Use Twitter to search and help

In my last post, I argued that Facebook is more effective than Twitter.

Is Twitter useless then?

Far from it.

Twitter has its own strength.

Notably, it allows you to have one-on-one conversations with existing customers, potential customers and the people that are important to you.

Done right, it can be invaluable.

But let’s first take a closer look at what Twitter is not effective at: sending out the same message to all your followers.

The reason is that few people will ever see your Tweets.

Why is that?

Many people follow you, not so much because they look forward to every message you send, but in hope that you follow them back.

Look at these statistics from a random user. Let’s call him John.

Most of John’s followers have followed him back.

John will get tens of thousands of messages in his newsfeed every day. There’s no way he can read them, or even a fraction.

The same is true if you ‘only’ follow a hundred people (and most people do): you’d have to digest hundreds of messages per day.

It means that most tweets go unnoticed and your message, of course, is no exception: few of your followers will see it.

What to do?

Luckily, Twitter allows you to take direct contact with individual users – even those who don’t follow you.

All you have to do, is use the ‘@’-sign in front of their username, like this:

People monitor their @-mentions on Twitter

@espiekerman saw Mark’s message because, like most people, he monitors whether people address him in that way (Twitter makes that really easy).

The possibility to contact individual users in this way, opens up incredible opportunities.

The power of helping out

Take the example of Gary Vaynerchuck.

In his book The Thank You Economy, he tells how he grew a following on Twitter by searching for the word #Chardonnay. He saw that people had questions and answered them.

At first, he didn’t tell them that he ran his own wine business.

His intention was to show his expertise by giving valuable advice. He invested in the relationship, gaining people’s trust and, over time, converting them, or at least some of them, into customers of his Wine Library.

Real time

What makes this approach interesting is the combination with the search-function on Twitter.

In fact, it is hard to overstate the potential of a Twitter-search: the results are real-time. 

Real-time results allow you to monitor what people are saying at this very moment.

You can use that to monitor a keyword like Chardonnay. Or, you can monitor what people are saying about you.

The Roger Smith Hotel in New York is a great example for that.

By monitoring their @-mentions, they saw how people recommended them to the popular blogger Chris Brogan. Chris had asked for advice on where to stay in New York.

The Roger Smith didn’t waste time and sent him a message, offering him a special blogger-bonus.

The great thing is: they weren’t just talking about themselves, they were making themselves useful. They made Chris feel welcome and gave him a special offer, a personal one at that.

Not surprisingly, Chris caught on. As he explains here, he didn’t only stay at the hotel, he became a regular guest and spread the word about them.

Damage repair and customer service

The same method allows you to repair damage when people complain.

As in real life, an honest excuse goes a long way when things go wrong. And, beyond excuses, you can make up for a problem with a freebie, a voucher or a special offer.

Many companies are taking this a step further by using Twitter for Customer Service.

Best Buys’ Twelpforce is a well-known example. Their employees give free, technical advice and this promo-video explains the concept:

I particularly like this line:

“You get answers from real Best Buy-employees, not from some call-center an ocean away.”

It’s not an outsourcing or cost-cutting exercise. It’s real customer service.

Double benefit

And, of course, there is an extra benefit to helping on Twitter: it’s easy for the beneficiary to spread the word.

We all appreciate a good experience. And we like to tell others about it.

If the good experience happens on Twitter, people can talk about it right here, right now.

Not to forget that people on Twitter are people who like to communicate. Chances are that they spread the word about you – on Twitter, on Facebook or on their blog.

Can it work for you?

One-on-one marketing may seem daunting and it can take a lot of time.

But the good thing about the Search and Help-method is that you can take it as it comes along.

People are not talking about you? Then you don’t have to get active.

You are getting many questions? Then you’re probably well off answering them.

Either way, monitoring on Twitter will be worth your time.

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