Full disclosure, I’m a massive Twitter fan. Twitter lets me say what I want to say, when I want to say it, to who I want to say it to and lets me feel like someone is listening. I’ve had problems as simple as ‘what to have for dinner’ answered, I’ve interacted with famous people I admire and will never meet and I’ve connected with people I have never met in a meaningful way, all within 140 characters.
One of the most powerful examples of the influence Twitter can have is that of Barack Obama’s political team and their use of the social media. Having successfully experimented with social media in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama began personally contributing to the @BarackObama account signing personally written tweets with BO. You, the follower, can now read direct communication from the President of the United States! At last check, the account had a cool 30 million followers and in December of 2012 Obama made history by tweeting a photo of him and his wife embracing along with the text “Four More Years”…. which was re-tweeted 769,000 times in 22 minutes. Just the sheer number of people he was able to reach, with nothing more than a Smartphone, is astonishing. In no other format can such a simple, unchanged message reach so many people with so little effort.
Specific brands have caught on to the Twitter juggernaut as well and used it to fantastic effect. Not with never-once-clicked-on, spend-your-money-somewhere-else ‘sponsored’ tweets, but with real-life, personal and communicative tweets. While there’s always the risk of consumers taking to Twitter to vent horror stories, there’s also the option for consumers to take to Twitter to share positive experiences with a brand or company. Not to mention the great customer service you can display when you get back to your consumers with their Twitter feedback with a timely and helpful response. Remember that old saying where one person has a good experience and they tell two friends? Well now they’re not just telling two friends, they’re tweeting to thousands of followers all across the world.
Companies and brands like Kodak, Starbucks, NASA and WWE use their Twitter pages to great effect. They ask their millions of followers questions, they find out why their customers choose their brand and best of all they have fun with their customers.
It’s all well and good relishing what there is to gain from Twitter, but like any good footballer will tell you, it’s important to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Errant tweets can not only impact your business but the flow on effect from re-tweets are only just being discovered. On Tuesday 23 April hackers took over the Associated Press Twitter account. They used the account to tweet there had been explosions at the White House and President Obama was hurt. In the few minutes the tweet was available before it was deleted and the account taken offline it was re-tweeted 3000 times. Although the news was confirmed as untrue it was online long enough to send a shudder through the stock market which plunged 143 points before it recovered.
Even tweets from companies themselves have the capacity to be major PR blunders. Just looking at some of the top corporate disasters of 2012 makes it blatantly clear that each tweet needs to be thought about both in the context of the business it comes from, but as part of the greater Twittersphere as well. A misplaced or mistimed hashtag can have a massive impact on a brand’s image and even one re-tweet of a terrible tweet is one you’re not going to get back.
But let’s not dwell on the risks – we love taking risks! Be aware of them, but embrace them and use them to your advantage as well. Messages On Hold has just dived into the world of Twitter as well and we’d love for you to follow us as we explore just how much we can achieve… in 140 characters or less.