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How To Use Twitter For Business: 5 More Incredibly Interesting Case Studies

In the last post I listed 5 Twitter case studies and how companies are using Twitter for business. Due to the popularity of the post and with over 737 views in 48 hours it seems there is slight unkempt appetite for this information.

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So here are 5 more companies and how they have experimented, tested and implemented Twitter to push their brand out into the market place.

1. @CoffeeGroundz

CoffeeGroundz is a popular, albeit modest, Houston, TX based independent coffee shop that sells a variety of locally roasted coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, and alcoholic beverages. There are a couple of booths, 16 tables and another ten on the patio. If you come to CoffeeGroundz, J.R. Cohen, its general manager, strives to make sure “you feel at home.”

Initial Twitter Goal:

To keep his angel investor happy (The general manager, JR. Cohen started using Twitter in October 2008 at the prompting of a CoffeeGroundz angel investor).

He went out of his way to interact with Houston customers following him on Twitter. Growth in followers was slow and organic, but the connections with followers were strong. He would ask his followers from Houston to “come into the store and ask for J.R.” J.R. then seized the opportunity to meet with each and every patron who asked for him by name, strengthening his bond with his followers. To J.R. and his customers “this is what social media is meant to be.”

Most interesting Twitter experience?

Halloween morning 2008, one of CoffeeGroundz’s regular customers, Sean Stoner (@maslowbeer), requested to place a ‘to-go’ order for a breakfast wrap. It is argued that Sean’s request for an order ‘to-go’ was the first of its kind on Twitter. And because J.R. is an avid user of the Twitter service, was able to reply quickly to Sean’s requests. With this reply, J.R. spawned a whole new way to place and receive an order online. JR seized on the opportunity to grant Sean’s request and started taking to-go orders via direct message from all of his Twitter followers. J.R., to this day, continues to receive ‘to-go’ orders via DM. Customers can also reserve a table/booth, order from the patio, or reserve the place for events through direct message.

2. @NAKEDPizza

Founded in late 2006 as one small store in New Orleans in an area that flooded during hurricane Katrina, NAKEDPizza (originally named World’s Healthiest Pizza) was launched as an ambitious business model that seeks to change the nutritional profile of fast food in America. By way of example, NAKEDPizza is demonstrating that pizza does not have to be part of the problem in our national epidemic of obesity and chronic disease, but in fact can be part of the solution.

Why Did They Start Tweeting?

Jeff Leach and Randy Crochet, co-founders of Naked Pizza, started using Twitter in March 2009. Mark Cuban, an early investor in the company (have to keep the investors happy), advised Jeff to sign up for a Twitter account to

  • Help create a community around healthy eating
  • Save on marketing costs
  • Drive sales

Note: Interesting to note that 2 of the elements of the Twitter strategy were to reduce costs and increase sales

Marketing Challenge

There is a heavy focus on direct mail within the pizza industry, which proves to be particularly costly for owners. Opt-in newsletters cost $2000 to $3000 per year for even small database of names. Open rates are dropping to single digits and for small business owners, this can be prohibitively expensive. “Direct mail is sent to a single address but there are multiple people in those houses. We want to maximize and extend our marketing reach and Twitter helps us do this in leaps and bounds.” Jeff now takes that newsletter content and feeds it to Twitter.

Today, Jeff claims that Twitter is mission critical to his business, so much so that he has created a kiosk within his store, where customers can sign up for a Twitter account if they hadn’t already been users. In addition, right next to Naked’s online ordering page, there will be the Naked Pizza Twitter stream in case customers have questions about the company’s product offering.

How has  NAKEDPizza  used Twitter in interesting ways?

A custom Twitter button in the point of sale system. Naked Pizza relies heavily on tracking promotions that are fed into the company’s Twitter stream. In a test run April 23, an exclusive-to-Twitter promotion brought in 15% of the day’s business.

Takeaway: Keep experimenting (Jeff continued to experiment) and you will hit a home run… or two.

Note: On May 29th Naked Pizza set an in-store sales record, the bulk of which came directly from Twitter. A whopping 68.60% of total dollar sales came from customers who said “I’m calling from Twitter”.

3. @AmericanApparel

The Los Angeles company and leading basics brand provides hip clothing for people of all ages. Vertically-integrated American Apparel is the largest clothing manufacturer in the United States.

How and when did they get started?

American Apparel employees began exploring with personal accounts in 2007 and established @americanapparel shortly thereafter. The account was started by Lisa Kim from the web marketing department and now multiple people are involved with responding to comments Twitter users make about the company, taking advantage of the opportunity to interact directly with customers.

Most interesting Twitter experience?

American Apparel fans with blogs occasionally write posts with favorable mentions of the company or its products. In some cases, these AA fans use Twitter as a conduit to share their posts with the company directly. In one memorable encounter, Lisa @americanapparel received a DM from a freelance photographer (Ryan Marshal @ThePanicRoom) chronicling his wife’s pregnancy with week-by-week photos of the mother-to-be in American Apparel threads. After seeing the blog, Lisa and American Apparel liked the photo series so much that they not only provided the new mom with free clothes, but used the images as the basis for an ad campaign showing cute and comfy looks for expectant moms.


Lisa also connected her colleague in online advertising with the photographer to set up American Apparel advertising on the blog. They ran a unique banner ad for baby clothes, and the blog (pacingthepanicroom.com) became one of American Apparel’s top performing sites for online ads.

Takeaway: A serendipitous Twitter interaction can lead to fresh and creative ideas for engaging customers with campaigns outside of Twitter

4. @Pepsi or  @PepsiCo

Pepsi may be a classic brand, but it’s using 21st century tools to collaborate and build relationships with customers. See this post “Pepsi Forgets Super Bowl Advertising And Goes Super Social Media Marketing” For years, PepsiCo, based in Purchase, NY, has had a toll-free number that consumers can call to share product feedback. People call in all the time, and the company considers the line successful. But when Pepsi brand managers wanted faster and more personal ways to connect with soda drinkers, they looked online—and in January 2009, the team started using Twitter to listen to and talk with consumers. (The brand twitters as @Pepsi; the corporation twitters as @PepsiCo.)

“We’re trying to humanize the brand, to make it more accessible to consumers,” says Anamaria Irazabal, brand director for Pepsi. “On Twitter, they can complain or praise, and we can use it as a way to gauge how people are feeling.”

Reaching a new audience

Interestingly, the company finds the conversations on Twitter are different from those on the toll-free line. The callers, says Irazabal, tend to focus on products. Twitterers, on the other hand, tend to have opinions not just on the products, but on promotions, too. “They feel they’re invited to give their opinions on the how the brand should move forward, and they’re very detailed.”

After the spring 2009 launch of Pepsi Throwback—an initiative that involved packaging with a retro look and real-sugar sweeteners—the company was able to collect quick reactions on Twitter. The company has also found asking questions works well on Twitter. Even something as simple as “How many Pepsis do you drink a day?” generates a lot of chatter.

“Consumers own the brands as much as we do, and they want to share their interests and likes,” says Bonin Bough, director of social and emerging media for PepsiCo. “Twitter is the only medium where we can have a two-way continuous dialog about the brand.”

Fast response

Pepsi brand managers find that Twitter is useful not only for quick responses from consumers but for quick responses from the company, too.

When Michael Jackson—who made high-profile commercials for Pepsi during the 1980s—died suddenly in July, the company used Twitter right away in its “Thank you, Michael” tribute, engaging with fans. “We can move at the speed of culture,” says Irazabal. “Twitter means we can react to something that happens and provide a platform for dialog, That’s the key word. It’s about engagement and building the relationship.”

Dealing with complaints

Although Pepsi finds that nearly all of the conversation on Twitter is very positive, people do sometimes complain via tweets. The brand managers try to address negative comments very quickly.

“We try to gauge the overall tone and type of problem,” says Josh Karpf, manager of social and emerging media for PepsiCo. If somebody doesn’t like a piece of advertising, the company accepts that. But if a person has had a problem with a product or is attacking the company in some way, Pepsi has a process in place to resolve the issue directly. The company responds once in public, and if the person stays negative, they switch to DM and then to email or phone if needed. Internally, a cross-functional team can help solve problems.

“When we respond quickly,” says Irazabal, “people give us kudos.”

The logistics

Pepsi’s assistant marketing manager, Rachel Mills, works closely with two agencies to coordinate the @Pepsi Twitter account. With Mills’s oversight, one agency does the day-to-day twittering. But Mills sees all the tweets, and she gets involved if there’s a problem of any kind. Another agency helps Pepsi develop its digital promotion calendar three months ahead of time. The calendar—along with guidance on tone of voice and how to respond to certain types of comments—help Pepsi maintain a consistent brand presence across the Web, including its Twitter account.

Finally, Pepsi requires that staffers maintain personal accounts on social media sites—not to interact on behalf of the brand, but to learn about the channels. “It’s very hard to talk to agencies if you have never used the tools,” says Irazabal. “So we ask our teams to use these tools to learn what we can get out of them.”

Measuring success

Like many brands, Pepsi looks at the number of followers it has. But the company also looks at the sentiment of tweets, rating them on a scale from positive to negative. The balance changes from week to week, and the company—which considers itself to be in experimental phase with Twitter—is still figuring out what affects consumer feeling and how to measure it.

Takeaway: “We’ve got a lot ahead of us, and we’re learning every day.” In other words “Have a go”

Note: Now Dell has receieved so much press about it’s use of Twitter that I was thinking about not including it in the Twitter case studies but as I like the Number 5 (not 4) I had to include it. Sorry to those individuals that have overdosed on “Dell Twitter Love”.

5. @DellOutlet

Dell Outlet faces a common but vexing challenge. A division of the giant made-to-order computer business, Dell Outlet carries refurbished equipment and other inventory that it needs to sell quickly. Because the division has to get the word out fast, it doesn’t have the luxury of hiring an agency and developing an ad campaign. Instead, the outlet relies primarily on email marketing, paid search results, search-engine optimization and affiliate links to raise awareness and drive sales. It’s always looking for new, cost-effective ways to reach people.

Holding Conversations

When company employee Ricardo Guerrero discovered Twitter at the South by Southwest conference in 2007, he thought he’d hit on a good channel for pushing out information. The rest of the team agreed. “We thought, ‘Great—this has a really short lead time, and it will let us communicate our message effectively,’” says Stefanie Nelson, manager of demand generation at Dell Outlet. “We started using it for one-way communication.” The company was surprised when people responded. “They wanted to ask questions. They wanted to share their experiences, good and bad,” says Nelson, who’s based in Austin, TX. “We realized that people were really interested in talking with us.”

Raising Awareness

So instead of using Twitter just to let people know about deals, the company has come to think of it as a good place to interact with customers—and to raise awareness about the brand. “When we respond to people on Twitter, they get really excited, and we gain advocates.” That doesn’t mean Dell Outlet has abandoned the deals. In fact, the company often posts offers that are exclusive to Twitter. They twitter only a few times a week so as not to spam their followers, and they use tracking URLs to gauge what followers find most appealing.

Increasing Sales

Do the coupons work? Big time. Not only do they get retweeted and picked up by coupon sites—both of which spread the brand name—they also drive sales. Dell Outlet has booked more than $3 million in revenue attributable to its Twitter posts. In addition, the division has done research showing that awareness of the outlet has grown, too. “The uplift has been more than we dreamed,” says Nelson.

Connecting with customers

Dell now has more than 80 Dell-branded Twitter accounts (including @dellhomeoffers for new system deals) offering everything from videos of new technologies to promotions for Asia-Pacific customers. It also encourages employees to twitter, and has well over 100 employee accounts. Dell uses many of those accounts (with names like @StefanieAtDell), primarily for customer service exchanges that require direct messages (Twitter’s private channel) and to reach out to people who are twittering about Dell (which they find via Twitter search).

Takeaway:It’s smart to reach out to your current customer base. They’re already interested in chatting with you, and they’ll tell other people about you. But no matter who’s following you on Twitter, “offering relevant information that people are interested in is key.”

How are you using Twitter for your business?

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

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