Effective use of Twitter to build your brand

This article first appeared in the 29th November print edition of The Malaysian Reserve

Earlier this week at the launch of the 1Malaysia Social Media Convention, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced that the Barisan Nasional (BN) was developing an army of BN friendly cyber practitioners to engage consumers online.

The PM said at the launch, “As a party that wants to be relevant, we have to change according to the change in time”. The Malaysian Prime Minister should be applauded for his grasp of the importance of Social Media because there are over 12 million Internet users in Malaysia and Social Media is responsible for one third of the web traffic in the country.

The Prime Minister understands that social media has transformed people’s behaviour, their expectations and how they like to express themselves. Unfortunately, although the Prime Minister is aware of the importance of Social Media, most corporations appear oblivious to the impact of Social Media on consumers and the way they learn about and share information on products.

This may be because up until recently companies have been able to manage their communications but this is changing and today, consumers no longer respect or trust slow, opaque, bureaucratic, dictatorial corporations and the structured PR and advertising they like to push out across traditional broadcast media. In fact a recent study noted that a staggering 86% of Malaysians don’t believe what advertisers tell them in traditional ads!

Consumers are fed up with the automated voicemail that greets them when they call with a product or service issue. Especially as many corporations use the inevitable waiting time to try and sell something else to a customer who is often seething at the company and is not in the right frame of mind to be sold to.

Today, consumers expect, no demand to be able to talk to the right person at the right time.

Today, successful organizations are the result of being human, responsive and transparent. And consumers will communicate with these companies across open and transparent social media communities such as Twitter, Facebook and others.

So over the next few months we’ll talk about some of the most likely social media tools you can use to communicate information about your brand and how those tools can be used for businesses such as yours.

This month we look at Twitter, what it is and how you can use it to build your brand.

Worldwide, there are now 100 million active Twitter users and daily Tweets are over 250 million. Most top actors, athletes, politicians, businessmen and artists are active on Twitter.

Every news, current affairs and sports programme proudly displays its Twitter account name. Global events anywhere in the world break first and spread faster on Twitter. While CNN is showing 2 day old sports’ scores on its ticker tape, Twitter is providing those who are interested with ball by ball updates live from the next days play.

Barack Obama has 11.2 million followers, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has 295,000, AirAsia has 245,000, Amazon has 149,000, Firefly has 47,000 and the numbers are growing fast. In Asia, Indonesia has the most subscribers to Twitter whilst there are about 1 million in Malaysia.

It is important to understand that Twitter is not another Facebook. Facebook is best described as a few to a few social network created with a goal of sharing personal information and life related stuff with friends. Only once two people ‘friend’ each other can information begin to flow. Twitter on the other hand, is a one to many social network that allows me to say follow Firefly to keep abreast of their offerings yet they don’t have to follow me back to make the relationship work.

Twitter allows prospects and customers to instantly connect with you. Brands are no longer defined by the campaigns created by marketing and PR departments within companies. In the social economy of today, brands are defined by consumers or more specifically the experiences those consumers have with brands.

Get it right and you’ll build a brand. Get it wrong, and consumers will ensure your brand fails.

One of the reasons for Twitter’s success is because consumers got fed up with the automated responses they were faced with every time they contact a company.

Twitter is a popular platform to disseminate news about your company. If you have set up your Twitter account properly, Twitter is a dynamic and inexpensive platform for you to post information relating to your brand. A well planned Twitter strategy can help keep prospects and existing customers abreast of new developments and engaged. Beware however that it is not a broadcast medium and you must know when to stop. Constantly sending out the same message will have a negative impact on the brand. It’s also important to respond to comments from consumers related to your announcements.

Twitter is an excellent platform for sourcing actionable data. Twitter lets you find out priceless information about your customers – their opinions of your brand, what they like and/or dislike about your brand, what they think of your competitors, recommendations for improvement and much more. Twitter gives you an opportunity to improving your business, often without the need for costly investments.

Twitter helps you to humanize your brand. Twitter allows you to reach, communicate and engage with consumers and match your product attributes to their requirements for value whilst other companies are publishing generic ads in newspapers or attempting to convince consumers with PR.

Twitter lets you send the right message to the right people immediately. By using groups, lists, communities and other Twitter features effectively, Twitter lets you distribute news, make announcements, inform or create awareness of special offers to the right people in real time. No more waiting a month for the magazine to come out or 24 hours for the newspaper (assuming they have the space).

Being active and effective on Twitter communicates a company at ease with technology. Being a part of the Twitter community shows that you are moving with the times, that you embrace technology and are an open and transparent organization.

Twitter case study
A frequent business traveler between Malaysia and the UK was a loyal user of Budget Rent a car. But after a 13 hour flight, the business traveller was forced to wait two hours for a pre booked car. He stayed with Budget until on another occassion he received a bill for £86 because he forgot to pay the £10 congestion charge. So he decided to look for another car hire company for his next trip to the UK.

Using a price comparison site he came across Sixt, a company he had never heard of. The company offered an attractive pick up and drop off within a 5 mile radius of the nearest showroom. But when the businessman was booking the car hire on line he couldn’t find out any information on the pick up service.

So he turned to Twitter and asked for help. Within 5 hours the MD and CEO of Sixt had both contacted him with a request for his email address so that the @Sixt customer service team could get in touch.

Arrangements were made with customer service for the pick up and as a nice touch the car hire company upgraded him to a premium car. The experience was seamless, quick and pleasant. The businessman then shared, across multiple social media platforms details of his experiences and I am now sharing his experience with readers of this Blog and across Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon and more.

What was the cost of the positive buzz and acquiring this new, influential customer from a competitor? In terms of time perhaps an hour at most. Financially, next to nothing.

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