Businesses Twittering: Fun, Useful & Full Of Surprises – That's Why We Twitter Anyway!


What started as a trickle at the end of last year has become a deluge in the New Year, with headlines in the most popular newspapers in the UK showing incontrovertibly that Twitter has moved into the UK mainstream this year and established itself as the papers’ latest web darling.  Their interest is doubtless due, at least in part, to celebrity “tweeters” – celebs sell newspapers, so the papers are going where the celebs are and trying to grab some “Twitter scoops”.

Recently Jemima Kiss, a prominent blogger and journalist, revealed Jonathan Ross’s intention to discuss the service with keen Twitterer and web aficionado Stephen Fry on his first show back from suspension.   Yesterday, the Times Online made a story out of another of Ross’s “tweets”, publishing an article about his “announcement” that he would be hosting this year’s Bafta Awards.  There’s no end of celeb twittering going on, so if you’ve always wanted to know what John Cleese had for breakfast or are desperate to learn how Lance Armstrong’s comeback is going then here’s your chance.

There have been a few “bah humbug” articles too (hey, this is the British media after all) – work place concerns focus on how Twitter may hinder productivity, whilst some media sources simply complain about the lack of juicy gossip from celebrity tweeters.


We twitter too.  So we figured we’d share some of our thoughts on Twitter and Web 2.0.  In 2007 we launched our blog with a post explaining why we would be blogging.  Basically, as a new business in the impersonal online world we felt the blog would help give us a more human a voice, would enable us to communicate more personally with our customers, and would allow us to share interesting or fun insights or snippets on flowers and the online world more generally.

Since we started blogging, the “Web 2.0” movement and the social web have expanded significantly, offering additional channels and tempos of communication to complement the “older” channels.  The most obvious change is that the flow of communication is no longer as one directional or contrived as it once was. New media, to differing extents, encourage a balanced and more frequent communication between businesses and customers / visitors.

The most important difference though, in our opinion, is that new media channels enable real time, easy going contact between parties in a way that has never been possible before.  Historically, interactions between a business and a customer have been about hard nosed selling by the business and the making of informed purchasing decisions by the customer.  Social media communications are, in most cases, far more laid back.  If old media channels are like a full on business meeting in the office, then Web 2.0 channels are more like the “getting to know you” drink in the pub afterwards.  Consequently, the conversations are sometimes utterly inane and pointless but it doesn’t really matter as there’s not so much pressure on the communication to deliver immediately or at all (at least not as far as we’re concerned).

Many prominent brands have embraced Web 2.0 channels, with varying degrees of success.  Some examples of doing it right:

  • Last year the web world was abuzz with the news that Top Shop, one of the UK’s leading high street fashion retailers, was getting 5% of its online visitors from MySpace. (“But is it good traffic?”, mutters my inner marketeer);
  • One famously early adopter of Twitter was the popular US-based shoe retailer Zappos. Of their 1600 odd employees, 453 of them are actively on Twitter listening, engaging and responding to customer concerns;
  • US-based low cost carrier JetBlue is on Twitter and has earned kudos from customers as their Twitter responses are often faster than those their customer service team;
  • More recently, Dell reported $1 million worth of sales from Twitter alone. Although this number is miniscule in comparison to Dell’s overall revenue, it does offer plenty of brand exposure (eg us writing about them here).

The intangible value social media can add to a business is thought to be high. Guy Kawasaki, an early exponent of evangelism marketing who, in his capacity as chief evangelist for Apple, was responsible for creating a number of passionate user-advocates for the Apple brand, describes Twitter as one of the best new marketing tools of the century.  Of course, PR departments of big companies always produce a lot of hot air about such trendy initiatives, trying to push how cutting edge and down with the kids their brand is, so any such figures or self-congratulatory back-slapping press releases should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Speaking for Arena, we have seen real benefits from our blog, our Facebook application (Flowers & Fun) and from our Twitter feed, and all at low cost.  However, anyone who tells you these channels will change your business overnight is talking rubbish (and may be trying to sell you something you don’t need – caveat emptor!).  There may also be a danger that with more and more people engaging with such channels, that the value will drowned out by the additional noise.

Nonetheless, we think it’s clear that Web 2.0 and new media channels can undoubtedly add value in many ways to any sized business.  As well as being informative, engaging with social media can also be just plain fun, and even eye opening on occasion.  A lot of the things we’ve found out or leads that we’ve picked were totally unexpected or from left field, and that’s one of the most rewarding aspects of Twitter; such serendipity can’t, by definition, be planned or manufactured.  On which note, here’s a final example of the unpredictable path that twittering can take: Let’s all ‘sue Telegraph’, say Twitterers.

UPDATE: For those that live on the other side of the world, the point about Twitter having arrived was made a million times better than this post by the first pic of the Hudson River plane landing appearing first on Twitterpic.

Some Useful Twitter Resources:

If you liked this post, you may enjoy reading our other posts on Social Media: Flowers in the Social Networking Arena & Send Free Flowers on Facebook.

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