business

"Tweets" Can Help Grow Your Business

Twitter is spreading like wildfire and companies are using it to boost sales.

You know Twitter--the social networking and microblogging service that allows people to keep in touch through "tweets"--short snippets of text sent to cell phones, BlackBerrys and PCs.

Businesses are making use of the Web format for marketing, research and customer services. Computer maker Dell sends coupons to its Twitter users. Whole Foods Market offers $25 gift cards as prizes for people who submit the catchiest messages promoting Whole Foods. Other companies send messages to foster community and build loyalty to stores and products.

Uncle Sam is a player, too. The Food and Drug Administration uses Twitter to help get out the word about product recalls.

Because most Twitter messages are searchable on the Web, businesses can also use it to track customer comments and answer complaints--even offer immediate help or advice. Among firms closely tuned in to what customers are saying are Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Comcast and Boingo, which provides Wi-Fi service at airports.

Jeremy Pepper, public relations manager of Boingo, receives and tracks all Twitter messages, blogs and other Web comments that mention the company. If, for example, someone complains to a friend about a weak Wi-Fi signal at Washington Dulles International Airport, he may get an immediate message from Pepper.

In such a case, Pepper says he'll ask: " 'Where you are sitting…have you thought of moving? Which terminal are you in? Let me check to see if there are problems at the airport,' "he says. Once a problem is resolved, he'll send a tweet saying he was happy to help and "have a safe flight."

Quick, helpful responses via Twitter can go a long way to changing customers' opinions about a firm, even turning detractors into company promoters.

Keep messages informal and conversational. "Being boring is the worst thing you can do," says Jeffrey Mann, vice president of research at Gartner Group, an information technology research firm. Business tweets should be personalized; you may want to designate one or more employees to twitter on behalf of the company. Keep in mind that Twitter messages--limited to 140 characters each--are seen by people who choose to become "followers" of a business or an individual.

Twitter is a good tool to use at trade shows, helping to draw attendees to exhibitors' booths as well as press conferences and receptions hosted by a company or trade group. The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, for example, puts out messages about its Schmooza Palooza networking party and trade show before, during and after the event in hopes of spreading buzz about it. Results are good; attendance has grown dramatically.

Twitter is great for small businesses, too, because it's easy and doesn't add any expense. The only cost is the employee time it takes to write and follow others' messages.

Consider registering your company's name with Twitter, even if you don't expect to use it. It'll help prevent misuse by someone else. Go to www.twitter.com.

For weekly updates on topics to improve your business decisionmaking, click here.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
11 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy
Kiplinger's Investing Outlook

11 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy

Your bills come monthly. Why not your dividend checks? These are some of 2021's best monthly dividend stocks and funds for easier income planning.
June 16, 2021
You Can Appeal a Medicare Premium Surcharge
Medicare

You Can Appeal a Medicare Premium Surcharge

If you meet one of the seven qualifying life events, you have a good chance of getting a higher premium for Medicare Part B and Part D reduced.
June 16, 2021

Recommended

How to Protect Your Business When an Employee Gets Divorced
Divorce

How to Protect Your Business When an Employee Gets Divorced

When one of your workers goes through a divorce, like it or not, your company can get pulled into the fray. It’s in your best interest (as well as the…
June 15, 2021
IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown
Tax Breaks

IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

The tax penalty for using dyed diesel fuel for highway use is temporarily suspended.
May 13, 2021
Reliving a Harlem Renaissance
Business Costs & Regulation

Reliving a Harlem Renaissance

After a tough winter, two sisters look forward to reviving their restaurant’s business.
April 29, 2021
COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale
small business

COVID-19-Weary Business Owners Can Win by Adopting the Right Mindset for a Sale

Your business has survived the pandemic, but it’s taken a toll. Here are some reasons why now may be a good time to sell, and some points to keep in m…
March 31, 2021