May 4, 2010

Twitter for Transactional Tracking

This April at Chirp, the first ever official conference for Twitter developers, Twitter shared its latest statistics about its service; and the scale of these numbers is mind-boggling:

  • 105,779,710 registered Twitter users
  • 3 billion API calls a day
  • 600 million searches per day
  • 300,000 new users per day
  • 180 million unique visitors per month
  • Average of 55 million tweets a day


But what do all these statistics tell you about Twitter other than that a lot of people are using Twitter? Before answering this question, let’s take a look at a study by Pear Analytics conducted in August 2009 where they analyzed a sample of 2000 tweets over a two week period. Here is the breakdown of how they categorized the tweets:

Tweet Pie Chart

The results of the study are intriguing; a majority of tweets are categorized as “Pointless Babble” with tweets such as “I’m eating a sandwich right now”. The study classified these tweets as “Pointless Babble” because they found them to be irrelevant since, as Pear Analytics explains, “…did not appear to be useful to a large percentage of …. visitors”.

This underscores a major perception about Twitter in the business community; most Twitter usage just seems like irrelevant chatter. While Twitter has been seen to be highly useful for breaking news, the question for marketers still remains, “How is Twitter relevant to my business as a marketing channel?”

One way to measure how relevant a tweet is by measuring how many times the tweet was found to be useful in the Twitter stream. If the tweet was re-tweeted, for example, it was deemed to no longer be irrelevant. More and more companies now monitor Twitter to get a better pulse of the evolving needs and wants of their customers. This trend-monitoring approach is fast becoming the industry standard as a use case for Twitter.

Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir), recently exhibited this when they apologized directly to a customer the next day and upgraded him to the ‘A’ boarding group on his next flight when he tweeted his frustration with Southwest about a delayed flight and lost luggage. After the flight, Southwest even followed up with customer via Twitter to ensure that his experience was nothing less than satisfactory.

However, there is also a micro usage strategy with Twitter that is highly underutilized. One simple way to make tweets relevant is to couple them with customer transactions; businesses can use Twitter to update their customers with small bits of information as needed.

The following examples should illustrate what I mean:

Example 1:

I file my taxes electronically through Let’s suppose that I file 3 separate tax returns: Federal, State and Municipal. What if TurboTax sent me an email linking to the automatically generated personalized Twitter account they made for me to follow the status of my tax returns?

The next morning on my way to work in the train, I receive a tweet on my mobile phone that my Federal tax return has been accepted. As the other tax returns are accepted by the appropriate government entities, a tweet could be sent informing me as such each time.

For additional security, tweets can be locked to keep them out of the mainstream Twitter feed and ensure that only the appropriate customer receives notification.

Example 2:

I pre-order the new iPad with WiFi+3G on Apple sends me a confirmation e-mail for my order along with information about my new, personalized Twitter account that they set up for me to follow the status of my order. Apple estimates that it will take 2-weeks for them to ship it and during that time Apple updates me with status of my order as further information becomes available via Twitter.

For instance, as soon as it ships, UPS/FedEx then interacts with the Twitter account to tweet me the finer details of shipping status similar to what a user sees when logged onto the UPS/FedEx website with a tracking number.

Today most companies that use Twitter as a new customer communications channel are following the Southwest model. This is certainly a very valid use case and this macro approach to Twitter is quickly emerging as a powerful strategy for brand management. The micro approach however allows a company to engage specific customers in a highly meaningful way without bombarding their e-mail. Twitter is now yet another channel of communication with the customer; a company that correctly embraces a balanced macro and micro Twitter strategy breaks clear through the pointless babble and gains a surefire competitive edge in CRM.