Here is an interesting experiment: start following 100 commercial Twitter accounts and record exactly how they communicate with their customers. Record whether or not they include links to their sales pages (or service pages if they’re a service business), how often they link to external sources, and how often they ask for feedback from their customers. In addition, take note of how frequently they ‘@’ and direct message their customers, how frequently they communicate with influential twitterers (5000+ followers) and whether they use their account for customer service or some kind of direct sales service.
AirAsia is on Twitter and it uses the service effectively. Their account is half about customer service — flight re-times, schedule changes and potential upgrades — and half about special offers and direct marketing. It is hard to tell, but it seems like their overall social media presence is highly profitable, not just in customer service savings but in the direct effects of their flight sales and upgrade purchases.
That is just one effective Twitter presence, but it seems like every one effective account is overshadowed by the hundreds of ineffective ones. Twitter has generated a lot of attention, so naturally every business wants to be online, making the most of the audience that Twitter opens them up to. The problem is that so few know how to market effectively there. Instead of using Twitter to actually connect with people, it becomes an outlet for them to post direct sales links, affiliate sales pages and online products.
There is a great book called ‘Meatball Sundae’ written by the prolific marketing author Seth Godin. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, he is the guy behind Squidoo, one of the most exciting and successful online businesses. His idea is that meatballs are delicious, as are ice cream. Why not put them together?
As anyone with a sense of taste can tell you, when you put two good things together you do not always get a great result. A meatball sundae does not sound like a great dessert prospect. What about a great offline business — a signage and visual design business, for example — and a great online service like Twitter. Should those two business go together? Probably not.
Twitter is a useful tool for brands, and there is no doubt about that. The problem is that it is not a great tool for every brand. Just like direct marketers are not going to see the results that they want from Twitter, offline businesses and businesses that operate within specific confines are not going to get what they want with a Twitter account alone.
Experiment, analyze and calculate by all means, but some businesses just are not going to benefit from a Twitter presence. If you think you are one of the exceptions, a great strategy will go a long way to save you. Take a leaf from AirAsia’s book. Focus on customer interaction before the hard sale, post offers that you know your customers would like to hear, and do not resort to a hard sale if you do not find your results perfect. Social media does not thrive on the hard sell, and business that dedicate their entire social media presence to direct sales likely will not thrive either.