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Valuable business tool or five-minute fad? Mike Fletcher gives us the lowdown on the latest social networking phenomenon
By opening a Twitter account, you’re entering a universal conversation, carried out in 140-character micro-blogs and growing louder by the hour. Six months ago, Twitter was almost unheard of. Now, millions of people and businesses ‘tweet’ at and ‘follow’ friends, colleagues, rivals, celebrities, organisations – and just about anyone else. It’s a phenomenon that can hardly be ignored, as evidenced by the actions Facebook (the world’s default social network with 17m UK users) has taken to ensure it functions in a more ‘Twitter-like’ way.
But what’s all the fuss about? Isn’t tweeting reserved for attention-seekers wanting to tell followers what they had for breakfast? There’s no denying there are elements of this. But scratch the surface and you’ll also find the likes of Dell and Starbucks posting offers and coupon codes, while forward-thinking businesses like Innocent and O2 demonstrate a commitment to open conversation through real-time customer service responses.
The event industry has embraced Twitter in two ways: as a means to build a community among peers and as a free route to market in tough economic climes. ‘For smaller companies where budgets have to be carefully managed, Twitter is by far the best forum for communication,’ says Mandy Mahil of event design agency Mango Pie. ‘My month-old Twitter account has introduced new business opportunities and driven increased traffic to my website.’
Whether twittering for business or pleasure, it’s important for users to find the right brand voice in order to get the most out of the site. You should aim to add value to your Twitter community by posting interesting and relevant tweets. Companies are advised to add a real person’s thoughts to their posts and ask themselves what the aims of their Twitter site are. Is it a brand awareness channel? Is it an information channel? Is it a customer support channel? Each requires a different tone of voice.
Fisher Productions’ marketing manager Jason Down recently switched from a personal Twitter profile to managing a company account. ‘I wanted to get across the brand’s values and help Fisher connect with a wider audience of venues and suppliers,’ he says. ‘It’s a faster and more efficient way of communicating than an e-newsletter.’
Building community via Twitter also requires offline activity. In the US, ‘tweetups’ bring like-minded twitterers together in a live environment to network or discuss business.
Peter Kerwood, head of marketing at Merlin Events, is planning the first UK event industry tweetup at the SEA Life London Aquarium on 14 April. ‘Invitations will be sent out using an online invitation system that we’ve had specially designed to work with Twitter, so only guests with a Twitter profile will be able to attend,’ he says. ‘Twitter has shown its power and potential many times over. I’d advise anyone to think it through strategically, sign up and follow us.’
Not sure who to follow? Join the V&E team at http://twitter.com/squaremealvande and see who’s in our own Twitter community
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2009.