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If Rip Van Winkle woke up last February, by now he would have heard of Twitter.  The media is abuzz about Twitter, the free social networking service that gives users 140 characters to post their doings.  Twitter’s use exploded in March, in part due to publicity by company executives, as well as frequent use by some high profile celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher(@aplusk), Shaquille O’Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) and Diddy (@iamdiddy).  By the end of March, Twitter’s monthly usage grew 76.8%, over 14 million people were using Twitter on a daily basis (compete.com), Ashton Kutcher won the smackdown with CNN to see who could reach one million followers first, and even Oprah sent out her first tweet after company founder Evan Williams and Ashton Kutcher were guests on her show.  According to Hitwise, a company that measures online traffic, the number of U.S. visits to Twitter jumped 24% from Thursday to Friday, when Winfrey posted her first Tweet, and 37% of those visiting Twitter on Friday, April 17 were new visitors.  

Like with other forms of social media, such as Facebook and You Tube, celebrities are using Twitter to  increase their media exposure, providing the world with too much information (Recent Diddy tweet – “Taken (sp) a bubble bath holdin a(sp) oscar!!”), and news organizations are tweeting to ultimately increase viewer ship (note to CNN: Please stop scrolling every conceivable way to contact you on my TV screen.  I know how to find you on Facebook, Twitter, the internet, and where to call if I really, really need you).  But let’s explore some of the innovative ways Twitter, Facebook and You Tube, the holy trinity of social media tools, is being used:

  • The US Food and Drug Administration(@FDArecalls) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission(@CPSC_Recalls) are both using Twitter to announce product recalls.  Ponder this-real time, useful information for public safety.  Bad week to be a pistachio nut, bad week for retailers to sell pistachio nuts- there were a host of retailer product recalls on 4/21, including Walgreen’s and Whole Foods.

  • NASA astronaut Mike Massimino(@Astro_Mike), my personal Tweet crush, is providing details of his training for the next space shuttle mission through his short, elegant tweets.  An example from 4/17:  “Completed our final practice for spacewalk 2 in the big pool, huge IMAX camera was in the pool with us filming a 3D movie, really fun day.” Reflect on this-visibility into the “day in the life” of an astronaut.

  • Gavin Newsom, the Mayor of San Francisco, announced his intention to run for Governor of California April 21st using the holy trinity of social media tools:  Twitter, Facebook and You Tube.  Mull this over-announcing your candidacy for one of the most highly visible political offices in the US through means other than a traditional news outlet.  Team Obama’s use of the internet moves to a new level in a very short amount of time.

Now, think about the most talked about strategy for retail during the recession:  “Getting closer to the customer.”  The FDA, CPSC, NASA, and Gavin Newsom are doing just that – getting closer to their respective customers.   

Last week, a video of a surfaced on You Tube of a youthful Domino’s pizza employee stuffing cheese up his nose, then using said cheese on a sandwich.  This week, rival chain Pizza Hut posted the following job on their website:  “Apply to be the first Pizza Hut Twintern.”  Yes, Pizza Hut is accepting job applications to Tweet on their behalf.  Bob Kraut, Pizza Hut’s vice president for marketing communications, told the New York Times that that the chosen twitterer will be: “Our social media journalist, chronicling in 140 characters or less what’s going on at Pizza Hut.” 

Pizza Hut – ridiculous, or smart like a fox for using Twitter to increase customer touch and brand awareness in light of the Domino’s pizza debacle?  Matt Cohler, an early founder of Facebook, so eloquently said “The world is going to do things with your brand, whether or not you participate in the process.” (Fast Company Magazine, “How Chris Hughes Helped Launch Facebook and the Obama Campaign, April, 2009). Retailers should begin to explore social media to help take their brands to the next level of customer engagement.  Seize the zeitgeist!  

 

In the next few months, I’ll be exploring trends in retail and social media.  I will be exploring how retailers can use Twitter to increase customer loyalty and brand awareness. Coming posts will discuss my obsession with twitter, how I use twitter for business, the differences between Twitter and Facebook, and when I use each.  

I would love to share your stories in my next post.  Please feel free to contact me via email at andrea.france@sap.com

You can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/franceandrea. I am posting links to retail and fashion information from a variety of industry news sources on a fairly regular basis.

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