Why brands should follow you on Twitter

Posted on April 1, 2012

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We’re used to following publications, companies, brands and especially individuals over Twitter. But sometimes they should be listening to you too.

The other week I was registering for TunnelBear, which is a very user-friendly VPN software client (check it out), and I was encouraged to see they ask for a Twitter ID. I’m not sure they’re doing so for the exact reasons I’m going to mention but I think this trend will grow. (All that follows is above and beyond using reg details and APIs for things like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for quick logins on other sites.)

It might not work if you only have a few people in your online audience or customer base but when you start to get up to larger numbers – probably 50,000 minimum, preferably hundreds of thousands or 1 million plus – you can start to work out a lot from listening to your users over social media.

A lot of companies monitor over social by looking out for mentions of their name or competitors’ names. Sometimes they spend a bit of money and time on buying in or developing types of sentiment analysis, which are a bit more sophisticated. But it’s still usually me-centric.

Here’s an example of a different approach:

If you’re a publisher you can ask those on your database and new registrants for Twitter IDs. Say you have a database of one million. Say one in 100 of those are on Twitter and reasonably active (rather than a lurker). Across those 10,000 users you can look out for trends, mentions, commonalities, activity spikes and so on.

It might be that you run a B2B tech publication. Maybe Microsoft has a big announcement coming up after the weekend – only you don’t know what it is. What if you could catch several of your audience (maybe only a dozen of them) complaining over Twitter about changes to their software licences that MS will be enforcing?

What a way to break a story.

Here’s another example:

For a retailer, it could be as simple as knowing what existing customers are talking about – perhaps a fashionable item for the summer that a competitor is stocking, which you don’t have but could turn around and get on shelves within six weeks. (Hallelujah for ‘fast fashion’, China and the rest.)

At the moment a retailer – or any company – can listen out for this kind of chatter. And they do. But they can’t always tell whether it’s their type of customer clamouring for the new product.

I think what this boils down to is simple. Rather than being a top-down broadcast medium (believe it or not some people would like all social media to be just that) or a chaotic echo chamber, social can be where everyone can listen to everyone.

Of course some people and organisations have nothing to say. But that’s another matter.

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Posted in: Social media