2 Feb

Twitter use for business in Europe

I found this great article on Twitter use for business in Europe, and I wanted to share.

LONDON—Last month, citizenrobert was enjoying “the pleasures of slow cooking.” The month before, he was battling with “brutal” winds in Suffolk.

Citizenrobert, it turns out, is Robert Phillips, the U.K. chief executive of public-relations firm Edelman, and he has been using the microblogging site Twitter to share his views and anecdotes with his 815 “followers.”

Mr. Phillips is part of the small but growing community of senior executives using the short-messaging site as a business tool to engage with customers.

Twitter itself is growing fast. The company doesn’t report figures itself but estimates put the number of users at four million to six million. In the U.K., traffic has grown to October’s 3.3 million unique visitors per month this year, estimates say, from just 121,000 unique visits per month in October the prior year.

Around 80% of the 30 major brands, including retailers and auto makers, use Twitter for daily tweets, market-researcher Forrester Research found.

The study also said retailers are the ones with the biggest number of “followers,” while auto makers follow best practices, like updating their feeds constantly, more consistently.

* How to Tweet: Tips to Light Up Your Brand

British fashion retailer Topshop, a unit of Arcadia, has more than 45,000 “followers” and uses its Twitter feed to interact with shoppers. “We’ve got that Friday feeling … none of us can sit still,” it wrote recently. Though there are exceptions. German car maker Opel GmbH, General Motor’s cash-strapped unit, stopped updating its Twitter feed in September. Admittedly the company has much bigger problems to worry about.

While most senior executives still regard Twitter as a diversion from work, some have been quick to incorporate “tweeting” as part of their extremely busy routines.

Paul Johns, vice president of Complinet, a multinational provider of risk and compliance information for financial services, says using Twitter has turned into real revenue for his company.

Mr, Johns, who is 40 years old, didn’t understand Twitter as first. “Then somebody told me it’s basically microblogging. I instantly saw a very good business opportunity.”

Mr. Johns usually tweets three or four times a day in between flights or meetings, using his Blackberry.

Mr. Johns says his company is able to generate cash through Twitter by putting up a link to a trial system with a unique URL, so that way the firm knows which deals come from Twitter.

That doesn’t come naturally to many senior executives. Loic Le Meur, founder of video-blogging company Seesmic, says senior managers find it really difficult to forget their executive roles and just be natural.

“Companies shouldn’t think too much when using Twitter,” Mr. Le Meur says. “It’s not like as if they are writing a press release. Just take your Blackberry and share something quick.”

But at the same time, public-relations experts recommend that companies wanting to connect with consumers come up with the right strategy, so that all people tweeting for the company have some kind of cohesion.

Nate Elliot, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that when considering engaging in social media, the corporate world should set out clear objectives of what it wants to accomplish.

“Do companies want to get the message out and talk directly to consumers and fans? Or do they want to get new ideas to improve their business? These are so many things you can do as a business,” Mr. Elliot said.

“As a company you have to ask yourself: what are our objectives and would Twitter help us? Who is the right person to manage our Twitter account?” Mr. Elliot said.

Senior executives aren’t always the right people to manage Twitter accounts, Mr. Elliott added.

In a recent study of how companies should represent themselves on Twitter, Mr. Elliott says companies should find the right department to manage each of their accounts.

“In many companies, marketing owns the entire organization’s Twitter activity. But many of the objectives you can pursue through Twitter are better suited to other parts of the organization,” he says.

Corporations should make sure that each Twitter account serves a particular purpose, from informing local consumers of particular offers in their area to announcing major decisions or new products.

“Honda Motor has several dealerships tweeting locally, but no easy way for consumers to find specific streams for their areas— and no obvious objective for what each local dealership should be tweeting,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Honda Motor Co. said the company was using Twitter as another tool to talk to customers and that it allowed more freedom for its franchised-dealers to tweet “within reason, whatever they want.” She also said Honda is putting together a “system” to help their dealers tweet better.

Burger King Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. have been victims of so-called brand-jacking. In July, a person with no links to Exxon Mobil registered the name “ExxonMobileCorp” and started tweeting on behalf of the corporation. Exxon Mobil contacted Twitter to request the person stopped tweeting under the company’s name, a spokesman said. Ever since that incident, Exxon Mobil has an official Twitter page.

In a separate incident in late 2008, an Indiana University student pretended to be the manager of the Burger King account on Twitter. The student even managed to build a significant amount of followers. A spokesman for Burger King wasn’t immediately able to comment.

To turn all of this into revenue, Twitter is also designing plans to launch corporate accounts in an effort to start generating revenue. The microblogging site has said it will offer tools aimed at improving companies’ tweeting skills by the end of this year.

Experts have warned, however, that not all managers will be willing to pay for a service offered by a relatively new and untested site. Pundits are also unclear as to how exactly the company is planning to generate cash. Twitter didn’t respond to an email requesting more details on its plans.

Write to Javier Espinoza at

For original article here

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