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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My first customised digg result: Building a blog cheatsheet

I mentioned previously that I had subscribed to the Digg’s RSS feeds. I now get updates on my twitter account by the minute and also in my Google reader account. The other interesting RSS feed i subscribed to was a customised search on “social media”. The purpose was to find out what people were “digging” or recommending as interesting social media websites.

Initially I was quite disappointed, because nothing came in over several days. I kept checking back into my Google reader account and there was nothing. However, this result came in and its a beauty. It’s about how to find the top blogs and the top posts within those blogs. Then on a systematic basis, you only subscribe to those top posts. Basically, it a social media cheat sheet.

It’s looks incredibly useful. I probably do some of the steps in trawling for new blogs and adding the feeds, but this directs you to the top posts within those blogs. I also probably haven’t fully exploited the usage of social bookmarking and readers.

I’m out like blog cheat sheets,

Matthew Ho.

It’s Official – I’m a shareaholic

You’ve probably seen that I’ve been sharing a lot of stuff lately over Facebook. I’ve also been sharing items through Twitter, Delicious and Google reader. The problem I had was that these were all separate accounts located on different websites, so you had to log in everytime. I was looking for a Delicious plugin for my browser, but I discovered something much greater…..

There’s a firefox plugin called “Shareaholic“, which has made sharing a whole lot easier. It gives you this little green icon on your browser, and from the drop down menu you can select which sources you want to share it on (like twitter, facebook, etc…).

Shareaholic

Shareaholic

Its an ingenious application, which is only made possible through Mozilla open source for firefox, the various API’s (application programming interface), and the hardwork of developers. So I’m giving something back to these guys by giving them a shoutout!

Great work! Try it out here.

I’m out like Shareaholics,

Matthew Ho.

http://www.inspiredworlds.wordpress.com

The Wisdom of Crowds (with bookmarks)

You’ve probably seen these symbols at the bottom of a webpage and you’ve wondered what they were:

social_bookmarking_icons

Well they are social bookmarks and reader feeds. It enables you to share the items with other people and to also subscribe to the website for updates. Lately, I’ve been really into bookmarks and I don’t mean the kind you put into books.  I’ve previously written about social bookmarking, tagging, taxonomies and folksonomies.

But essentially, for the uninitiated, social bookmarking is a way to publicly share bookmarks (i.e. websites). So instead of just saving it to your internet brower in “book marks”, your letting the world know what your interested in.

Initially, I thought it was pretty cool because I get to access my bookmarks wherever I am. Whether I’m using firefox or IE, at home or a work, on my desktop or laptop, in Australia or overseas. I was saving all my websites onto a webpage for all to see and for me to refer back to. But that was just for my own benefit. However, social bookmarking was wider benefits:

1. Quickly see what websites / newstories / trends are popular

I’m starting to on a regular basis scan the top ranked stories on Digg and Delicious to see what’s happening. With Digg and other social bookmarking websites, the more people that “digg” the article (recommend it) or save the article, the higher it moves up the ranking. It’s very useful to seeing pop culture trends.

digg

For example Digg was able to call the US election well before the opinion polls with credible evidence. It had an option where you could “digg” whether you voted for Obama or McCain. Of course, it was a little bit skewed since people like me voted in the Digg election, but it had a basis for calling the election in Obama’s favour given his popularity on being recommended on Digg. Another skewing factor is that a proportion of Obama voters tended to be younger and more technologically savvy than McCain voters.

2. Results in finding more interesting articles that are relevant to you

There’s a team of thousands if not millions of people on Digg, Delicious, Slashdot, Stumbleupon trawling the web, so more people are going to find more interesting content. The web is an enormous place, kinda like a massive goldfield. When someone finds something, by bookmarking, they are letting the world know that this is interesting to them and they want to share it with other people. By bringing attention to it, they are drawing other people to their discovery and if they find it interesting, they’ll share it with even more people creating a multipler effect. So more interesting discoveries are found.

It becomes more relevant because users can apply tags, categories, and comments to the things they save. Essentially, its like trawling the web with a team of people that are cataloging it into a library. The benefit of a social bookmark like Delicious is that users can write their own tags (similar to labels) for websites. For example, I might come across a website with a DVD review of the TV series Entourage. So I will label it as “Entourage”, “HBO”, “DVD review”, and other relevant labels.  So when you browse categories for TV shows or Entourage or DVD reviews, that website would come up. You can funnel the search so your only looking at stuff in that category. If I am only interested in Entourage, then only search results labelled as “Entourage” by users would come up.

You can also follow the bookmarks of like minded people and also share them with groups. Say for example, you and your friend have similar interests such as hip hop, basketball, travel and instead of sending the websites back and forth, you can see the websites that he or she is saving. Or if you are working in a team on an academic project, everyone in the team can see the collective links that are being saved.

Which leads to……..

3.  Better search results, creating a more perfect search engine

Some proponents like myself think that having more chefs in the kitchen, will over time generate better tagging (labelling), offerring a more refined search engine. This is because users can elect to search exclusively within Delicious, Digg or other social bookmarks, and find things that actual users have tagged as opposed to Google’s web crawl agent which uses mathematical algorithims. Actual users will decide what category a website belongs in and what keywords to associate with it.

delicious

The problem is that this system of taxonomy (the science of classification) relies on the individual user and there are often no rules around it. Going back to our previous example, I might label the above website as “tv series” or even mistakely as another tv show. Different people will apply different tags according to their views, perspectives, and tagging patterns. Some people are more comprehensive in their tagging while others might tag at a minimal level.

HOWEVER…………..

If there are enough users, over time and through the collective wisdom of a group of people, more popular tags will rise to the top. If 1,000 people tagged the website, then more likely than not, they will develop a set of tags which have consensus. For example, Delicious will recommend to users certain keywords to tag, assisting in developing group consensus. Again, a lot of this will depend on how many users they are in the social bookmarking network.

Catch me if you can

For me, the main thing now is sharing with other people the websites that I am interested in and having a reference to go back to websites that are interesting to me.  You can find me on:

http://delicious.com/Inspiredworlds

I also have a Stumbleupon account but I don’t use it much. And I’m starting to get into the subculture of Digg. Check it out here.  What I have also done is added Digg to my twitter account. So I get frequent updates on the top stories on Digg with over 2,000 Diggs – its basically my way to keep my pulse on what’s hot. I also subscribe to an RSS feed for the top results for “Social Media” for Digg.

I’m out like saving bookmarks,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. Check out the music on Delicious! You can listen to hip hop music feeds.

Stuff I’m reading

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reading about email marketing. It’s one of the main areas I work in, so I believe its beneficial for me to read up on it. From what I’ve read and just my own thoughts, email campaigns are pretty important since its the second highest expenditure of internet advertising after search engine marketing. However, the key is to not look at any of these things in isolation.

Email is one of the main forms of communication these days. I was talking to someone about it today, rarely do we send business documents or correspondence through physical mail – its all email these days. I talk to everyone in my office and my clients, my friends, via email because of the speed of communicating. the key with email marketing is to send relevant content to people at the right time.

You’v got to communicate with customers and potential customers with stuff they are interested in. You are only allowed to send email communcation to people that have opted in to recieve the content. Once someone has opted in (i.e. given you permission), they’ve explicity told you that they are happy to recieve things from you. They are more likely to open the email, engage with the content and transact, forward it on, etc…Providing relevant content is the key.

The best digital marketers will look at how all these things are fit together – how search engine, email, social networking, landing pages, portals, blogs, internet ads, etc… complement each other. I’m fortunate to be working at a place that has an integrated approach – we do end to end digital marketing i.e we look at everything. Having said that, you also need to understand how digital marketing fits within the overrall marketing plan and also with the business goals.

So far I’ve discovered a couple of email service providers – companies that provide bulk email service. They allow you to manage a list of people to send to, and the ability to send to large numbers of people, and provide reporting functions on the emails sent. The main competitors I’ve found overseas are Bronto, i-contact, Constant Contact. In Australia, its Campaign Master. I’ve been reading up on the white papers in Bronto (half the stuff is promoting itself) but its got some useful tips in there.

On another note, I’ve also signed up for del.ico.us. its a social bookmarking site. I had some idea what it was, and I always saw it at the bottom of a lot of articles i read online. So I decided to join! Social bookmarking sites allow you to bookmark webpages and store the links online. its quite handy, because you can access the links whereever you are online – i.e. its not stored on your computer but rather in cyberspace. Plus you can also give websites a tag (a keyword description) and longer descriptions, group links together, and share them with your friends.

You can also search for stuff within social bookmarking webpages and some argue it leads to better search results as well. the user is more engaged with the content and will read the article/webpage. however, peopel use different types of descriptors as tags. I might read a article about michael jordan playing basketball. I might tag it as “basketball”, “jordan”, “Air” and “Bulls”. Someone else might use “23”, “chicago”, “MJ”, etc…. This is because there are no rules in tagging – you can put whatever you want and the user is more subjective with the content, as opposed to a cold heartless, objective search engine.   

Lastly, I’ve also been reading up about the semantic web, Web 3.0, content publishing, and checking out some search engine data (see below).

Looks like taking quite the digital slant aren’t I? I read somewhere that you can be an expert in this area in a couple of years. I’ve only spent about 3 months in this area, but if i stay interested in keep progressing and learning more, I could be well on my way! In other good news, I got a distinction in my advertising subject “media planning and buying”….78% baby! I scored 91% in the actual exam!!!! And to think that I knew nothing about advertising or media buying/planning before I even took the course, nor did I even work in the area.

I’m out like bookmarks,

Matt Ho.