9 Ways to Use Twitter for your Business

Bottom Shape

Krista Neher

Oct 07 2009

twitter_logo_headerMarketers all all-a-flutter over twitter – as it continues to grow and gain popularity more and more businesses are flocking to twitter.  Despite all the hype, many businesses struggle with how to actually use twitter for their businesses.

Why? They don’t start with strategy or business purpose.  Just like any other marketing tool, a sound strategy is required to be successful.  It isn’t as simple as “joining twitter” – that would be like saying the key to advertising is to “get on TV”.  Success requires a strong strategy and a great execution of the strategy.

So, when considering getting started on twitter and considering different business purposes, here are some examples of how twitter can be used to build your business.  These uses include examples of companies using twitter effectively.

1. Customer Service

Customer service is a popular way for companies to use twitter.  People on twitter often talk about the problems and issues with different products, and by responding directly on twitter and solving the problem, companies can earn a lot of goodwill from customers.

Companies who do this well include:

@jetblue – a typical tweet may include “@melissaleon TrueBlue points are not transferable, but the True Passes are!”

@wholefoods – uses the account for multiple purposes, one of which is customer service and responding to people who mention their brand.  In addition to traditional customer service they provide resources for general comments.  An example of a typical tweet includes

@theseasonWhich store do you shop? I’d love to pass your feedback along to our IT team so we can look into your issues w/ the system.” or

@richh41 Thanks for your interest in having a Whole Foods Market in your town. Please leave feedback at http://bit.ly/suggeststore. Thanks!:

2. Selling Stuff

If you sell stuff online twitter can be a great way to drive sales.  There are a number of different ways that companies do this.  Some share deals and special offers and others search for people talking about their category and offer a solution.

Some examples:

@delloutlet – the delloutlet has sold over a million dollars by tweeting about specific deals and discounts for their users a typical tweet may include “15% off any Outlet Studio One 19 PC. Enter code at checkout: ZG193MHV517SF7 http://bit.ly/Tuuk6 Exp. 9/21 or after 500 uses, whichever’s 1st”

@debbas uses his twitter account to both communicate with people and to selectively promote his products and company.  By combining personal and soft-selling business he has grown a large twitter following.  Sample selling tweets include “We have launched a new affiliate program, join it here : http://bit.ly/18CcAY

3. Building Equity

Twitter can be used by brands to build equity – to talk to consumers about things that they are passionate about surrounding their brand, not just talking about their brand.  Social media is conversational, and people may not want to talk directly about your product.  Brands  can build equity and engage with consumers by talking about things that their customers are  interested in beyond the brand.

Some examples of brands that do this well:

@ford – ford uses their twitter account in a variety of ways; to respond to and interact with customers as well as to share information that may be of interest to drivers.  An example of a typical tweet is “Some interesting statistics on gender differences in parallel parking here. How do you stack up? http://bit.ly/3WA3S

@homedepot also does a good job of this by sharing tips related to home improvement.  This is an example of a typical tweet “Flood Tip: List of resources & Where to Turn for Flood Help http://bit.ly/129VTO (via @ajc)”

@freshbooks makes great use of their twitter account by communicating with their customers and positioning themselves as a brand that really cares.  A sample tweet includes “We’re pretty laid back around here, but sometimes we just gotta dress to impress (ourselves): http://twitpic.com/i7j1w” or “@ivynova Hilarious! Did you know that Joey was too young to have his driver’s license and nearly ran over the rest of the New Kids?”

4. Positioning as a Thought Leader

This is related to equity but slightly different.  Brands and people can use social media and twitter as a way to position themselves as a thought leader in their field or industry.  By sharing thoughts and perspective on relevant industry events this can be a powerful tool to both build equity and awareness.

Some examples include:

@empowermm – A local ad agency that tweets about interesting industry news and trends, showcasing their knowledge and expertise in the area.  A typical tweet may include: “New study: Video games are the fastest growing ad market http://bit.ly/8Tk7N (via @eMarketer)”

@unmarketing – Scott  Stratten from Toronto joined twitter and quickly built a large following and a strong reputation by tweeting about interesting trends in the industry.   He has used twitter to build a strong reputation for himself.  Typical tweets include “RT @mashable Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them http://bit.ly/18x03R

5.  Building Awareness

Twitter is a broadcasting tool – you can send messages to a large number of people.  In addition, unlike typical social networks like Facebook, Myspace or LinkedIN, twitter allows you to communicate and connect with people outside of your network.  Examples of brands using twitter to generate awareness include:

@threadless – Threadless runs contests from their twitter account which allows them to meet and engage with new users.  A sample of a twitter contest includes “Goodbye summer, HELLO #ZIPTEMBER! All threadless hoodies only $30 all week! (please RT for a chance to win one!) http://thrdl.es/“.  By having their fans retweet the message for a chance to win they are able to generate awareness for a new product.  Threadless now has over a million twitter followers.

@photojojo – This photo blog and newsletter uses twitter to build awareness with twitter contests like this tweet “We’re giving away 10 sweet Kodak Cameras this week! Check out http://bit.ly/25KnH9 for how you can win today’s giveaway.”

@kodakcb (kodak chief blogger) uses their twitter account to run promotions and talk about things that are of interest to the photo community.  Examples include: “Is selective photo cropping fakery? Interesting thoughts. http://bit.ly/13rLL3” and “The Kodak SmileMeter is up to 285 on Facebook today – we need more smiles! http://bit.ly/11Vcy8

6. To Communicate with your Customers or Members

Twitter can be a great tool to use to communicate wit\h your existing customers or members.  This can increase loyalty and ultimately drive sales or encourage word of mouth.  An advantage of communicating with existing customers via twitter is the extended reach – every time they talk back to your brand they are publicising your brand to all of their followers.

Some examples of brands doing this well:

@cincinnatiama – Tweets about upcoming events to help drive attendance. A sample tweet may include “Come to “Northern Kentucky B2B SIG” Friday, September 25 from 7:45 am to 9:00 am. The Business-to-Business SIG… http://bit.ly/i1Gga

@allstate – The allstate twitter account focuses on their new products and promotions and keeps people who are interested in allstate informed.  A typical tweet includes “Are you prepared for the bad weather? Free Allstate Home Inventory Software http://bit.ly/BCjuA” or “Have you listened to Allstate’s new Vehicle Vibes Radio show? Listen to past shows and see schedule for guests here: http://bit.ly/G9LWD

7. To Syndicate your Content

Twitter is a great tool to syndicate content and drive readership.  Many bloggers report twitter as one of their top sources of traffic.  Beyond your initial tweet of your content twitter can result in many retweets.

Some examples include:

@nytimes – The NY times recently said that : “At its current growth rate, Twitter is, or will soon move into, the top 10 in terms of referrals to NYTimes.com.”   The NYTIMES only uses twitter to syndicate content – they don’t respond or @reply – it is just a feed of news articles.  Sample tweets include “Census Data Show Recession-Driven Changes http://bit.ly/4ltTO6

@adrants uses their twitter account exclusively to syndicate content – it includes headlines from the blog like “Kleenex Lectures Us on Brand Identity With Grammar Fail: Love the comments we get from readers. http://bit.ly/179OYk“.  AdRants writer @stevehall has his own twitter account which is used to communicate with friends and industry members.  “Oh yea. It’s an ad week party! http://twitpic.com/in26r

8. To Reserve Your Name for the Future

Some people and companies have set up “placeholder” twitter  accounts to reserve their names for possible future use.  If you are using twitter as a placeholder it is important to communicate the intended use so as not to confuse users. Examples include:

@sethgodin – The bio on the account says “Seth is not active on Twitter. This is a placeholder”.

@amd – This is a guys name, and he got it before the company AMD tried to get a twitter name.  A recent tweet from him reads: “Note to twitter : “amd” is my name. Don’t take my account, please.”

9. To listen to consumers and learn about issues

Twitter is a great tool to use to listen to consumers and learn about their issues.  Many of the clients that we work with have learned about issues that they weren’t aware of by monitoring twitter.  Examples of this include:

@sharethis uses twitter to respond to technical issues that consumers are having.  A typical tweet may include “@campmobile Thanks for the heads up. Our dev team is looking into it!” or @ThePhoenixSun we are aware of some issues and are working through them. Can u email [email protected] with details of your issue? Thx!”


The best way to use twitter for companies is a mix

Most companies that successfully use twitter use it for a mix of purposes.  Twitter accounts don’t have to be singular in their purpose, and most accounts include a variety of equity building, awareness and self-promotion.

Do you have other examples or experiences with companies using twitter effectively?

2 Replies to “9 Ways to Use Twitter for your Business”

  1. For almost a year I managed to avoid Twitter. I was won over to Facebook and LinkedIn fairly quickly, but there just seemed something…self-absorbed about Twitter. When I finally launched Privateer though, it became unavoidable that I needed a presence on Twitter. That said, I’ll admit I struggle with it. Your article has given me some directions on how I can generate content for Twitter. Thanks.


  2. I get a significant amount of traffic from Twitter, and it increases even more when I interact with other tweeters via replies or retweets. People are interested in good content, of course, but they’re even more interested in good people. Developing relationships is key!

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