Customer Experience News & Trends

Don’t miss out on Twitter’s business apps

Twitter has built an online empire based on one simple premise: Customers are responsible for most great business ideas.  If you’re not connecting with customers via Twitter and other similar means, you’re missing out on a lot of those ideas.

While there’s nothing revolutionary about using customer feedback to generate new ideas, the Internet allows people to exchange more ideas, faster in an uninhibited environment (e.g., message boards, comments sections, customer reviews, etc.) than ever before.

For example, the photo site Flickr started out as an online game. One of the features of that game allowed registered users to exchange photos. When the founders realized photo sharing was much more popular than the game itself, they switched gears and created Flicker – the most popular photo-sharing site on the Web.

Twitter has used the same type of online “market research” to turn its text-friendly chat site into a social networking hub, a busines marketing tool, a billboard, message board, consumer review tool and more. In the next month or so, Twitter will introduce two new features – Lists and Retweets. Both will increase the site’s popularity, and both were ideas proposed by user-generated “tweets.”

The site’s founders constantly review tweets looking for common patterns or business ideas users think would make the site a better resource.

Other Fortune 1,000 companies, like Ford and Lego (among others), have thrived thanks to this type of thinking, but the reality is any company with a Web site can do the same.

The key: Turn your site into a resource that gives buyers a reason to come back on a daily basis. Build an online community with an industry blog, message board, a customer review section that encourages both positive and negative feedback (you learn more from negative feedback, and buyers won’t generally post if you censor their comments). Start online debate threads and use your e-mail lists to encourage customers to share their thoughts.

It’s a great way to boost traffic, and – over time – it becomes like a secret weapon that allows companies unprecedented insight into what buyers are really thinking. Consider two other popular Twitter features, both of which were developed based on following user-generated trends:

Hash tags: Twitter users who are all attending a similar event (anything from a conference to a sporting event) give that event a “hash tag” – usually a number. Anyone who “tweets” about the event uses the hash tag as an identifying marker. That way other Twitter users can search under that tag and find all of the feedback other attendees posted about the event.

@ searching: A while back, Twitter users started a trend where they would precede another user’s name with the @ symbol whenever they were directing a “tweet” to one specific person. Based on the trend’s popularity, Twitter now allows people to search using “@” and their screenname to find any other “tweets” that mention them by name.

Source: Twitter Serves Up Ideas From Its Followers,” by Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, 10/26/09

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