If you have or know teenagers, you will know that they spend a lot of time on the internet and particularly in the area of social networking. The most popular applications they use are Bebo, Facebook and MySpace. They aren’t just doing it on their PC’s at home, school or work, they are doing it on their mobiles. You might be surprised to know that in most countries in the developed world, including New Zealand, Facebook and Bebo represent close to half of all mobile data traffic. It is big and no one saw it coming.
Now people using social networking are no longer just Generation Y, it goes through all the generations, especially with professional social networking applications such as LinkedIn (go there and look for Luigi Cappel and you’ll find my account) where professional build a network where they can discuss business issues, look for staff or for jobs and generally communicate with like minded people around the world.
In the last few years the term Generation X has once again emerged. Generation X is generally agreed to as being the later group of Baby Boomers who challenged all the beliefs and philosophies of their elders. Instead of ‘we are doing this because it’s the way we always did it, or the way our parents did’ they tried new ways of doing everything.
These people grew up with the advent of the computer and are very comfortable with the Internet and various forms of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Yet when marketers are trying to sell new product, they often focus on the Generation Y who perhaps traditionally were the ones who rushed to the record store to get the new albums and wanted to wear the latest fashions. Now of course fewer of them by CD’s when they can download or copy music, mostly without paying for it. In today’s economy they are also more likely to be tempted by sales and even if they didn’t need something, they might still buy it if the deal sounds good.
Back to Generation X. These people are now in the late 30’s and older. They probably have a home and a mortgage, are settled with a good income and despite the economy still have some spending power. So, here’s a thought from left field. There is a social network , Twitter, which has been quietly growing to a point now where there are an estimated 6 million users and around 55 million messages sent a month. It is said to be growing at a rate of up to 2,000 users a day.
So what is Twitter and why should I care. Twitter is a social network where you make friends, or in the case of Twitter, you ‘Follow’ people. You post messages, called tweets, from your internet connected PC or from your mobile phone’s browser. The messages are restricted to 140 characters including spaces, so you have to be very smart with your choice of words. It started with and its main focus was a social one, and the idea was that you entered what you were doing at the time, for example, ‘Having an ice cream at Milford Beach’. This is still a major use and many people only ‘Tweet’ amongst their real friends. I often see Tweets from friends saying things like “I’m heading down to Ponsonby for a coffee, anyone else in the neighbourhood?’
There are also social gatherings, for example a few weeks ago I attended the ‘Twestival’ in Auckland, raising funds for Charity Water, but that’s another story. Let’s keep it simple. Twitter is free, its easy to use and there are lots of applications you can get for free that allow you organise your Tweets. I use Tweetdeck and Twitbin depending on what I am doing at the time.
Twitter is now being used by lots of different organisations around the world. It is used by companies, manufacturers, news media and even government departments such as the Victoria Police. If you are able to come up with reasons why people would follow you, you have a free medium to make them aware of special deals and offers, events or anything else that you think they would be interested in.
Here are some examples. A bar could promote a Happy Hour Deal by posting a message. A coffee chain could send out electronic coupons as Twitter messages, offering a free muffin with coffee for the next hour. A women’s clothing chain could announce a special deal on end of season fashions, or announce the exciting next season fashions are in store. A bike shop could post special deals around a racing event, or perhaps send brief updates of the Tour de France. The messages are anything that you think your customers or prospects would find of interest and be happy to read.
The thing with Twitter is that it is not intrusive. It’s not like a text message that beeps and wakes you up in the night or embarrasses you in a meeting or at the theatre. You have to open up your browser on your phone, or a website on your PC to receive the ‘Tweets’. You can follow who you like and if you don’t want to see them anymore, you can stop ‘following’ them with ease.
So who is doing this already? Find out for yourself. If you go to http://www.twitter.com you will find an option called Find People. Click on this and then select the option box at the top called Find On Twitter. I had a go and here are some of the results I got. I entered ‘shoes’. I got back 91 results. There were generic shoe stores, golf shoes, wedding shoes, custom soles. But when I entered ‘Shoes NZ’ or Shoes New Zealand there were none. I can think of some iconic shoe retailers who could jump into this spot.
So who can you find promoting product on Twitter. Here are a few names that you can look up and follow to see what they are doing and remember it’s free! Vodafone and Telecom, Adidas, Starbucks, McDonalds Cincinnati are doing a great job of promoting new products and deals, Borders Books, The Car Shop, Pro Guitar Shop, Sisters Gift Shop, Alpine Ski Shop, just entering shop I found over 200 shops who are already using Twitter around the world. Now to be fair, only some of them are actively using Twitter for marketing, but that is normal and it is still a relatively new concept, but Twitter has gained 6 million users in less than 3 years, so you would have to say they are onto something and if you are smart, you could be one of the first to really make something of it.
If you look around, you will find retailers who have got it together. For example http://twitter.com/fluevog is a shoe shop. They offer electronic coupons, they have links to pages where they tell you in Twitter about a new product and provide a link to a web page where you can see them. They have only been using Twitter for a short time, only sent out 17 messages and they already have almost 500 followers!
Just as a footnote, even if you are a bricks and mortar retailer and don’t do much on the Internet, you might want to think again. For example if you have identified your target market, especially if you are a speciality retailer, then Twitter could open up a whole new area of opportunity for international sales. There must be loads of opportunities to export product, especially Kiwiana to individual customers.
Twitter is very viral in its approach and if you find people who like your kind of products, and you offer them information and deals in your Twitter messages, the word will get out and their followers can become yours.
One final, final word. Like anything, Twitter as a social network. Blogging environment requires consistency. People won’t follow you if you only send a couple of messages a week. They also don’t want to receive a hundred a day, you need to find a balance, but the main thing is that you provide something that they are pleased that they read.
So here’s a free service that you can get results from if you are smart, for an investment of 5-10 minutes a day. It can create a loyal following and grow a viral network for your business. One other thing I forgot to mention, there is also Twitpic http://twitpic.com/ , which allows you to post photos with your Tweets, again for free, so now you can even show followers pictures of your store, the friendly faces inside or your new products, oh and I did mention that this is all free didn’t I?
And if you want to follow me, you will find me at http://twitter.com/BluesBro.
While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.
Thanks so much for your support:)