to the beat: Twitter business success stories
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
July 7-13, 2009; issue 1028
High Tech Office column
In May this column looked at
Twitter. The micro-blogging online service has grown dramatically with
more than 10 million sharing 140-character responses to “What are you
In that column, I wasn’t sure if I got it.
I’m not alone in my Twitter-ambivalence. A recent Harvard study
suggested that many people sign on to Twitter, “tweet” just once and
never return, while 10% of the service’s users generate 90% of the
content. An earlier Nielsen study claimed 60% of U.S. Twitter users
hadn’t returned to the service a month later.
statistics, some businesses are using Twitter to boost sales.
Computer-maker Dell, an early Twitter adopter, offers its “followers”
easily tracked Twitter-only discounts. These have generated US$3
million in sales, $1 million in the past six months.
My column ended with a challenge to readers: “Any Twitter
business-usefulness success stories out there?”
Among the replies:
Hirtle, sales co-ordinator for Fairmont Hotels, noted that the Fairmont
Empress offered a special discounted room rate on Twitter. The result
was “increased occupancy. Much more successful than any traditional ad
buy and it cost minimal time and labour.” Now seven Fairmont hotels
have Twitter accounts.
•Betsy Cooper, of Vancouver PR firm B*co
Communications, said “Twitter has been a valuable tool.” With it, she
has met business contacts and colleagues and “reached out to media for
client opportunities.” Following up on a question posted by a Globe and
Mail reporter resulted in coverage for her company that has led to
•Author Erica Pinsky has been using Twitter
to help promote her new book, Road to Respect: Path to Profit. She
hasn’t directly sold any books or got any speaking or consulting
engagements as a result. However, her postings are frequently
“re-tweeted,” going out, for example, to members of the U.S.-based
Society for Human Resources Management. She has started to see sales
from this secondhand Tweeting. Perhaps more importantly, she noted:
“Now I have almost 600 people who are aware of me and my work. I am now
connected to individuals all over the world. And it does not cost me
anything except my time.”
•Describing herself as an “online
marketing wizard,” Tamara Brooks posted a tweet when she was looking
for a bookkeeper. One of her Twitter followers sent her a list of five
candidates that he had interviewed. She has received several speaking
engagements by following up on Twitter conversations. She has recently
begun giving Twitter tutorials to businesses looking to use the service
to interact with customers.
•Gary Yurkovich is active with BC
Social Venture Partners, a group of businesspeople who support “the
local non-profit community.” While resisting the temptation to tweet
about what he had for breakfast, he sees the potential power of Twitter
to “simply let people know what you are about and let people join you
or know you as they see fit.” His tweets have brought at least one new
person on as a partner in BCSVP.
•Rebecca Bollwitt used Twitter
last February to organize the local version of the worldwide Twestival
charity event, bringing 250 people out to a fundraiser at the Opus
Hotel. Online as Miss604, she has posted resources introducing Twitter
for business. Worth checking out:
viddler.com/explore/Miss604/videos/36, which includes examples of
Vancouver business-Twitter users.
A common thread: for business
success, connect Twitter to other online and real-world resources. The
Fairmont Empress promotion was a success after being picked up by blogs
and newspapers. B*co gained clients when a Twitter reply led to an
article in the Globe. And Miss604 notes that Twitter can be a great
tool for finding people but that it remains important to followup face
to face to convert tweets to sales.
There may not be a direct
correlation between having a Twitter presence and increased sales
volume. But Pinsky answered my challenge: “If the criteria for success
is widening my sphere of influence, of increasing the number of
individuals that know about me and my work, then the answer is yes.” •