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A session today at the Web 2.0 expo examined how Twitter can be used as a business tool. Twitter has been gaining lots of momentum over the past year and has more recently reached mainstream status.

But beyond the minutiae of “what are you doing” noise on Twitter (great parody here), what about using it as a business tool? About half the 200 people in the session raised their hands for having used Twitter for business or commercial reasons (we had a lot of success using Twitter at our last conference).

Lots of companies have started to shine the light on what is possible with Twitter by using it to monitor the conversations around their brands, to promote themselves, and even as a customer service tool. Well-known early Twitter adopters are companies such as Hulu, Kodak and JetBlue.

Comcast has gotten some exposure for monitoring and reacting to consumer complaints on Twitter by tracking certain keywords. It has actually solved a number of customer issues directly this way (and got some good PR). Follow it at @comcastcares.

Conference social networking service Crowdvine (which we’re using at our next conference) did the same thing by responding to a consumer complaint that led to a bug fix in its software. Interestingly, in the 24 hours between the original tweet and Crowdvine’s response, a competing service swooped in to join the conversation.

“If you’re not happy with Crowdvine, try xxxxx,” the tweet read on the screen shot shown by speaker Sarah Milstein, cofounder of

Local businesses are starting to join the twittersphere as well. Milstein pointed out that Twitter’s advanced search feature allows users to find conversations happening around dates, people, themes, keywords or places. SMBs can use this to monitor conversations around their brands, like the above examples, or conduct locally targeted market research.

“Say you’re a dog trainer that wants to open shop in Los Angeles, and you want to find out what the demand is like,” said Milstein. “You can filter tweets and sample demand through the conversation that is happening around keywords in that specific area.”

On the local front, has started to distribute coupon codes on Twitter, and Twitter CEO Evan Williams has alluded to evolving Twitter into tool that serves more geotargeted content such as news.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Maybe “business is business”, but I feel that swooping in and trying to capitalize on a stumble by tweeting to your competitor’s customers as described above is sleazy. If you need a pragmatic explanation, today’s competitors could be tomorrow’s partners, but I’d rather just say wrong is wrong. Crowdvine is a competitor of ours, but we steer clear of that kind of behavior. I appreciate that Tony has, as well.

  2. Wish I’d known you were at Web 2.0 or I would have said hello. We’re excited to be working with the Kelsey group this year. Also, glad you enjoyed Sarah’s talk. I got to see a practice run of it and thought it was great!

  3. Like FaceBook and other social media sites, members who use Twitter for business purposes need to post relevant, useful content from blogs, online publications and other sources, including their own. But controlling your exposure is also critical. Over do it and you stand to lose quality followers.

    I think one of the reasons a lot of businesses have not embraced Twitter is lack of control of the conversation that’s taking place. You have to be willing to give up some control over what happens on your page.

    Since I’m into mobile marketing (MobiMarketing), I first opened the floodgates for anyone to follow me. When a lot of Internet Marketers appearing with landing pages selling their services–and other mobile product and service companies hawking their wares–I blocked them and changed my settings to approve all followers. I believe this caused one or more disgruntled Twitterites to start a Google Adsense click fraud campaign on me and Google closed my Adsense account.

    Despite the irrelevant posts that have nothing to do with your market niche or company, you must be willing to give up some control in the emerging conversation. And, as one smart blogger wrote, you should not exceed the 1 in 10 rule: that is, out of ten posts, only include one promoting your business through website links or content.

    Despite Twitter abusers who follow no one and use Twitter only for business gain, I believe every business can benefit from the service. In my case, traffic to my blogs has tripled in two months.

    Brian Prows, MobileBeyond

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