Tweet, tweet?

It seems it was just a while ago that blogs — both official and unofficial — were the hot new thing. Without a doubt, blogs are a great way for companies to build buzz and tracking unofficial blogs can help marketers find out what customers are saying about a brand, both good and bad. The general consensus was that how and when marketers should respond to those messages varies, depending on what it says and how many people are reading it.

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Another way to build buzz that’s I’ve heard a lot about lately is Twitter. But until today, I had never been to Twitter. The whole concept was just weird to me, and I didn’t understand the appeal. Why would I want to provide constant updates on my daily thoughts and activities in 140 characters or less? Why would anyone want to read them (except perhaps to cure insomnia)? And whatever happened to good ol’ conversation? I find telephone conversations to be impersonal and awkward, so additional ways to communicate online — while sometimes necessary and useful — often seem unnecessary to me.

Nevertheless, I decided to sign up for Twitter as a way to enhance my own understanding of the site and face my fear of online communication. And it was enlightening. Mind you, I’m still not sure why federal lawmakers were doing it during President Obama’s big speech a few weeks ago and I still don’t think anyone cares what I’m doing, but I can definitely see why it would be useful for marketers. I searched Jones Soda just to see what a marketer for the company might find, and Twitter listed dozens of comments about favorite flavors, usage situations and stores that sell the company’s products. For TCBY, most of the messages focused on what prompted users to indulge in the frozen treat.

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But Sobe Lifewater — the third and final product I searched for during my initial exploratory visit — showed how a company can actively use Twitter to reach out to consumer and generate word-of-mouth buzz. I was inspired to search for it because I tried one of the brand’s new zero-calorie flavors the other day, and I really enjoyed it. And apparently the company is using Twitter to track reactions from other consumers like me. Using the username sobeworld, the brand responded directly to almost every customer who mentioned the new product today, offering two-for-one coupons to everyone and apologies to those who didn’t like the flavor they tried. It’s a great way to reach out to customers, boost the company’s image and improve customer service. And I was able to access the coupon link, too, so maybe I’ll “tweet” again.

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