Masters of the Twitterverse: Social Media for SMBs

Twitter, the free social networking and microblogging service, is the newest hip online destination for spreading and receiving information about your products and services. But how do you maximize the impact Twitter can have on your SMB social media strategy?

The advent of social media has changed the nature of relationships forever, be they personal, professional or commercial. Twitter, the product of a research and development project at Odeo, has become a valuable communication platform for enterprise-level companies and mom-and-pop shops alike. Twitter is currently the fastest growing social-networking site in the United States.
Julio Ojeda-Zapata, author of "Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company," said Twitter offers businesses of all sizes the opportunity to interact with their clients in new way. "Companies in this day and age need to regard customers as people they're going to have interactions with," he said. "It's a medium that encourages interactions and genuine relationships."
Twitter allows different companies to approach customer-building in a variety of ways, Ojeda-Zapata said. Each company needs to consider how Twitter best suits its needs and employ the platform from that perspective. He cited Comcast, Whole Foods and JumpTech (Jump Technologies) as three examples of Twitter's unique impact on businesses' customer relationships.

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"Comcast uses Twitter very specifically for customer service by monitoring Twitter for signs of customer discontent; if they see it, they can pounce right then and find out if anything is wrong." Ojeda-Zapata said. "That happened to me one day while I was at home, on Twitter, griping about my [Internet] connection. Fifteen minutes later someone from Comcast had called me."

The grocery chain Whole Foods, on the other hand, has found success in building online communities with its real-word neighbors across the United States. "Whole Foods was already famous for developing neighborhood relationships," Ojeda-Zapata said. "Their strategy is more about, 'Let's move this over to the virtual world and translate our offline strategy to an online strategy.'"

JumpTech, developer of a technology that allows users to tag songs they hear on the radio and television with a mobile phone, found success with Twitter did not come from the expected quarters.

"Their initial attitude was, 'Yeah, this could be good for promoting ourselves on Twitter,' and they very quickly found out that did not work," Ojeda-Zapata said. "A more effective strategy for them was to develop relations with online movers and shakers and have those important people follow them back." By cultivating supporters like tech journalists and music critics, JumpTech developed a following that had a platform from which to send users to it.