Twitter: 5 Business Case Studies

I am still hearing this deep and meaningful question at dinner parties, social moments and musings.

“I don’t understand this Twitter thing, isn’t it just people telling their friends what they had for breakfast or did last night , what’s the point of that!”

In fact, for a lot of people it is exactly that…a bit like a normal cross section of your average conversation to be frank, but Twitter is a whole lot more! (2,000 plus apps and counting), if you are willing to not just skim the surface but take a deep breath, dive deep and explore the Twittersphere.

So I thought it might be productive to look at some Twitter case studies and how different types of businesses are using Twitter to increase sales, drive traffic, use as a service tool and  add to their digital marketing toolbox.

1. @JetBlue

When JetBlue (an airline) joined Twitter in the spring of 2007, it was one of the first major brands to do so. Today, the company has over 1.6 million followers.

Why did they want to join Twitter?

  • It wanted to help customers.

“Some people were asking for help, and others were saying things that weren’t correct,” recalls JetBlue’s manager of corporate communications, Morgan Johnston. He’d been spending time on Twitter search, and he’d realized that JetBlue customers, often on the move, were Twittering about travel problems. “You can only see that a few times before you want to jump in and do something.”

They started slowly, as it gave the company time to learn what worked and what didn’t. Johnston hit on what he calls the Twitter “kernel of truth”: be receptive to what your followers want. “Ask them on Twitter” and he got answers.

Skyblue also used it for

  • Customer service—much of which other people don’t see because it happens via direct messages (Twitter’s private channel).

Current Twitter Resources: Half dozen staffers who can post directly to the Twitter account, plus he he has some backup staff resources

Next challenge: To staff the account 24/7, so that travelers at any time can get a quick reply.

Takeaway: Johnston says “Qualitative rather than quantitative improvements” is what Twitter is about, not ROI.

2. @TeusnerWine

Teusner Wine is a boutique winery in Australia’s Barossa Valley, has three employees. Dave Brookes is the sales and marketing department. A cycling fan, Brookes was watching the Tour Down Under in  January 2009 when he noticed that Lance Armstrong was on Twitter. “I followed him,” says Brookes.

What was their goal for using Twitter.

  • To promote their business by” building relationships with customers and potential customers.”

He created a Twitter account for Teusner, and to get rolling, he used Twitter search for wine-related terms. When he found interesting and influential people talking about the business, he followed them. Then he started conversing about wine and interacting with them. When he finds them, he sends a friendly message. “We say, “Thanks for trying the wines, we’re really glad you’ve tasted them. G’day.’ They’re really surprised, and they’re happy to hear from us.”

Brookes, who keeps the exchanges relaxed, steers away from sales. “This is about building trust as well as relationships—and that comes from not selling.”

Since he started twittering, Brookes says more people are coming to the winery for tours. The company has seen an increase in traffic to its website, along with a jump in the number of people from the US and Canada ask where they can find Teusner wines at stores and restaurants near them.

What else does he use Twitter for

  • Gathering feedback
  • Sharing information

In addition to lots of chatting with Teusner customers and distributors (The Jug Shop in San Francisco (@JugShop) and Stokes Fine Wines in the UK (@JustinELLiddle) are both on Twitter), Brookes posts third-party reviews of the company’s wines; if they get a really stellar one, he might repost it a couple of times over a few days. He also shares information about tastings and dinners featuring Teusner wines, and he reports on what’s happening at the winery.

Takeaway: “It’s building, we’re establishing new relationships, and people enjoy what we’re doing.”

3. @Current

For the 2008 presidential elections, Current knew it had to do something different. The media company, headquartered in San Francisco, would receive the same live feed of the debates as every other broadcaster. Unless Current distinguished its coverage, viewers would have no particular reason to tune in.

As they cast around for ideas, Current staffers noticed something interesting during the conventions. When the candidates gave live speeches, there were surges of commentary on Twitter. “A lot of us are Twitter users,” says Current’s vice president of strategy, Robin Sloan, “and we saw this real-time commentary track that suggested a parallel to the commentary you normally hear on the news.”

Current realized that if people were twittering about the conventions, they would definitely comment on the debates.

Initial Goal

  • Harnessing the surge of comments on Twitter and incorporating tweets into its broadcast.

How did they incorporate tweets into their broadcast?

Created an application with two levels of filtering.

  • The first was a triage phase. About ten people searched Twitter for debate-related terms, and then quickly tagged any post that looked like it didn’t contain “profanity“, “hate speech” or material that would raise “copyright issues“.
  • The second phase was actively curatorial. Three or four people looked at the queued messages from the first filter and then decided which of those would be shown on air.

How did they display the Tweets? Settled on the idea of having a stream of tweets roll up the screen and then dissolve about halfway up.

Throughout the election season, Current received a lot of attention—far more than it would have had it stuck to a traditional broadcast.: The company also received a lot feedback on the project. “Some people thought it was too aggressive, some thought it was just right,” says Lentz. “But everyone acknowledged that it was a great experiment and that in the world of a two-screened experience, we moved things forward.

Takeaway: By daring to be different and by experimenting, they stood out from the crowd.

4. @TastiDlite

The popular dessert franchise Tasti D-lite offers customers over 100 flavors of guilt-free frozen treats. Tasti has been beloved by customers in the greater New York area for over 20 years, growing to 50+ locations and continuing to open new locations while expanding its geographic reach. They weren’t sure initially how to take advantage of Twitter and use it to benefit the business. BJ Emerson is the Director of Information and Social Technologiesand and this is how he and his team applied Twitter to their business.

Initial Twitter Use: Using search to listen to what Twitter users were saying about tasti, its products, and its competitors.

He advises a three “m” approach to getting started on Twitter.

  1. Monitor- “Using search to listen to what Twitter users were saying about tasti, its products, and its competitors”
  2. Mingle- “Jump into the conversation and mingle with customers who were already talking about tasti and their New York dessert needs, using DM or @replies”.
  3. Measure – “Create specific codes for each coupon that are entered into the point of sale cash registers at tasti locations to enable the tracking of coupon conversions and the resulting sales”

From the numbers, BJ concluded that Twitter coupon campaigns can outperform similar targeted ads on other social network platforms or certain PPC ads if Twitter is used effectively. However, BJ sees these efforts as merely the beginning of what tasti can do on Twitter. Next stop? Experimenting with paperless mobile coupon options and Twitter accounts for individual stores.

Takeaway: If you approach Twitter like a conversation and think creatively about how you can add value to followers, then you can use it effectively”

5. @Etsy

Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade. Since launching in 2005, the Brooklyn, NY company has grown to over 65 employees. More importantly, over 250,000 sellers have opened up shop on Etsy to sell their handmade goods.

Etsy, just decided to  “just have fun” and experiment with using Twitter in a broad variety of ways.

  • Alert followers to particularly creative products from Etsy sellers
  • Share valuable tips & tricks
  • Provide information about upcoming events and promotions on the site.
  • Share information from individual Etsy sellers (via “retweets”),
  • Monitor and respond to Etsy-related questions and concerns that users express via Twitter
  • Garner feedback and ideas instantaneously, effectively creating focus groups from the @Etsy followers.
  • Discover users’ favorite Etsy items, design blogs, and projects
  • Tool for impromptu surveys and feedback

In Etsy’s experience, a company that constantly seeks to build community and, “voraciously” learn from its users will find that Twitter is, “amazing in the way it harnesses the collective brains of so many people.” For example, Anda recently tapped into the community to come up with helpful tips for craft fair season.

@Etsy has also realized that great content on Twitter has the opportunity to reach new users who were previously unaware of Etsy’s website. Anda often tweets about particularly unique and creative handmade items that Etsy sellers have listed. The coolest items are subsequently “retweeted” by @Etsy followers, exposing a broader audience to the handiwork of Etsy sellers.

Advice for other companies joining Twitter?

For a site specializing in handmade goods, there is no experience more flattering than being one of the first Twitter accounts to be followed by Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart). That’s exactly the “spine-tingling excitement” Anda and @Etsy recently enjoyed. Anda’s advice to new companies? What she recently told the legend herself about how Etsy uses Twitter.

Takeaway: @MarthaStewart “To connect, listen, interact, get feedback from our users that use Twitter too. And to have a little fun while we’re at it”. 9:52 AM May 13th from Tweetdeck

So how are you using Twitter for your business?

I would like to thank the Twitter Blog as the resource for the the above information

Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade. Since launching in 2005, the Brooklyn, NY company has grown to over 65 employees. More importantly, over 250,000 sellers have opened up shop on Etsy to sell their handmade goods.

How and when did you get started?

Etsy originally joined Twitter in December 2007 at the insistence of an early adopter within the company, but the account initially was underutilized. That is, until Anda Corrie (who manages the @Etsy account) saw the powerful ways many Etsy sellers were using Twitter to promote their handmade items and Etsy shops. Anda followed their feeds and learned how to make the best use of Twitter by observing the tweets of followers of @Etsy that she found to be insightful. As Anda points out, “Our community always comes up with great ideas.”

How does Twitter add value?

Etsy originally began using Twitter only to share new posts from Etsy’s blog, The Storque, which Anda now calls a classic Twitter “newbie mistake.”

After realizing Twitter could be more than just a RSS feed of the blog, Anda decided to, “just have fun” and experiment with using Twitter in a broad variety of ways. @Etsy now uses Twitter to alert followers to particularly creative products from Etsy sellers, share valuable tips & tricks, and provide information about upcoming events and promotions on the site.

Twitter is also used to share information from individual Etsy sellers (via “retweets”), monitor and respond to Etsy-related questions and concerns that users express via Twitter, and garner feedback and ideas instantaneously, effectively creating focus groups from the @Etsy followers.

In Etsy’s experience, a company that constantly seeks to build community and, “voraciously” learn from its users will find that Twitter is, “amazing in the way it harnesses the collective brains of so many people.” For example, Anda recently tapped into the community to come up with helpful tips for craft fair season.

According to Anda, “The best Twitter experiences are when you ask a winning question and get hundreds of captivating replies. It’s a super fast way to get info you’d spend hours searching for… and it’s valuable info as well.” Besides sourcing tips and tricks, Anda uses Twitter to discover users’ favorite Etsy items, design blogs, and projects. She also uses it as a tool for impromptu surveys and feedback (including feedback on how she can make the Etsy Twitter feed more valuable to followers).

@Etsy has also realized that great content on Twitter has the opportunity to reach new users who were previously unaware of Etsy’s website. Anda often tweets about particularly unique and creative handmade items that Etsy sellers have listed. The coolest items are subsequently “retweeted” by @Etsy followers, exposing a broader audience to the handiwork of Etsy sellers.

Etsy Day unites the community on Twitter

Individual Etsy sellers and groups of sellers known as teams have also found new and powerful ways to use Twitter to promote their shops. An exciting culmination of these grassroots efforts was on April 24, 2009 – otherwise known as “Etsy Day.”

Photographer and Etsy seller SchuGirl was surprised how few of her friends and family were aware of Etsy and decided to do something about it. She used the website’s Forums to a call to action, for Etsians to band together on April 24, 2009 and, “get the Etsy name out there in the brightest, sparkly-est, boldest way you can think of!” Etsy Day was born.

Advice for other companies joining Twitter?

For a site specializing in handmade goods, there is no experience more flattering than being one of the first Twitter accounts to be followed by Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart). That’s exactly the “spine-tingling excitement” Anda and @Etsy recently enjoyed. Anda’s advice to new companies? What she recently told the legend herself about how Etsy uses Twitter.

@MarthaStewart To connect, listen, interact, get feedback from our users that use Twitter too. And to have a little fun while we’re at it.
9:52 AM May 13th from Tweetdeck

Comments

  • http://www.ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Hi Jeff, Really liked the way you presented these case studies, out of these the only successful Brand involvement with twitter which I had read in the past was @JetBlue…but the other firms mentioned have also done a commendable work, For me the most important takeaway would be that each of the above mentioned brands have completely different businesses and the common thing is that they want there customers to be happy.
    Thanks again and I am a feed reader now…

  • http://www.DeScherpePen.nl Han Tuttel

    Thank you Jeff – what a wonderful article.
    The examples from various businesses are really useful. Much appreciated!

    Greetings from The Netherlands :-)

  • http://infinitypg.wordpress.com Erik Anderson

    Excellent article. Every B2C company looking to make a move into SM should read this. As a future article, I would love to see B2B case studies.

  • http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Well done mate. Glad to see the shoes safely put up on the rack. Now THIS is something to tweet about! : )

  • http://www.tribalise.com Niall Power

    Great list I am always getting asked by people to list some success strories of business using Twitter so this is great ammunition thanks.

  • http://bethebutterfly.wordpress.com Perri Blake Gorman @bethebutterfly

    Jeff – Hats off to you on an excellent article. I am a huge fan of Twitter and a firm believer in its real potential for doing business. I thought you captured some terrific, well articulated points in these case studies. Thank you.

    Perri
    @bethebutterfly

  • http://www.woodleyequipment.com Emily Clarke @Woodley_Equip

    Jeff – great article thanks very much for sharing. I agree with Erik, it would be great to see some B2B case studies. We are just starting out using Twitter and this article is a great help – its good to see success stories.
    Thank you, Emily.

    • http://www.technicktips.com Nick Rosener

      I would like to see this too. Common conception with many of my customers is that LinkedIn is the better than twitter for B2B

  • http://ewingsir.com Stephen Roesler

    Jeff, you have some great content here. I am young guy helping a real estate company get savvy with social media and you articulate the value of Twitter very well.

    • Laurence

      Stephen, I’m in the same boat – taking on marketing duties for a start-up campervan hire company in the UK. Would love to hook up on Twitter to exchange experiences. Look me up – @lwcollings. Hope to chat to you there! Cheers

  • http://MaggNetMarketing.com Mike Maggs

    Thank You for the great content here. It gave me some ideas to bring to my offline customers.

  • http://highlyfavored.affiliateshelpdesk.com Kiesha @ Highly Favored

    Thanks for sharing these studies. I enjoy Twitter, first because it allows me to connect with people from all over the world – and also allows me to read great information that I would have missed otherwise. I use Twitter to share and exchange valuable articles like this one with my followers. I also use it to post let my followers know when I’ve posted an update on blog or when there’s something noteworthy to discuss.
    It’s like a whole new world that you can enter without ever leaving your home.

  • http://johnmsanchez.me John Sanchez

    Great article!! I really love the quotes in the Takeaways. Those quotes are what Twitter is all about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SocialRabbit Social Rabbit

    Great to see some Australian examples in there, I am always stuck for local businesses using it and getting results

  • http://www.codemyconcept.com CodeMyConcept

    We, as company joined Twitter on December, 09. At first we were not so sure on how we could really use it until we noticed that it was a great way to interact with customers, introduce ourselves to people and advertise discounts and promotions.

    The good thing is that since we are a company that offers a service 100% related to the internet, our followers are always online, so we interact a lot, we share cool and interesting inf that our followers can use and enjoy.

    Our interaction? Be ourselves, we keep in mind that we are a company yet, there is a person behind the keyboard: we chat with followers, congratulate them on their achievements, help them get the word out about their own products…

    I think we just need to keep it real and down to earth.

  • http://twitter.com/mnburgess Mark Burgess

    Great stuff! Love cases and results. Jet Blue particularly interesting. The more successful stories for brands the better for (marketers) understanding and using SMM.

  • http://debrasfinancial.com Debra Beasley

    Great article. Really interesting to see how other businesses benefit from Twitter. Thanks for writing it.

  • http://www.getmegoogled.com Richard Saupe

    Hi jeff, loved the case studies, ver inspirational, and enjoyed the one about the 30 things not to mention too, real eye opener I want to follow you on twitter but my following list is MAX at moment. will make not to follow as soon as opens.

    regards
    rich

  • http://www.catcreativemedia.com Cat Yaffe

    Very well presented ideas, covering all angles of social media involvement. I think businesses need to re-learn where their lead generation/ brand awareness tools are and embrace them.

  • http://www.skillsfinder.info Gwen Rymill

    Very powerful article and proof of B2C successes. Like Eric Anderson, I would like to see more evidence of B2B Twitter successes

  • http://www.twitter.com/mnburgess Mark Burgess

    Good cases to use in my MBA classes!

  • http://karnerbluemarketing.com Rebecca Murtagh a/k/a @VirtualMarketer on Twitter

    Great post as usual Jeff.

    This post from January is as meaningful now, 4 months later, as it was when you wrote it. I’ve continued to hear the same comments questioning the validity of Twitter as a marketing channel, reminiscent of when websites and SEO came on to the marketing scene.

    The more we share how Twitter can and does work, the more open B2B and B2C businesses will be to approaching this and other social platforms strategically and creatively.

    Look forward to more!

  • http://super-target-me.blogspot.com/ Super Target Me

    Great cases to study. Thanks!

  • http://www.jumpstartmatrix.com Maggie Holley

    Hi Jef,

    Succinct as always!
    :)
    That opening line is one I hear a lot too- and its so tempting to give a more ‘fulsome’ response about all the things Twitter is- or could be!

    B2B( offline in particular) just want to hear who else in the marketplace HAS tried it- that its been successful- and how.

    Keep these posts rolling and I am going to start a movement declaring you a ‘National Treasure’… a la USA!
    😉

  • http://www.gadarian.com David Gadarian

    New to this blog but I keep seeing @jeffbullas so here I am. I’ll add you to the RSS as well.

    Was going to say @dell seems to be getting some good press and might be an interesting follow-up case study to add to your mix but I ran a search on Twitter (http://twitter.com/search#search?q=%40dell) and now I’m not so sure how Dell might feel about Twitter… the comments are overwhelmingly brutal but I keep reading about how Dell is running all kinds of deals through Twitter with great results.

  • http://www.herdmanjones.co.uk Nigel Jones

    Superb Jeff thank you! Could I quote you in my Masters Dissertation?

    Nigel Jones

  • http://johanhburger.com Johan Burger

    Great stuff Jeff. As a newbie I appreciate these practical examples for my own enrichment, as well as using it to convince my fellow academics, students, and clients to fully utilise the power of SMM. Keep on with the great work.

  • http://www.karenskellyphoto.com Aspen Wedding Photographer

    I’ve been leary about joining Twitter. Facebook, Blogging and my website take a lot of time to keep up. Not sure I could handle one more thing. I may give it a try just to see what happens. Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.CreativesMarketing.com Sheri Bell

    Great post, Jeff, thanks. Twitter is interesting — as is twittergrader, which I just tried out. I put in other tweeter handles, too, and was surprised at how highly some people rank, when all it seems they do is push their own content.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.leonard.39794895 David Leonard

    Great information! Thanks for sharing these helpful examples