eISBN: 9781101136348

The alternative title could have been, “the twitter story”.

“this book chiefly focuses on how people use twitter to get connected to customers and constituents.” interview notes at shel’s blog. Crowdsourced for twitter stories via twitter.

To me, this was also a book about Social Media’s value to organizations, by allowing it to be public yet come across as human, implies “someone cares”. It also illustrated to me whether social media tools work or not largely depends on (1) the product/ service in the first place, (2) whether they give a hoot about what customers are saying, I.e. Willingness (3) whether organization can do something if they want to, I.e. Capability.

If people don’t have a media budget and only time, they tend to turn to social media. I’m thinking: “In social media, Time and Passion is one’s capital”.

This seems to be the recurrent thread: tweeting as a broadcast tool (less effective), then changed approach to listening, and engaging in conversations. From “talking at to talking with” the community.

Author explains how a single tweet from James buck made him see twitter differently.

To the author , Twitter is like the telephone. a communications tool. Author suggests businesses should allow employees to tweet on company time for the same reasons why the company install telephones, or use email and faxes, at work. The topic is up to the company/ employee.

It is also about using a set of tools rather than just one particular tool. Shel uses the “building a house with a hammer” analogy.

Twitter hashtags and twitter search as the tools in twitterville. (aside: library of congress must have viewed twitter significant enough to consider archiving tweets)

The references to Cluetrain Manifesto keep popping up, and for good reason too, IMO.

Cites Twitter founder, Ev Williams, on what he learned at Google (after his 2nd startup, Pyra, was acquired by Google): (1) get the product right and make users happy before worrying about making money, (2) focus is everything. Every company has to choose between what it can do and what it should do.

Founding story of Twitter, which i thought was amazing. The concept of twitter came from Jack Dorsey, who was working with Biz Stone and Ev Williams on the start up, Odeo. They wanted a way for their team members (who worked their own hours) to know what each was doing (thus the twitter tagline “what are you doing?”

Subsequently, team members used it to post updates on their work status, follow conversations between members, or private messages (like an internal sms system) but also off work topics (e.g. Questions on restaurants to recommend). They liked it enough and started sharing this platform with friends. Twitter was born.

What started as an internal communications tool became a global social media tool.

About Twitter’s debut at SXSW 2007, and ‘live’ twitting.

twitter as a lower-cost customer support tool.

Dell and twitter. The first “twitterville retail outlet” by @delloutlet, June 07. How Twitter accelerated comments and blog post links more than the D2D blog itself.

Twitter being more of a listening tool rather than a broadcast tool. Dell’s strategy of listening and identifying the conversations worth joining/ customers worth converting (side quote: convert the agnostics, rather than the atheists), then joining and acting on the resulting dialogue. This allowed them to save from conducting focus groups.

Adopting a “@atDell” format for Dell staff who tweet for Dell (rather than a generic company brand-name).

Comcast turning their bad reputation around using twitter (@comcastcares). Started by a midlevel employee, Frank Eliason. (I thought it was really Eliason’s commitment to helping customers via twitter, which was a big part in helping turn the reputation around). Each comcastcares rep can cover as many customers as traditional call centre, but the help they provide is public.

American Airlines Portland flight fiasco, relayed via twitter and passed on (by a friend of the tweeter) to tv stations.

U-haul’s failure to respond over a frustrated customer’s tweet, and that sparked off other sharing of the company lack of service.

(at this point I wondered if it was also about customers who tweet, companies o bother to monitor or don’t, and whether the company cared to, I.e. if it were a monopoly, would it matter?)

Motrin Moms ad campaign mistake; @JessicaGottlieb tweets as the catalyst. One observation from author: bad press/ vibes gets quelled if the company responds to the conversation; perception that someone from the company was listening and felt bad about the incident. It’s the silence that tends to make matters worse.

Suggested the pepsi max suicide ad fiasco didn’t get as much attention as motrin bec pepsi social media director jumped into the conversation and had social media creds.

Ford motor company, a ford ranger fan site (therangerstation.com), ford social media officer Scott Monty. Example: tuned to social media, “SM creds”, being genuine, personal responses & plea on behalf of company, legitimate company case, posting facts. Author shel makes the case that it’s important for the company to have ppl actively in social media before any crisis occurs (reminded me of the DBS outage & new twitter account incident)

Shel describes his childhood experience of his family’s first tv set, and compares it with advent of social media.

Zappos (zappos.com) the online shoes retailer and why it has such a huge fan base. They liken themselves as the service company that happen to sell shoes. After a 4-week customer service course, they offer new trainees a $2000 incentive to quit and never return. Says 90% don’t take up the offer.

Zappos employees on twitter don’t talk shop, don’t hard-sell pdts. They engage in everyday conversations. But they do answer questions about their products from tweeters. Shel suggests that’s what successful sales ppl do; start a conversation with potential customers about the weather. Also allow potential customers to observe company twitter culture in deciding if they should engage in business with the company. Zappos feel twitter allows them to expose their company culture to the world.

H&R Block, a tax filing/ preparation company. Started tweeting as a broadcast tool, then changed approach to listening, and engaging in conversations. Their view was twitter was not a mass marketing broadcast tool like tv (won’t give you the dame reach) but more of understanding how some people perceive your brand.

Henry Ford hospital ‘live’ tweeting a surgical procedure, as part of educating other doctors attending a medical conference, and anyone who cared to listen in. Says the event humanized surgery.

Eden medical hospital (@sutterEdenMed) hired PR agencies to tweet, among other social media engagement activities. The PR staff identified themselves as being paid to do so (self-disclosure). Author suggested that because the PR staff engaged in sustained conversations, there was no opposition to the new hospital being built (reasons were understood by community).

Rubbermaid’s strategy is to make known the person behind the tweets. “… Currently tweeted by Jim Deitzel…” as a way to reveal the person yet allow others to take over in future, without losing the company tweeter handle.

Molsen Canada (brewery). Generosity as a branding strategy. Their 2 key employees were tweeters who voluntarily participated in a fundraiser to feed the homeless. Then company got roped into top off the funds as an afterthought. Molsen kept up their foodbank donations and usually communicated this via twitter (consistency seems the key, IMO) Author calls it “lethal generosity”.

Logo tweets (company tweeting). Author argues its easier to speak to a person than a company. Starbucks tweeter explains the Starbucks brand is easier to find than his name (seems to me rubbermaid’s approach to tweeting is a good compromise)

Evernote. Doesn’t attempt to engage in twitter conversations, only as broadcast tool. Only tweet company related info. Shel says their twitter strategy irrefutable works because the company has grown (My conclusion is the same as Shel’s: it’s because they have a great product more than their tweets).

Mayo Clinic. Started a twitter account to prevent identity hijack, but adopted twitter after a while.

IBM. Organic adoption of twitter. No guidelines on twitter use. Says they are happy that employees are using twitter to connect to customers.

United Linen. The CEO views twitter as a way to learn (by following relevant tweeters and their tweets). E.g. They learned how to market on twitter, by following other marketeers.

RedMonk, an analyst company that consults on business models using open source tech. Their office is virtual, in twitter. Gives 3 reasons why they rely more on twitter search than google search.

Sodexo; Using twitter for hiring staff.

Seesmic, “twitter for video”.

StockTwits, a twitter community for stock pickers. Crowd-source company whose product is information. Openly tweet about stocks. Gain trust and credibility points, gain followers (i’m not clear as yet how it works. the community chooses the expert?)

crowdSPRING, a “eBay” for graphic design work.

Coffee Groundz. Accepts online drive-through orders via twitter. Tweetups (meetups arranged via twitter).

Plumbers who tweet. In short, the tweets are public records of the way the person does business. Allows potential customers to make their assessment.

Shel observes a common thread that no clear business model of using twitter exists. Yet it is about using social media, fueled by passion, to form communities. Then reaching a tipping point leading to monetization.

About ppl building up their personal online brands, as a strategy of increasing their employability.

“In social media, people who are the most generous to their communities almost invariably acquire the most influence”.

Quotes Jeremy Owyang on his approach to personal online brand:
– an objective. First, define a very clear career mission. “What is it that you are trying to solve for your client or employer? Don’t focus on the minutiae of tools; instead think of the greater problem and solution you’ll provide.”
– stick to the plan; be consistent
– be ready for the long haul (takes years)
– study others
– integrate social media tools; use in tandem

Shel shares his own journalism background and gives his perspective of the evolution of the mass print media industry (shrinking began in the 70s due to cost pressures).

Section on his perspective on the PRC social media scene; censorship and bragging rights; relatively few censors compared to the content being generated.

How traditional media is finding twitter to be a good source of news; tweeters become their leads. Examples of traditional media picking up tweets (Szechuan quake, Mumbai attacks, US Airways crash in the Hudson) and reporting as mainstream news; tweeters unintentionally becoming citizen journalists. How false info is subsequently squelched (I think one has to be consistent in following, or else will only retain inaccurate info). Raises the issue of whether traditional media should pay for such content as they use it.

On Obama and the twitter campaign.

Twitter and govt; Shel observes 3 trends/ areas: transportation, law enforcement, disaster response.

2008, Israel consulate using twitter to take questions from the world about the bombings in Gaza.

Chapter on case studies of fundraising efforts (for causes or individuals) on twitter. Twestival. How P&G’s effort to rope in tweeters with large followers to tweet its fundraiser failed because perception was that it was about branding rather than real social motivation; large twitter follower base does not guarantee success.

Darker side of twitter: spammers (tips on spotting spammers – gibberish twitter handle, new account follows many, few followers; sexy profile pic). Phishing via shortened urls, and tweets appearing from friends.

Shel’s 8 twitter tips: use personal avatar rather than a cartoon or brand; read first talk later; follow after you’ve posted your own tweets; choose friends over stars; avoid spammer-like stats where you follow far more than the number who follow you; have favourites (which gives context/ info to your potential followers); take your time to chat/ get to know others (no one likes an obnoxious newcomer); orientate yourself in twitter like how you might check out a new neighbourhood.

Advises against trying to achieve numbers (followers) but focusing on the quality of conversations.

Discusses whether to write/ tweet for an audience or for oneself.

End chapter is like a how-to guide to twitter; twitter conventions.