Just how will we cope if Twitter doesn’t make it? Nearly everyone on Twitter has seen the infamous “fail whale” more often then we’d like — and with the recent exponential growth in users, there does not seem to be an end to the growing pains. Pair that reality with the fact that Twitter has yet to develop and/or announce a revenue model, and one can’t help but think, “What will happen when Twitter is gone?”

We could debate all day about which service (Yammer, Facebook, Indenti.ca, FriendFeed) could step in and attempt to recapture the “microblogging” buzz, but the real question we must ask ourselves is, “What has Twitter taught us?”

1. Word of mouth is real. Real effective.
Many companies and organizations that stumbled into Twitter had no idea what they were getting into. But with time and experience, those who embraced the new channel learned to engage their customers—using Twitter to address issues, collect ideas and input, and join conversations. Before Twitter, tales were told of how great customer service had a significant impact on our bottom line, but that connection was fuzzy, and consequently difficult to justify come budget season. With Twitter, that connection has become tangible to many for the first time. A poor customer experience can now be broadcast to the world in a single tweet. Conversely, a great experience also has legs of its own — and the cascade of positivity can be tracked and monitored for all to see.

2. Listening – It’s the new talking
To many, Twitter has served as the new focus group. Immediate responses can be captured via search.twitter.com and a question posed to the community is often answered honestly, and by Twitter default — concisely. Those who have succeeded in the space have listened, responded and acted on what their market is looking for — passing along valuable information to the executive suite. Not only are products and services better for the input, the customer feels empowered and will tell everyone who will listen.

3. Relationships should be built on needs, not convenience
Too often we sit at our desks, punching away at our daily tasks, wishing a new project or partnership was on the horizon. Before Twitter, we were limited to our geography, industry or both. Sure, we could look to social networks such as LinkedIn or Facebook — but communication with someone new was predicated on your current contact base — and often felt pushy. Twitter has allowed us to self-select new contacts based on content. Common interests, business needs, helpful tips and resources, collaborative opportunities: These are the items that dictate who we communicate with via Twitter. Successful (and often unlikely) partnerships have been initiated and developed as a direct result of this new channel — without a single cocktail, plane ticket or conference registration on the books.

For now, we seem to be in decent shape. There have been many great ideas on how Twitter can generate revenue and the company continues to raise cash despite a harsh economy. Regardless, the lessons we’ve learned can and should be applied to how we conduct business in all channels. Supreme customer service does, in fact, produce invaluable word of mouth. Your customers are among your most valuable assets as you develop products, processes and marketing messages. And, above all, new relationships, partners and customers are waiting to be reached. We no longer have to wait for them to be convenient.

Now we’d love to hear what you have to say. What have you learned from Twitter and how will you apply it to your business moving forward?

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