Twitter is an online social networking/microblogging/SMS (short message site) started in 2006, where people can post continuous updates (called “tweets”) about their whereabouts, doings, and anything else they deem to be interesting enough to broadcast to the world at large. (I say "they deem to be" because Twitter often proves the subjective nature of reality.) Sometimes, that can be 140 characters of total inanity; other times, this microblogging service is perfect for the lightning-fast informational needs (and, perhaps, attention spans) of today's world (Is what we're seeing happen in Iran revolution 2.0, perhaps?)
But what does it mean for business today? Here’s my tweet: Ignore the hype, and focus on the outcome. From the articles I checked out, the potentially malevolent influence of Twitter can be broken down into three categories: 1) customer relations, 2) information leaks, and 3) advertising/marketing.
1) Customer Relations (don't be the canary-in-the-mineshaft)
Dominos Pizza recently went through a “baptism by fire in social media” when a video of employees sabotaging food surfaced on YouTube that ended up getting over a million hits. According to an editor’s blog in Computer Weekly, Dominos missed an essential opportunity to nip this PR nightmare in the bud: as soon as the video hit the YouTube airways, conversation about it spread like wildfire on Twitter (but Dominos wasn’t on Twitter). Dominos now has an account on Twitter.
3) Loose twits sink ships
Twitter can also pose issues from the inside. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, the advertising firm Toquigny nearly lost a major prospective client account, when the client found out (through an employee post on Twitter) that Toquigny was courting one of its main competitors. Toquigny didn’t lose the account, but the near disaster underscores the need for businesses to have an official employee policy concerning social media sites like Twitter (The article states that IBM has had employees sign a document concerning social media sites since 2005).
2)Beat the brand-jack
In an interesting article called "Why Do Top Global Brands Ignore Twitter" Chris Lake from econsultancy.com cites Coca-Cola—the top global brand—as an example of how ‘not’ to take advantage of the advertising and marketing power of social media sites. According to the article, Coca-Cola’s brand name got snapped up on Twitter because the company didn’t have an official presence on the site. The author expresses alarm that top brands are ignoring electronic social media; he says, "All too often the internet (and mobile) is a last-minute thought, when it should be built into a campaign at the outset. More than that, it should now be hardwired into marketing strategies by default."
An article in the LA Times describes Twitter as a social media site "whose expansive micro-messaging network is becoming an online circulatory system for news, pumping information between media organs, consumers and businesses themselves."
Hmm, circulatory systems sound pretty essential to a well-functioning, agile corporate organism. Best exercise caution, don't you think?
Related post: Exxon Mobil Gets Brand-Jacked On Twitter