below graphics about the service (click for larger images):

Now with Twitter 101 out of the way, the real question is why should you as a Brand Manager care about Twitter.  I’ll be the first to admit that I held off embracing Twitter for awhile.  I just couldn’t see the value of a service that was about listening to updates on what my friends were doing.  But I ever since I caved in a couple of months ago, I have been a true Twitter fan and advocate for why it matters for marketers.

Twitter is about conversations

For me, I have found Twitter to have three big values for marketers.  They are: 1.) Customer Service/Community Management, 2.) Consumer Research, and 3.) Personal Learning.

Customer Service/Community Management:

Some of the smartest people in the industry are talking about why Customer Service is the new marketing and I couldn’t agree more.  After all, as the title of Blackshaw’s new book says “Satisfied Customers Tell 3 Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.”  What is great about Twitter is that it can put this customer service in the hands of the Brand Manager without you having to go through your Customer Service Department.  Zappos is an amazing example of this as their CEO and almost 200 other employees are on Twitter, monitoring the community around the brand.  The powerful of this is that consumers know they can engage directly with management AND employees can actively monitor any mentions of the brand.  This can create some remarkable customer service stories, all because of using Twitter to directly connect with people.  Brands like Jet Blue, and H&R Block understand this…so have you checked if your brand’s Twitter name is available?

Consumer Research:

The power of monitoring conversations is the consumer research that you can find in the every day conversations.  Sometimes this will lead to Customer Service/Community Management opportunities like the above.  But just as often, the conversations will be able to serve as your own mini-focus groups.  Through a site like Summize, you can plug in your brand name and get alerts whenever a person mentions it in Twitter.  Likewise, if your Twitter brand has enough followers, you can start using it for proactive consumer research, asking polls and questions of the audience to help influence your decision.  You could instantly tap into the collective wisdom of your biggest brand fans to help influence decisions.  Talk about cultivating a powerful relationship with your users.

Personal Learning:

Finally, Twitter creates an amazing personal learning opportunity for marketers and brand managers.  Every day we are nose to the grindstone in delivering the business.  We are running from meeting to meeting, worrying about shipping the next case or getting a qualified copy score.  This unfortunately can leave little time for personal learning besides the occassional reading of BrandWeek or AdAge.  There are tons of conferences we would love to go to but little time and travel budget holds us back.  The beauty of Twitter is that these don’t need to be barriers to your personal learning any longer.   Through hashtags you can monitor anyone on Twitter who is talking about a conference, be it SXSW, Mix08 or TED.  Or some innovative conferences (like Chicago New Media Summit) are even creating their own Twitter profiles.  This allows you to monitor the entire conversation around a conference from the comfort of your office.  This is how I experienced the Resource Interactive iCitizen conference this past May and it was truly great.  You are able to listen to the conversations, find out which speeches were worthwhile and then download the presentations on  Talk about convenience of personal learning on your own time.

So those are my three reasons why Twitter should matter to a Brand Manager today.  What do you think?  What would you add to the list?


3 Responses to How Should Brand Managers Think About Twitter?

  1. I agree with how customer service is the brand as I wrote in my blog: “What is Branding Anyway?”.
    Good comments.

  2. Liz Reitman says:

    Thanks for writing this blog. I haven’t been able to find many (any) good brand management blogs written from the brand manager perspective. Good stuff!

  3. paul gustafson says:

    thank you for helping me get more out of twitter in a way that I was missing its full power.

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