On 21 July 2009 The Orange County Access Executive Network (AccessEN) sponsored a program entitled “A Panel on Building and Expanding Business with Social Media.”

Many of us old folks have looked at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN as interesting, but not essential components of a modern business plan. The panel,

  • Rebekah King, Chief Media Maven, Rebiz Works
  • Gabrielle Pascoe, Director of New Media, Dr. Phil & The Doctors
  • Vicki Tortorelli, Co-founder, System Solutions Inc. 

Had very detailed discussions on how their businesses provide consulting to many different companies on how to best use all three of the above sites for promoting their business, as well as providing various levels of customer support and customer service.

In Rebekah’s presentation she included a very nice chart showing the demographics of different social media sites, with Twitter being the closest to younger users, Facebook with a middle category of users representing up to a university degree, and falling into a 20s ~ 40s age group. LinkedIN sits on top with a 40s + age group, and a generally professional skill and job level.

It took me a good week to understand how those intelligent ladies could possibly make a living out of providing marketing and PR support for companies wishing to adopt social networking media in their businesses. Here I am, a 30 veteran of the Internet campaigns, and these people were going to open my eyes on social networking?

OK, so maybe they did. Just a little, but my eyes cracked open just wide enough to do some more thought development and homework on the subject.

How Can Business Possibly “Tweet” Professionally?

Earlier this year we discussed how Twitter was effectively used in the Jesusita fires which hit Santa Barbara in May (2009). Students from UC Santa Barbara “tweeted” each other to give status updates on the fire, and even make recommendations on how to avoid getting caught up in the rapidly advancing flames.

This is an example of a real-time rapid notification system, which does not exist within a standard text, email, or web solution.

The same rapid notification system can easily be modified to meet the needs of a customer service or operations organization. For example, in my own industry of telecommunications, we occasionally have events from many different sources that come together in our facility, ranging from natural disasters in the Pacific (cutting submarine fiber optic telecom cables), to wild fires disrupting high voltage electrical systems running up and down the state of California, to virus and spam attacks within the Internet.

If our network operations center has simple, fast, 140 character access to potentially thousands of people, then the immediate notification there may be disruption or problems, as well as recovery status messages becomes very easy.

The trick is to get information into the hands of people who need it, without the overhead of generating a lot of “tweeting noise.”

The Marketing Tweet

Marketing people are finding Twitter a great means to get product announcements, promotions, and other events out to a very large number of people and organizations with very little effort.

Personally, I tweet when posting new blogs. It does bring readers to my blogs, and has increased my readership by about 5 times since I started tweeting the articles. Also, with correct use of hash marks (or hash tags) you can narrow down the focus of who reads your tweets, which is particularly useful during disasters or when you want to limit what you read or post to a better focus niche.

Chris Brogan wrote a blog entry entitled “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business.” There are several great ideas, and I’ll list a couple here:

  • Have two Twitter accounts. One for your personal use, and one for your professional use. Try not to mix messages between the accounts.
  • Be care when promoting your own material – you could fall into the noise category
  • If you are promoting your own stuff (or product), make sure the message is useful to the reader. Give them something to bite on.
  • Use Twitter to create a “Back Channel” for use during events. This will help you keep locals and distant contacts informed of events at a conference or meeting as they occur. God bless real time information in a meeting!

Future Tweets

Any new technology or major shift in technology takes time. Skeptics at the turn of the century thought automobiles were an annoyance, and interfered with the business accomplished with horses and carts.

In the mid-1980s my colleagues, even in the US Air Force, thought Email was stupid, would never take off, and was a waste of time.

In the early 1990s most people thought the web was a toy, and would add very little value to anybody’s life or business.

Things do change. Today Twitter is just emerging as a technology to combine blogging (micro-blogging), email, SMS/text messaging, and phone calls into a single platform. It is new, but people are starting to learn more about the concept and vision behind Twitter every day. Like it or not, Twitter, or a system that is born of Twitter, will drive much of instant communications in the future.

So the call to action is, simply, open a free Twitter account and gain a bit of tacit knowledge and refine a few skills. It costs you no more than a bit of time, and will give you knowledge that will no doubt be part of our futures. Or in short, play now, or pay later.

 How do you use Twitter?  Good for business?  Noise for business?  Please feel free to comment with your thoughts.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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