Twitter (TWTR) has definitely had its challenges of late. The company’s user growth has slowed, its stock price has slumped 40 percent over the past 6 months, and its former founder, Jack Dorsey, has had to come back as CEO – while still running another tech company Square which is preparing to go public. Twitter has some big mountains to climb and that became more evident with its disappointing revenue forecast released Tuesday.
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And yet, the company’s challenges are fixable. All it has to do is look at the organizations that have succeeded with the messaging service. I’m not talking about name brands like Coke (KO), Disney’s ESPN (DIS) or Apple (AAPL) - or celebrities like Beyonce and Taylor Swift. My examples are much, much more boring than that. In fact, you probably haven’t even heard of them.
For example, there’s Meralco, the electric company of the city of Manila in the Philippines. Meralco has 829,000 followers. There’s the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA. It comprises approximately 220 government employees in six technical offices, including nearly 100 program managers, who together oversee about 250 research and development programs. That’s pretty boring, isn’t it? Meanwhile, DARPA has more than 119,000 followers. There’s Galesburg, Illinois-based Blick Art Materials, an online and brick and mortar retailer of art materials with more than 22,000 followers. And there’s Delta Faucet, an Indianapolis company that designs and manufactures kitchen, bathroom and shower fixtures. Almost 33,000 people follow them on Twitter.
What’s going on here? Why would so many people follow a company that makes faucets for a bathroom? Or an art supply shop? Who cares what an agency loosely connected to the government is up to or what an electronic company in Manila has to say? Apparently, a lot of people. This is Twitter at its best. These are organizations that understand the value of Twitter. And they get that one doesn’t have to be Beyonce to attract a lot of followers and benefit from the messaging service. You just need to do these three things.
Invest. In business, as in life, you get out of things what you put into them. The same goes for Twitter. Opening a Twitter account is easy and free. Growing it so that it becomes a valuable resource to your company is not. It takes money and it takes time. Companies that succeed on Twitter hire people to manage Twitter, and all their social media activities. They have full time employees whose job is to tweet, post, create, design, link and converse online. They have outside firms who help them target new audiences, improve visibility and spread awareness. Their employees are allowed to participate. Management is deeply involved. They take chances. They makes mistakes. Twitter is a culture and a lifestyle and it’s a great way to get very close to your community if you’re prepared to invest the time and money necessary to do that.
Inform. Take a look at Meralco’s Twitter feed and you’ll understand why so many people follow them. If you’re a resident of Manila, this is the place to go to get the latest information on power interruptions and service problems. At DARPA there are links to great articles and videos that are all about the latest materials and advances in technologies from “mind-controlled homes” to the accuracy of “Back to the Future.” Blick and Delta both share photos, videos, graphics and articles on the latest trends in their industry – their followers get ideas and inspirations from visiting their Twitter feeds. This is information at its best, delivered by experts in their field to people that are interested in what they have to say. That’s what Twitter is all about.
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Engage. The conversation is always two way. Organizations, big and small, who use Twitter view it as a tool for engaging with their community too. Replies and retweets are common. Delta engages with both customers and designers. Blick responds to customers, employees and others in the art community. They run contests, use hashtags, experiment with technologies like Periscope, stream videos and integrate with other social media platforms from Facebook (FB) to Pinterest to Tumblr. The whole point of Twitter is not to use it just a billboard, but rather as a way to build relationships with your followers. All of this takes time and commitment and resources.
These are the boring, quiet companies. They are not really household names. But they represent Twitter’s future. They’re using Twitter the right way. The more companies that adopt this model, the more successful they’ll be. And the more successful Twitter will be as well. The solution to Twitter’s problems isn’t new technology or abandoning the 140 character tweet. It’s helping the millions of small and medium sized companies – boring companies like mine - realize the benefits of the service just like the ones I’ve mentioned above.