Seven Commerical Uses of Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for more than a minute now. I signed up around May 08, but didn’t use it much. I posted up a few updates and couldn’t see the value of it. However, I decided to give it another try this week and I’ve been hooked.

I posted previously about Twitter and how my company uses Yammer, a Twitter spin-off. Basically, Twitter allows you to text 140 characters about what you are doing. To be honest with you, when I found this out I thought it had really little value.

However, in the past week I’ve used it for different purposes and this is where I see Twitter as having value:

1. News Service

I decided to follow a couple of news services just to try it out. So I followed @Digg_2000 for stories with more than 2000 diggs and @NYTimes, so I’m getting constant updates about the major news stories. There’s also a couple of other social media gurus out there, like @guykawasaki, @joywayng (Jeremiah Wang of Forrester research & author of Groundswell).  I get to hear their constant thoughts, articles they want to share interesting people & companies that they are meeting (more on this later).

Another pertinent example was highlighted this week. By now, you’ve heard about the plane crash in the Hudson River caused by flock of birds. The first place this was reported was Twitter & the pics were on Twitpic.  Janis Krums, who was on a ferry going to the rescue of the plane wrote:

There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy“.

Twitter was updating furiously with news like this about the Hudson plane crash. I went to the Twitter search engine and looked up “plane crash” and every few seconds someone was saying something about it. It  gives you an ear to the ground.

Due to the availability of the internet on phones, people can immediately micro-blog on their phones and post to the internet via applications like Twitter and post the pics. Twitter allows citizen journalism, for ordinary people to report on stuff straight away and for it to be spread like a viral message.

2. Customer Service

Telecomms

I noticed from reading a couple of blogs, that @Comcastcares was using Twitter to respond to customer complaints. Twitter can be used as a public forum, and if you use it to complain about service or product, and if you have enough followers, you could be quite damaging to their brand.

So in a wise move, companies like @Comcast, @BigPondTeam, etc… are using it to get in touch with people that are bitching about their service. They get in touch with you and DM (direct message) you, to find out how they can help.

Atlassian – Confluence Wiki

I have experienced this from a different angle by praising a product. I posted the following:

inspiredworlds is building a wiki on confluence (Atlassian product). It’s so easy to use!

Then two people posted a response. One of them was @mattnhodges, in their customer service or marketing team, who previously has sent me an autoresponse email about the Wiki when I was evaluating the product and after I purchased it. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to ask questions and get responses and useful links. Another person associated with Atlassian, also posted a response and when they wrote a response to another customer about a sharepoint extender, and I got some useful info there as well.

Docstoc v Slideshare

During the week, I have been evaluating two websites for sharing documents. So I posted a general question: “Docstoc v SlideShare, which is better?“.

To my amazement, the next day when I logged in, @Serena from Docstoc had responded with “docstoc of course. DM me if you want tips about how to optimise your use”. That’s incredible customer service. Admittedly, I decided to go with Slideshare, even though it crashed a few times during the week, but at least I had that option and it made me more curious to check out Docstoc.

Monitoring how brands use it

To monitor this customer service usage, I have decided to follow a number of other brands to see how they will use it, and will post about that experience. I imagine its easier now for customer service, because they are not that many people on Twitter. But imagine if the whole Facebook crowd decided to join twitter, how much noise, clutter and compliants will be on Twitter?

However, I believe that Twitter does attract a certain type of person – someone that wants to be heard, slightly ahead of the adoption curve, tech – savvy, that can influence others. So that is why companies are providing quick responses on Twitter.

3. Brand building / Marketing

A lot of brands are on Twitter. I like that, because I get to follow my favourite brands and apps and find out what’s happening. For example, I’m a huge Chicago bulls fan, and @chicagobulls will post updates during the games and their thoughts:

Duncan is clogging the middle but the Bulls are hitting shots. Hanging in 36-33 in the second.”

I’ve also signed up to hear updates from @Wordpress, @Googlereader, @shareaholic, @yammer_team, @blogger. I like these products and brands, and I want to hear from them. In a sense, I’m giving them permission to enter my world. I don’t just follow anyone, I’m quite picky because otherwise you get too much clutter.

These brands have reciprocated by adding me as their “friend” by following me. So they are interested in what I have to say – perhaps to provide better customer service (as noted above). For example, during the week I posted how “It’s official, I’m a shareaholic“, and in response @shareaholic posted on their tweets:

@inspiredworlds Welcome!

Consequently, I’ve posted in reply that they should add Yammer as one of their new features. And then the @Yammer_team added me. How cool is that? Obviously, these guys are paying attention to what is been said about them.

I believe this is an area where brands can use twitter – to hear what customers are saying about them and to also build up the brand and stay in constant contact with their customers. How cool is that when a brand mentions you in their tweets? Admittedly, the novelty factor does wear off. It’s allowing me to be closer to my favourite brands.

One problem is “twitter squatting”. Some cunning people have snatched up some valuable online real estate. For example @jetstar is not jetstar. I don’t even know if @chicagobulls is even the real thing. So there’s no way to know, just have to look at the page, check their links, number of followers, and make an assessment.

4. Professional Networking

I’m relatively new in digital marketing with only 8 months experience in the industry. So it’s important for me to network with people and meet the who’s who of the industry. I can go through people’s lists and add anyone I would like to know and generally they reciprocate and add me. It’s not as intimate as facebook where they get to see all your personal info and pics. All you are getting in twitter is 140 character updates.

So I’ve added in a couple of the big names in the industry overseas, as well as people locally that I meet.  People also have “tweetups”, where they have real meetings with people in twitter. I mean, even speakers from the Future of Digital forum I attended, I’ve added them in Twitter. You can add someone in twitter and when you meet them, you can say “I know you from twitter!”.

5. Find out trends & buzz

I’ve covered this off above. If you want to hear what people are thinking about, just use twitter search. You will get live updates about what people think about brands, what’s being discussed out there.

6. Thought Leadership

As mentioned above, I’ve tapped into some of the key minds in the industry. And they also share a lot of useful links, which I’ve then read and commented on. They also talk about people they have met in the industry, company meetings they are going to, trends they can see and so on.

7. Microblogging

Twitter is so easy to use and update. This post I am writing now, has taken at least an hour. In between finding the links, going back through my emails and twitter updates. Microblogging is blogging in small lines of text, perhaps one or two lines. You  don’t have to think too much when you twitter because you are concentrating on writing just one line. And you can update it again a few seconds or minutes later.

It could possibly over take blogging. Evhead, the CEO of twitter who previously sold Blogger to Google wrote about it on his blog. Twitter gives you smaller bite sized pieces to snack on and feeds our voracious hunger for constant updates.

Other thoughts on Twitter

I believe that the use of Twitter will continue to grow as it offers a differnet purpose to facebook and has commercial value as noted above.

With the advent of aggregator services like Shareaholic, Fring, Xummi, Friendfeed, it allows you to manage multiple social network services at the same time like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Delicious. So belonging to multiple networks is possible and will grow in popularity.

Their are also a couple of innovations out there like Brightkit, which allow multiple people to “tweet” under one account, manage multiple accounts and to time your updates. I thought there was no way @guykawasaki could be pumping out so many updates throughout the day, but they must prerecord them and have several people tweeting all the time. Brightkit is free now to manage one account, but charges for multiple accounts.

I’ve also come across Ginx, which Pierre Omidyar the ebay founder has started. It allows you to share links, and then share comments about it, with the twitter page taking up the top part of the page. It’s eerily similar to sharing facebook comments about a shared link, where the option to comment is just above the page or even like Digg.

One of the biggest problems I have with social networking is the multiple logins and passwords you have to remember. Concepts like OpenID (having one identification) for all websites will allow one login for all.

Twitter will not replace Facebook, but it takes one of its most popular features the status updates and builds on that. Status updates combined with tiny URL’s, will allows for greater sharing and social bookmarking. Along with the popularity of internet on mobiles, instant messaging, the time is ripe for Twitter.

I’m out like the era before Twitter,

Matthew Ho.

[Updated: Dave from BrightKit – Thanks very much for including BrighKit in your article.  One thing.  We don’t charge for multiple accounts.  BrightKit is entirely free right now while it’s in public beta.  If you wouldn’t mind changing that, we’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!]

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Dialing into the future with Xummi and Google Android

Mobile Mondays

Mobile Mondays

MoMo – Mobile Mondays

I turned up to my first Mobile Monday event tonite in Sydney. Mobile Mondays are chapters or societies in different cities dedicated to learning more about mobiles, mobile marketing and for networking opportunites for those in the mobile industry.

The event began by talking about general industry trends relating to mobile and internet. The most interesting fact was that China has now overtaken the US as the greatest number of internet users. Which is suprising given that the U.S has 70% penetration of its population using internet, while China only has a fraction at 19%. Kinda scary numbers as the internet hasn’t been fully adopted in China yet.

Xumii – Mobile Social Networking

The warmup act was Xumii, which is a company from San Francisco. It is developing a platform to use across existing social networking applications for mobiles. It’s great little application where you can chat to all your friends across different instant messenger platforms like MSN, AIM, googletalk, etc.., check the status of your friends, have RSS sent to your mobile, access facebook, myspace, etc… Consider it like a friendfeed for mobiles. It doesn’t really create anything new, it just lets your social networking applications talk to your mobile.

Friendfeed is brilliant in this way, and Xumii‘s use is quite similar. It allows you to keep track of your social applications and gives you a single access point from your mobile. They have worked together with Facebook, youtube, etc.. to use their existing features and security log ins.

You can drag all your contacts from online to your mobile and it lets you have private conversations with different groups of people. Instead of sending an SMS to all your friends to find out where they are, consider this scenario: check the status of your friends to see whether they are on the computer or on their mobile Xumii’s. Message the group of people that’s out and about telling them where to go and also upload a gif image of a map to direct them.

For me, what we are seeing, is a mobile being used as a greater social tool to organise and keep in contact with your friends. We don’t have to talk to them to know what they are up to. That is the beauty of facebook, its allows you to voyueristically see what your friends are up to by looking at their status, what’s going on in their lives by checking the messages on their walls and perusing their photos. Xumii brings that mindset and capability to the mobile.

The biggest question facing Xumii and its competitors is how to monetise this platform – because Xumii is free. The presenters mentioned having wall or profile page where advertisers could display current events coming up that the user is interested in – like local concerts, discounted offers, etc… They also mentioned revenue share with the carriers and so on. But as a business proposition, one really has to wonder how they will make money off Xumii. It is the same problem facing other social media like Facebook, Youtube, etc…

Overall, I thought it was cool application bordering on a product pitch to VC’s in Silicon Valley. My other concern besides monetisation is competition. Because of the similarities to Friendfeed, if Friendfeed developed a mobile application, would Xumii have trouble competiting? That remains to be seen, despite this, I think this is a step in the right direction for the future of mobile.

However, do people want to be contactable by their 400 friends on Facebook, so they can see what they are up to all times via their mobiles? For someone like me, who is really into web 2.0 products like RSS, social bookmarking, folksonomies, facebook, etc… I think its pretty cool. But they are times where you just dont want to be bothered by other people, I can understand if people simply switch off their phones to escape from the madness of the world.

Future of Mobile – Google Android

The main event of the night, was Google’s presenter Justin Baird on the future of mobile. He started off by presenting some interesting stats such as there being 1.3Billion people having internet access versus 3.3Billion having mobile phones. Obviously, mobile presents a wealth of untapped opportunites. there are more people sending SMS than using search engines. Everyone in the developed world has a mobile – if not one, than two!

Justin talked about a bunch of other stuff, but the only stuff which I remember was what we had all been waiting for – The Andriod – Google’s answer to the Apple Iphone. A very cool device I must say. Again, this bordered on being a product pitch, but that’s what happens when you attend a marketing event.

The Android is really different to any other phone because it an open source product, which I found rather interesting. The Apple Iphone or any other phone, is a static device because you only use the applications already found on your mobile i.e. they have already been preprogrammed on there. Being capable of open source, means that new developments and applications can be constantly added. Google is adopting a similar practice to its igoogle portal which has open source for its applications. I’ve got a igoogle portal, and I’m fascinated by the amount of widgets they have developed for it. You name it, and they’ve got it. If they dont have it, you can develop it, if you have the necessary know how. That is one of the reasons facebook is so popular, because new apps are constantly being developed by the user community.

I think we will see a lot more mashup apps involving google maps. What the phone does is triangulate your position using cell towers, giving you a fairly good idea of where you are. The thing that really blew me away was compass function using google maps. Imagine having a screen showing you where you want to go. When you move, the phone acts like a compass and adjusts the picture based on where you have moved, giving you a real picture. Very cool.

In addition, because Google is behind it, you know that search has to be incorporated somehow. the stats really surprised me. The click through rate for display ads on google typically is 0.2%. However, on mobiles, that rate is 2%. That’s a 10 fold increase. I tell you why – because the ads become even more relevant based on your location. If your current location is say Parramatta, and you search for restaurants and ads come up for that area, you are more inclined to click on those ads on your mobile. With the unleashing of True Local, we will really see the power of geographic based ads.

From the presentation and my own experience overseas, Australia is really behind globally in the mobile experience. But we are catching up. I remember friends of mine in New York, using blackberries to search for places using google maps. In the U.S they also have unlimited data ability for their phones. Phone data charges here are quite prohibitive – the carriers have to work together to find a way to somehow get to the level of unlimited data downloads. But its probably not going to happen because we can’t get enough people onto the network to make that feasible.

After this presentation, I really do think there are lot more marketing and innovative opportunites we can use with mobiles. I mean more people have mobiles than computers. A mobile is our social currency and keeps us attuned with our friends and family. It is only natural that it becomes even more extended into our lives. Once we can get full internet functionability on our phones, we will really see the true power of mobiles. And there really won’t be a distinction between online and offline. We’ll always be connected.

I’m out like dial up phones.

Matt Ho.