Twitter marketing. Should you? Shouldn't you?

I mentioned on Twitter that I did a crash course in using Twitter for some of my colleagues. They needed to know how it could be used for networking and marketing. I was asked what my thoughts on marketing using Twitter were. I said I would write something up and get it posted.

I started writing an article, which I will finish eventually, but it was more about getting started with twitter and how to network/market with Twitter. With the recent viral marketing campaigns that have been going on on Twitter I realised what the content of this article should be.

As a huge generalisation it has to be said that marketing using Twitter is frowned upon. Unsolicited posts, spam, is not tolerated via email or snail mail and is shown even shorter shrift on Twitter. Unfollow/Block is a very final. No direct messages can be delivered. No updates from that person will show up in your timeline. Unwanted followers can be denied access to your attention exactly the same way. View, Block, forget.

While the generalisation is true, it is becoming common practice to set up company and product twitter accounts providing updates on what your company is doing, what updates or problems have occurred with your product and to provide a means for customers to provide feedback or request support.

Personally, I find this kind of marketing entirely acceptable and actually very useful. If I want to know whats going on with a company (@virginmedia [I'll come back to them shortly]) or product (@balsamiq) then I can follow them. I'm even like being followed by some small businesses like local deli business @mmm_newcastle.

This kind of marketing, I think, has become a core part of Twitter. Twitter is a great platform for praising or berating the companies and products that we deal with on a daily basis and we all do it regularly and vociforously. It is only fair that these companies and products should be allowed to blow their own trumpet and respond to critisism as publically as they receive it.

More recently there have been a couple of online self-build site/blog products that have created very successful viral marketing campaigns. The two companies have offered daily prizes of highly prized commodities to anyone who uses their hashtag in a message on that day.
The first company to do this found a very innovative and highly successful way to promote their company and product. The second company have managed to replicate this, but my personal feeling that this form of viral marketing will not be tolerated a third time. I've been seeing more and more people unfollowing persistent posters of hashtags related to these campaigns.

Anyone wishing to use Twitter to create a viral campaign will now have to come up with a new idea to promote their business or product.

As a final note I just wanted to give praise to the chaps behind @virginmedia.
Last week I lost both my TV and broadband services supplied Virgin Media. The status page did not list an issue, but calling 150/151 had record messages saying that there was a problem in my area and engineers were working on it. I tolerated this for 24 hours and then started to get pretty grumpy. At 36 hours I was pretty annoyed. Speaking to a real person the response was "ETA midnight" Midnight came and went, so I ranted at @virginmedia, who invited me to email them details the issue. I recieved a couple of emails and a phone call from a lady from the Chief Executive's office. Within a few hours there was a note through our front door explaining the issue, the electricity board had been called out to restore power to a near-by unit and all my services had been restored. All through the power of twitter. Many thanks to the folks at Virgin Media who I spoke to electronically and via the phone.

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Comments
To play devil's advocate, why couldn't you get that level of customer service out of the Virgin Media through their regular channels?

I'm starting to have a slightly cynical opinion that companies are focusing their 'better' customer service on Twitter, because it's a public medium.

If they got their regular customer service working at the same level as they did as their 'twitter service', they probably wouldn't need to have such close attention to what people say on twitter ;o)

But interesting post on marketing on twitter never the less - it has changed a lot of the networking and communication landscape for individuals and companies alike.
# Posted By Mark Mandel | 7/7/09 1:55 AM
Mark,

I completely agree - no way should I have had to complain in such a public forum.

1) The status page should have been updated regularly. We're in an age now where computers at work are the norm and a lot of people are using mobile web. Updating the status page should have happened pretty much automatically via the robust Palms that all the engineers carry now.
2) The call centre should have had much more detailed information as to the cause of the problem and when it was likely to be resolved.
3) When I mentioned to the call centre person that the status page was not up to date, they should have passed this on and something been done about it. If I'm going to be really cynical, non-country specific call centre's just don't care. They have a script they complete the call and move on. Feedback to their team leaders and to other support sections is nominal at best unless you bitch and scream.
4) Why did it take a call from someone in the Chief Exec's office to get the local engineer to give the electricity company a kick up the arse to sort out lack of power to a panel.

I've had less success with another company twitter account, @vodafoneuk, who basically pointed me at their forums, which nine times out of ten gave me a "nice" 500 server busy error. When I did get onto the forums, there wasn't even a section that would help me with the issue that I was actually having.

In both case I was waiting on the phone for between 15 and 30 minutes and email support forms took up to 2 days to respond. Frankly - that is just appalling. (replace previous phrase with your personal choice of swear words)
# Posted By Stephen Moretti | 7/7/09 8:46 AM
Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. Glad your issues got sorted :)


Alex


Internet Product Management
Virgin Media
# Posted By Alex Brown | 7/7/09 9:11 AM
There is also http://iq143.com for automatic Twitter marketing activities. Early adopters pay the low price of just £1/month - the cheapest Twitter marketing tool by far! New features are being added and the price will increase soon - register now to be sure of paying a lower price forever.
# Posted By iq143.com | 9/10/09 4:45 AM
Good Post! Hey I have just published a twitter marketing guide and am looking for a few bloggers to give an unbiased, honest review of it. I was wondering if you - or any of your readers - would like to review my guide? My product can be found at twitteruniverse.info and goes 'live' through paydotcom on 20th September. Just send me an email ([email protected]) with UNIVERSE in the subject line before 20th Sept 09. And Ill send you over a copy for review. Many thanks, Bryan
# Posted By bryan | 9/13/09 3:13 AM