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Tweeting for a better customer experience

By Sarah Klein

With an estimated 6 million active daily users, Twitter is now a force to be reckoned with. But many users are still scratching their heads, trying to figure out just how the micro-networking site can best work for them.

At first, the site seems little more than a Facebook status newsfeed. Technically, tweets are answers to the question "What are you doing?", and mundane tweets like "Sarah is enjoying a cup of tea" still account for the overwhelming majority of traffic.

However, a recent study suggests that Twitter is slowly evolving to be more than just self-expression. Penn State researchers found that 20 per cent of tweets are now interactions with companies, whether users are asking for product information or giving responses to a request for feedback.

Personal use of Twitter comes in every shape and size, but "businesses use micro-communication for brand awareness, brand knowledge and customer relationships," said study author Jim Jansen. Essentially, businesses have begun to use Twitter as a new form of customer service. And why not, when a simple 140 character message is all it takes to instantly and effortlessly contact hundreds of thousands of potential customers.

While the study doesn't name names, a few companies and brands have gained quite a following. JetBlue is well-known for almost instantly responding to customer's tweets concerning the airline. They have over 1.4 million followers and provide up-to-date information on delays, cancellations, and even celebrity sightings. They also follow nearly 120,000 users and can closely monitor what is being said about the airline.

Leading online shoe store, Zappos.com, takes a different approach. CEO Tony Hsieh tweets personal tidbits, including everything from his Halloween plans to his latest haircut, in an attempt to increase the brand's transparency. Almost 1.5 million users follow Hsieh, and he's following 400,000.

Grocery store chain Whole Foods' tweets are full of personalized responses to specific user comments, ranging from product information to requests for feedback on in-store experiences.

Instead of simply telling the world about a great book we just can't put down, maybe we should try tweeting for more tangible benefits. Considering how big a role some brands play in our lives, tweeting about those brands has the potential to really enhance our everyday experiences.

Comment by Milcah, posted 11/2/2009, 1:23 PM:

I'm glad that you shared this. I was casually chatting with someone on twitter regarding a particular coffee maker having no idea they were on twitter. That coffe maker company contacted me back to resolve issues that I was having with it.
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