Using Twitter as a Strategic Weapon

Excerpted from The Tao of Twitter, by Mark W. Schaefer, ©2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher. 

Here's an example of how I realized an exceptional and unexpected benefit from Twitter—developing a PR strategy!

I have a "virtual" company. Well, it's a real company, but I don't have a building and employees and all that traditional stuff. I work with a posse of talented freelancers spread out all over the country. So I have the best of both worlds. Great company, great people, but no pressure about meeting payroll every month (except my own!).

Everything works great about this model except for one thing. You can't brainstorm by yourself.

This was the problem I was facing recently when I needed to come up with creative ideas to help a client company mark its 30th anniversary. I had some ideas, but I've been around long enough to know they weren't the best ideas. For that, I needed to put some creative minds together. But how? I was on a tight deadline and needed to write a proposal quickly.

I needed some smart friends that could help me think through this problem in a pinch. And then it dawned on me! That's exactly what I had on Twitter. This is what the social Web is all about—networking, sharing, helping, creating. So with literally no planning, I sent out one tweet with an invitation for my Twitter tribe to join me on a Web meeting at 4 p.m. that day.

I was fortunate that seven people were able to join me on the spur of the moment, including one from Brazil and one from Spain. Some I didn't know at all, others had become my friends over months of interaction on Twitter. All were enthusiastic, helpful, and eager to try out this idea of mine!

I used an online service for the actual meeting interface and conference call. To start the meeting, I described the problem and said I was simply looking for a brainstorm of promotional options.

As the ideas were shared, I wrote them out on my shared computer screen, so all participants could build on what was being said. At the end of 30 minutes, I had two pages filled with great ideas. Later that day, I massaged the ideas into a proposal, presented it to company management, and-ta-da!—they loved it! I had successfully "crowdsourced" a promotional plan!

There were unexpected side benefits too.

  • I explained to my client how I came up with the ideas, which further strengthened their interest and commitment to the social Web.
  • The people who connected on the call enjoyed the exercise and have reached out to stay connected with each other.

The Power of the Twitter Universe

One last potential business benefit you might not have considered is the power of Twitter users to be advocates for your products and brands. A study found that consumers active on Twitter are three times more likely than the average consumer to affect a brand's online reputation through syndicated tweets, blogposts, articles, and product reviews!

The ExactTarget survey of more than 1,500 consumers concludes that Twitter has become the gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every other corner of the Internet:

  • Twitter users are the most influential online consumers. More than 70 percent publish blogposts at least monthly, 70 percent comment on blogs, 61 percent write at least one product review monthly, and 61 percent comment on news sites.
  • Daily Twitter users are six times more likely to publish articles, five times more likely to post blogs, seven times more likely to post to Wikis, and three times more likely to post product reviews at least monthly, compared to non-Twitter users.
  • Eleven percent of online consumers read Twitter updates, but do not have a Twitter account themselves!
  • Twenty percent of consumers indicate they have followed a brand on Twitter in order to interact with the company—more than email subscribers or Facebook fans.
  • And while Twitter is not used as frequently as Facebook or YouTube, an Edison Research study showed that 40 percent of all Americans see tweets or hear about Twitter on a daily basis.

That's why I've spent so much space discussing benefits. Can you really afford to miss out?

Mark W. Schaefer is an educator, business consultant, and author, as well as the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. His blog, at www.businessesGROW.com, is one of the AdAge Top 100 blogs of the world. He has worked in global sales, public relations, and marketing for nearly 30 years. In 2012, Schaefer was named as one of the Top 50 social media power influencers by Forbes.com.

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