This is the first in a series of three guest posts over the coming few weeks by Graham Jones.
Graham is an Internet Psychologist and helps businesses profit from the internet using psychological principles.
If you were running one of the world’s top 100 brands, how would you go about growing your business in the midst of a major global recession? It is not a rhetorical question, of course, because it is a situation that has faced those businesses in the past year.
Yet, if you were one of those 100 CEOs, the chances are you would probably “play safe” in a recession, worried that if you took on any “new fangled” ideas, you might come a cropper. So, in 2009, that’s what the leaders of the Top 100 Brands did; mostly, they “played safe”. And the ones that took what they perceived to be the safest route are the ones that actually lost money during the past year. Strange, as it may seem, the brands that started to use untested, untried and seemingly speculative online tools, were the ones that grew substantially during the recession.
According to a study from EngagementDB.com, the brands that used Twitter and Facebook heavily during 2009 had an average profit growth of 18%. But the brands that decided to play it safe and stick with “what they knew”, avoiding these modern social networking tools, actually saw an average fall in profits of around 11%.
In other words, the only brands that had any real growth last year were the ones using Twitter – like Dell, Starbucks and EBay. And there is a striking similarity between the way each of these brands used Twitter, which is not seen in the bottom of the league table companies, like BP or McDonalds.
Twitter, if you haven’t caught on to this latest buzz, is what is delightfully called a “micro blogging” service. Essentially, it allows you to post messages to the internet of no more than 140 characters. It is derided because many of the messages you see are trash – the likes of “I’ve just fed the cat” or “Going shopping now, back later”. The sharing of the minutiae of people’s lives makes the system seem, at first right, inappropriate for a business to consider to help it grow. But, like many things, first impressions can be deceptive.
Here’s how Starbucks has seen business grow as a result of seeing Twitter from a different perspective. Instead of seeing it as a medium to promote the company, Starbucks sees Twitter as a wonderful place to listen to its customers. As someone posts a Twitter message (a tweet) saying something like “just off for a skinny latte”, Starbucks is able to respond simply with “enjoy”. They start conversations that way.
A friend of mine, who is a lifelong Costa Coffee fan, wrote on his Twitter account recently that he was, through no fault of his own, in a Starbucks in London. Within moments, Starbucks had simply replied “Welcome, thanks for giving us a try”. He’s not a fan of Costa anymore, who have never made him feel like an individual.
Starbucks constantly listens to the chatter about coffee, muffins and panini – amongst many other topics – so that it can engage in conversation with customers and potential customers, making them feel wanted and taken notice of.
Dell and Ebay do the same. So too do many small businesses who have found that Twitter is enabling them to increase their business at a fraction of the marketing costs that would bring in the same cash – and take longer. All you need is a few minutes each day and you can get Twitter to help your business grow simply by engaging with people who are interested in chatting with you.
Who would have thought that a simple text message system would provide some of the world’s top brands with more growth than traditional marketing techniques? Well, anyone who understands the fact that the reason your business grows is because people like you. Engaging them in conversation is a big reason for being liked – and that’s how Twitter can really help you. Follow the lead of Starbucks; listen to what people are saying on Twitter, join in the conversation and begin to watch your business grow.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who helps businesses profit from the internet using psychological principles.
Check his site at http://www.grahamjones.co.uk/
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