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Is real-time fast enough for you?

I thought I’d provide a few Twitter stories for you today – call it Twitter Thursday if you like.

First, a baker who uses Twitter to notify people what’s baking, what’s ready, etc. Customizable via the BakerTweet website, it takes a twist of a knob and a push of a button and you’re done.

Obviously you could use this to talk about your daily special, what beans you’re roasting and so on. Whatever the fanatic wants – tell them about it.

Only 3 million dollars

Dell has stated publicly that their @DellOutlet Twitter account has earned them about $2 million since they started issuing Twitter-only promo codes and other deals. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price

But then, one of the folks responsible for the tweeting did a little more math, researching where those Twitter followers go after chasing a promo code for a refurb machine.

Some of them go to the regular “Buy a New Dell” part of the store. Another million in sales from “some of them”.

609,000+ people following the @DellOutlet account.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to send a special offer to 609,000+ people who might be in the market for whatever you sell?

That’s what @DellOutlet gets to do all day long.

Another story offers some ideas about using Twitter for business.

On a more serious note

While the mainstream news was largely useless (if not ignoring) the stories breaking during the early hours of the Iran election demonstrations and violence, Twitter was one of the few tools that people in Iran could use to tell their story.

Cell phone networks were being blocked, internet access was cutoff or filtered, all in an attempt to cut off Iranians from the outside world and vice versa.

But the internet finds a way. Soon after, people found a way to access the net, often through hidden proxy servers and dial up connections.

If you were on Twitter a few nights ago, you were able to witness what was going on through the eyes of those experiencing it.

Not a reporter, but students hiding in dorms and others trying to avoid being beaten or killed.

Via Twitter.

Over the next day, the mainstream media struggled to catch up. Photos eventually showed up on the Boston Globe site 24-36 hours later, but those watching for posts containing “iran” in them had been hearing the story in real-time from people experiencing the violence and uproar – for more than a day.

Real life in real time.

Twitter has turned out to be such an important communications tool for Iranians that Twitter moved a major network upgrade from the middle of the night U.S. time (when most upgrades like this are done to avoid impacting U.S. users). They shifted it to 1:30am Iran time, solely to try and mitigate the downtime’s impact on those who are using it to try and survive, much less report what’s going on there.

The same kind of thing happen during the Mumbai bombings.

If you still don’t get it, try this

Think of something that is really, really important to you.

Maybe it’s your market, industry or some such. Maybe you’re into Forex trading, Tiger Woods, the NFL or fantasy baseball. Maybe it’s your faith or your favorite breed of dog or one of a million other things. Might be serious as cancer, might be something silly like Britney.

Google it, but add site:twitter.com to the search. Or just go to twitter.com and do a search.

See anything there that interests you. I’ll warn you, not all of it will be high-quality stuff.

Here’s the secret: See if there are people there who do or know things that provoke you to join their conversation because they know the topic that interests you. You might find experts who you would never be able to reach otherwise.

Think back to my story about swapping messages with Robert Scoble as he toured Ansel Adams’ studio at Yosemite with Ansel’s son, answering my questions in real time.

Real time is prime-time

What’s real-time about your business? What do the fanatics in your market do when they need more info about what you sell – or just more of what you sell – RIGHT NOW?

They might just be on Twitter.

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Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Management service Small Business Social Media systems The Slight Edge Twitter

Social media and customer service

Not just a pretty face..
Creative Commons License photo credit: law_keven

Today’s guest post from Todd Defren over at PRSquared takes the conversation we’ve had about CRMs to the next level (remember the Mackay 66 that no one thought they needed in their CRM?)

Does your CRM /customer account management software or customer service software include contact fields for a Twitter ID, a Facebook URL or (isn’t it a little late for this…) an email account?

Be thinking about it. Be doing something about it.

And when you read Todd’s comments about integrating social media into your customer service infrastructure, be sure to check out that comment at the bottom from C.C.

That’s really what this is all about.

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#amazonfail, Niemoller and your business

choc bunny
Creative Commons License photo credit: Asti21

First they came for the chocolate bunnies, and I did nothing because I am not a chocolate bunny.

Quite a weekend we’re having: Passover, Good Friday, Easter, the Masters and a few thousand Easter Egg hunts, to name a few.

Oh, and I smoked a pork roast that turned out totally incredible. But I digress:)

In the midst of all the holiday celebrations, worship, family time and so on, Amazon gets into the act. So much so that they are trending #1 on Twitter (you must be logged into Twitter in another browser window/tab BEFORE clicking this link, sorry but that’s just how Twitter search works).

The hashtag (ie: search term) on Twitter that is receiving all the attention is #amazonfail.

First they came for those with an Amazon rank

It’s been a while since the online bookseller stepped in it and alienated a huge number of people, but they got into the act again this weekend.

Last time it was about Amazon shafting authors who use print on demand services that weren’t owned by Amazon.

This time, it’s some or all of the “adult” community.

At first, it wasn’t clear exactly what was going on (and still may not be), but an official customer service response from Amazon indicates that they are removing sales rank data for content with adult ratings. Amazon now denies this, calling it a glitch.

A growing number of folks in the GLBT (or LGBT) community (particularly on Twitter) are noting some inconsistency of the removed ranking data, noting that it seems to apply more to content of interest to them than to adult material across the board.

No matter what your feelings about the various forms of sexuality, I should remind you about two things:

  • First, the Rev. Martin Niemoller poem, “First they came“. If your business (through you) is willing to take on a group, be careful what you wish for. Be sure of your staying power with your stance on an issue.
  • Second, while there are political and other sensitive issues here, this isn’t why I bring this up. There are business issues intertwined throughout this.

In Amazon’s case on this issue, they risk a nationwide boycott from the LGBT community. If they change their mind, they risk a boycott by other groups. If they waffle and end up somewhere in the middle, they might get both.

Yeah but this stuff has nothing to do with my business!

Not really.

It’s 2009. For no cost, anyone can get detailed info about your political contribution numbers and plot them on a Google map and do any number of things with it, including to suggest that people pay you a visit.

Are you ready for that?

If you think your personal values don’t affect your business, think again.

Every business owner will inevitably find themselves taking a side on a political, theological or similar issue at some point (probably several dozen). You need to think through how you will handle situations like this.

  • Will you bring your stance on contentious issues into your business?
  • If you become active on an issue, will it impact your business and if so, are you strong enough to stand firm when the public attaches the issue to your business? It doesn’t matter what the issue is. What matters is how you will handle it and how your staff will handle it.
  • Are you willing to deal with the fact that your staff feels differently about the issue (whatever it is) than you do? Whether you are or not, you should talk to a HR specialist or an attorney who specializes in employment law before hiring people. HR problems are a great way to lose your shorts.
  • Is your stance on an issue going to affect the clients and employees you attract? As long as you are sure of yourself, that’s the primary concern. Well, that and are you acting within the law?
  • Will your ethics on the issue in question suggest that your business ethics should be called into question?

I’m not asking nor suggesting that you temper your views or how and where you share them with others. Only you can make that decision.

Nor am I suggesting that you be hypocritical. Congruent for sure, but not hypocritical.

What I am suggesting is that you need to decide in advance if you are willing to lose your business (or a part of your business) over your stance on an issue. It’s ok either way,  just be sure of yourself before you go down that road.

Some might suggest that you’ll get more business if you show your colors. In some cases, I think that’s absolutely right. One of the easiest examples I can think of where this likely helps a business is Ian’s stance on China, human rights and his Catholic goods store.

More than anything, I am suggesting that you consider the big picture before you step onto the soapbox.

No matter how you feel, it is difficult to get the genie back into the bottle.

PS: It’s all about the malted milk eggs for me.

UPDATE: An interesting theory on what might be happening to Amazon: http://tehdely.livejournal.com/88823.html

Whether this theory is true or not, it’s a valuable lesson for system designers of social media systems, interactive/community feedback systems and the like.

Meanwhile, a bunch of tweets reference people actively tagging conservative books with keywords that might get them de-listed from the sales rank numbers for the same reason that others are being de-listed.

UPDATE: Amazon says the change in sales rankings is a glitch. In social media circles, they arent getting a lot of traction on that. Time will tell.

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Twitter and The Echo Chamber

Echoe LosAngeles Graffiti Art
Creative Commons License photo credit: anarchosyn

Today’s guest post comes from Twitter founder Evan Williams.

During this Tekzilla interview, he was asked for advice to give to tech startup businesses. His response really applies to all new businesses.

Part of his response was “Do something awesome”, which might seem a bit obvious, but he made a very important point about what he calls the “echo chamber”.

Check it out. Maybe there’s something awesome in there for you to take back to your business.

PS: He mentioned that their API team is just two developers. Think about that for a minute, if you’re in the software biz.

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Blogging Creativity customer retention Customer service ECommerce Internet marketing Marketing Media Public Relations SEO Small Business Social Media Strategy Technology Twitter Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Twitter just doesnt make sense for business

Or maybe it does.

See what Chris’ argument in today’s guest post, which is chock full of reasons why Twitter just might make sense for your business.

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Blogging Customer service Marketing Media Small Business Social Media Strategy Twitter Web 2.0

Insomnia and the Social Media Roadmap

Alternate

The other night, Chris Brogan twittered that he couldn’t sleep. Not too much later, he tweeted again to say that he ended up writing a blog post.

IMO, he needs to sleep less if this is the kind of stuff he creates when insomnia strikes.

Today’s guest post from Chris is a great getting started roadmap for businesses looking to stick their toe into the social media pond.

photo credit: Joe500D

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Corporate America Marketing Marketing to women Public Relations Retail Small Business Social Media Twitter Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Don’t tick off the moms

Motrin learned this the hard way recently, with this ad on their site (note: it might disappear from YouTube):

Want to see what happens when you say the wrong thing to moms?

  • 5,700 hits (as of noon Monday Nov 17) on #motrinmoms, which is a tag for people blogging and tweeting on the subject – that is, Motrin’s misguided website ad about moms who carry babies in a sling.
  • 61,300 hits on motrin+baby+carrying+ad+mom
  • At least 16 people went to the trouble to make a YouTube response video.

You might be thinking that it’s hard to imagine that people give a rip about something like this, but when you insult the same people that your marketing is supposed to attract, it’s not hard to wonder who in your business is on the same wavelength as your clientele.

Peter Shankman has a pretty good angle on this Motrin thing as well – particularly as he wonders who is writing the ad, 23 year old guys or 20-30-something moms, but more importantly that there either isn’t anyone listening, or the right kind of person isn’t listening.

Though it took a while, McNeil has posted this apology on the Motrin.com website:

With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you. On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology. We have heard your concerns about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and we take feedback from moms very seriously. We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution. Thank you for your feedback. It’s very important to us.

Sincerely,
Kathy Widmer
Vice President of Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

I suspect the folks over at McNeil have been taking some of their own medicine over the last few days.

Once again, I’ll say it: Enter the conversation already going on in your customers’ minds. If you can’t relate to the situation of the person you are trying to sell to – find a way to get yourself to relate to it. McNeil could have saved themselves a lot of pain by showing this to 5 moms who work at McNeil.

You can – and should – do the same. If you can’t understand your customers, their problems, their wants and their needs, you’d better find someone who can.

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Operations and Details: Why you need a passion for crossing the T and dotting the I

One of the very few troubling things about living in a small town or a rural area is that sometimes, not all that often, but sometimes (yeah, I repeat myself), you find yourself “forced” to use a vendor that drives you crazy.

Because of what appears to be a lack of passion about operations and details.

Talk about timing. As I was writing this post, up on Twitter pops this tweet from @ChrisBrogan :

“Is anyone really *passionate* about operations and details?”
Chris Brogan

To be sure, when I say “passion”, I don’t mean that your hormone levels start rising when you are making sure your business’ detailed operations are just so – and have processes in place to keep them that way, but I’ll tell you what: I’ll bet you ARE passionate about the lifestyle that your business provides for you.

You know. Things like being able to make that Boy Scout meeting, that piano recital, that Wednesday afternoon golf “meeting” every other week, the choir practice, your kid’s soccer games or the bridge club.

Whatever it might be…the passion that you have for the lifestyle you lead has a direct relationship with the passion you have for crossing the T and dotting the I.

You probably think I’m nuts, so let’s talk about a few examples from my business life. I suppose this could be a reference to the pet peeves discussion of a few days ago, but this is really a bit different because the kinds of things I’m talking about here could be a part of any business.

In my case, it’s a local business whose services I use every month. Likewise, several of my clients use this service every month because they produce the production version of what I created for my clients (gee, is that vague enough?)

Why do I put up with the annoyance?

One reason and one reason only: There is no viable alternative business that provides this service within the community with the slate of features I need.

These are the kinds of things that any service business could be doing, and quite a few online or brick and mortar retail product stores could be as well. That way YOU can fix the ones you might be doing.

Number 1 – They deliver, but they can’t tell me for sure (in advance) when a produced job will be delivered.

When they do deliver, they don’t notify me that they’ve delivered the product. Because I happen to be one of those “Likes to know if the client got the stuff I ordered for them” kinds of guys, I have to call back (and remember to call back<g> and ask if the stuff was delivered. Today, I had to do this and they had to call me back because they had no idea.

Number 2 – They don’t notify me when the job is done/delivered unless I ask (and sometimes not even then). They clearly have no system to keep track of what needs to be delivered, what is on the truck, what has been delivered and what couldn’t be delivered. My guess is that they might have a clipboard nailed to a wall somewhere. Maybe.

Note that the big box store that competes with them (but doesnt offer enough services to make me switch), DOES have automated email notification that the job is done and I can pick it up.

Little things make a difference, especially when I can decide to give them my cell phone’s SMS email address, forcing their email to my phone.

Why is this apparent triviality even important?

Lessee…In the days of $4 gas, an emailed notification that goes to my phone could save me a 40 mile round trip drive (if I’m already in town for something else), PLUS 40+ minutes of their productive time if I have to turn around and come get that job because it is time-bound.

I don’t like doing business with companies that waste my time. Do you?

It might not just be my time. Maybe I have my virtual assistant (who lives here) pick them up. Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to take the email and forward to her, or call her? Sure, they could email directly to her – but if they aren’t emailing, what difference does it make? So now we’re talking about contractor or employee time, depending on your situation.

Number 3 – Out of control accounting. OK, I admit it, I *hate* bookkeeping (yes, I do appreciate and take action on the reports).

This is important with them because I often pay by credit or debit card and then get invoiced for the same amount at a later time. This happens repeatedly. So much so, in fact, that I have to get statements and make sure I haven’t paid for something twice. Sometimes I pay in person. Sometimes I pay over the phone or even via email. It doesn’t seem to matter, because double payments or unlogged payments are a frequent issue.

In the case of the in-store payment, this occurs despite the fact that they appear to enter the payment on the computer when I’m in their store. In fact, most of the problems originated from in-store payments.

Call me confused.

By now, you’re probably still wondering where the “why cross and dot” in all this is.

Simple: It’s those lifestyle things that make owning a business worthwhile. If your business is out of control, you don’t have time for that every other Wednesday golf meeting with friends you treasure. You can’t make that Rotary meeting once a month, much less once a week.

You can’t go on that photo safari across Montana, much less across Africa. And you sure can’t leave at 10am or 2pm for that school play or soccer game out of town that you promised your kid you’d make, even though they know you’ll be on your cell phone the whole time.

Why? Because you can’t leave your business for a week for fear that it will collapse into chaos when you aren’t there.

Cross the T and dot the I, and put systems in place to make sure it happens even when you aren’t there.

Imagine if you don’t have these things in place. That ONE important delivery to your best client gets messed up, or forgotten and that client leaves forever taking 5 or 6 figures worth of business to a competitor.

Now you feel like you can’t ever leave to watch a kid’s recital, ball game or what not.

Is that really worth not putting some effort, some passion into systems that cross the T and dot the I?

Don’t you want your business to be the one that is known as the one that never drops the ball?

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Blogging Small Business Twitter

Business is Personal blog featured at marketing.alltop.com

I’m pleased to announce that Guy Kawasaki‘s Alltop.com project has chosen to feature Business is Personal in the marketing area of Alltop, specifically at marketing.alltop.com.

Yoda's Playlist
photo credit: Orange_Beard

Pretty exciting, considering the company: Seth Godin, Duct Tape Marketing, Church of the Customer and Brian Clark’s Copyblogger are also included in a great group of marketing blogs at http://marketing.alltop.com

Marketing.Alltop.com is part of Guy’s Alltop.com project. I encourage you to slide over there and read the top content Guy’s team has assembled.

PS: If you aren’t familiar with him, I suggest you read this to learn about Guy. (Thanks again, Guy)

One last thing: This is a direct result of participating on Twitter, one of the social media sites I’ve been discussing with you lately.

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Advertising Automation Blogging Competition Customer service ECommerce Internet marketing Social Media Technology Twitter Web 2.0

Twitter for business: Does it make sense, or is it just another time vampire?

Eyes front... photo credit: law_keven

Let’s look at it for a bit.

People are more and more wary of giving out their email address. Many are not clued in to RSS (and don’t want to deal with readers, etc). They want up-to-the-minute info, and email in many cases just isn’t fast enough or dependable enough.

They might be driving, or unable to check that particular personal email address, or they’re in a store, or on the golf course.

Yet they want the info you have, and they want that info to be fresh.

Sure, you might have to sell them on the value of taking the time to create a Twitter account, but the value is the info they want and how fast they want it.

Remember, Twitter messages (“tweets”) can go to SMS-capable cell phones. They also can be read by Smartphone apps like TinyTwitter and by mobile phone RSS readers.

Let’s look at how you might actually make money with what appears to be a colossal time waster at first glance.

What do people want to know about right now? Depends.

  • If you are in the real estate business – In an area where people are in a hurry, or where there is competition for certain types of housing (cheaper homes, or homes with immediate move-in, you know what the niches are).
  • In the mortgage business – clients want to know when an approval has come in, you want to know when other events occur.
  • In retail or service businesses- what about special orders? Special sales? Special hours?
  • Customer service, regardless of your business.

Think about the New York city apartment market. While I’ve never tried to find an apartment there, I hear it takes some serious work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if apartment rental web sites and property managers had a Twitter to monitor? They could have one for each type of apartment, or each part of the city, and combinations of both. IE: Uptown, SOHO, Eastside and then Eastside2Bedroom, SOHO1bedroom, etc.

If you’re a Realtor who specializes in investment property, you could tweet your properties to a private Twitter feed that only your investment clients have access to. Sure, you could email them, but will it be delivered? A stockbroker could do the same.

Information marketers and similar content providers can use Twitter as a replacement for Aweber. Sure, you should be able to convey the value of joining your list for what you will deliver, but a less threatening (is email threatening??) option would be to send the same updates out via a Twitter feed.

Any automated notification that could go to SMS text messaging (which requires that the sender know your phone number) could just as easily go to Twitter (which reveals little or nothing to the sender), with the same result. Net: The privacy that some crave.

On 9/11, when NYC cell phone networks were jammed, outbound messages from the towers could have gone out to relatives outside the city via Twitter. Certainly that’s a need we hope to avoid, but it will work as long as the net is up. In fact, it is common for text messaging to work when a cell signal is too weak to carry a phone call.

Last weekend, I posted a note about a California firefighter who saves lives using Twitter.

It isn’t just for people with nothing to do. Like any other tool, in the right hands, it can do good things. If you listened a while back and setup Google Alerts on your brands, business name and executives, I suggest you do a TweetScan for the same reason.

Other posts on this topic:

How To Use Twitter For Business
Add Twitter to your Reputation Monitoring
How to Get Customer Service via Twitter
Social Media: Is Twitter Right for Your Business?
37signals likes twitter for business