The following piece is a research paper I wrote for my Academic Internship course taken this past spring at UC,San Diego. Titled: Twitter and Business: Communication, Interactivity and Tweet-Ups in the Digital Age, my research delves into company branding and social media. I had so much fun putting it together and look forward to continuing my research on social media.
Basic human interaction and human communication is transforming as users engage within mediums of the virtual space as part of an everyday routine. Today, communication is impeccably mobile due to cellular technologies with hand-touch and wireless capabilities. As a culture consuming these advances, incorporating social networking within ones professional and personal social life has put an inaugural shift in communication and interaction between people entirely. Communication in the most organic form is a conversation between individuals. Social networking has allowed for this conversation to happen digitally and within seconds due to the interdependence of virtual communities and Web 2.0. Conventional face-to-face communication is entering a renovation as individuals have turned to the social networking site to engage, interact and meet others.
For start-ups, entrepreneurs, companies, and corporations, business is going digital. With the social networking muscle largely becoming the most talked about marketing and publicity resource, the true strength it possesses evolves on a daily basis. With the ability to create, develop and manage an online identity, the notion of the social network site has expanded far beyond belief in becoming powerful enough be redefined as social media. In today’s world, people no longer look to newspapers, radios, or television to get their daily news, gossip, or entertainment. Instead, people are turning to the internet and more specifically their social networks. The 21st century is known for its dependence on the World Wide Web and social networking sites have made getting updates easier and faster than ever. One of the more popular social networking sites that has sparked a new way for users to interact online is Twitter.com. First seen publicly in July 2006, Twitter originated as a “daylong brainstorming session” for employees of the podcasting company Odeo (Wikipedia.com) but has now grown into a prime resource for marketing, engaging and branding in the digital age.
Twitter combines all the things internet users enjoy, “social networking, texting, and blogging” (squidoo.com) which is no wonder it has become the world’s third most used social network site. There is much more than meets the eye in the Twittersphere (mashable.com), from being smart-phone friendly to serving as a medium to facilitate events where users can meet in person, businesses have tapped into Twitter by adopting communication strategies to actively engage with their consumer. Consumer and producer interactivity is the key to online communication and in developing a virtual community and brand image.
In addition to explaining the background and basic fundamentals of Twitter, my research is focused primarily on qualitative interviews with two social media professionals and specifically addresses the manifestation of the business culture Twitter has created for each individual, particularly virtually publicized events known as “Tweet-Ups”. Twitter has also provided a platform for many businesses to primarily communicate with their consumer as well as ignited a number of social media measuring sites that track Twitter analytics, which I will touch upon briefly.
To further illustrate the power of Twitter in terms of business and branding, it is important to refer to the research published in regards to this subject by the professionals in the industry.
Joel Comm, author of Twitter Power 2.0 is an internet marketer and known as an expert on harnessing the power of social media and mobile applications in expanding brand's reach and engaging in active relationship marketing. Joel Comm is also a New York Times bestselling author and new media innovator. Twitter Power 2.0 is a look into understanding how to get started on Twitter as well as business tricks and strategies to build brand awareness.
Mari Smith is a renowned social media trainer and co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day and considered by Fast Company to be the “Pied Piper of the Online World”. The Relationship Age is a compilation of social media specialists and professionals addressing the application of social media and the paradigm shift in the relationships consumers have with companies and products. With a focus on the profitable relationships that can be developed through the creative use of social media, internet marketing professionals explain and discuss methods for success in bringing these relationships to fruition.
Background : What is Twitter?
What began as a way for three software programmers to recreate the typical SMS text message in 2006 has developed into a network of almost 200 million users and 1 billion tweets a week (Twitter.com). Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, founders of Twitter, have gone on to create the most updated social networking site and have helped to grow a completely paperless marketing phenomenon.
The name “Twitter” comes from the dictionary definition: “a short burst of inconsequential information”, which is obvious in that each message sent has a limit of 140 characters. These short messages and spouts of information are called “tweets”. According to the TheGlobeandMail.com, initially there was no limit to message length, but when Twitter went public, the 140 limit was adopted because 160 characters was the SMS carrier which, then was left free intentionally leaving enough room for a username.
Usernames in the Twittersphere (mashable.com) have the at symbol “@” before them and are chosen when first getting started. “Your username, though, isn’t just a phrase you’re going to enter when you sign in. It will form part of your URL and will be visible whenever you promote your Twitter page. Choose poorly and you could affect your Twitter account’s ability to gather followers and build a reputation” (Comm). When creating a tweet, users can mention other usernames creating a hyperlink to that user’s profile page that will appear in the Twittersphere. Note in the above figure taken from Symomos (a social media measurement and analytic web company) that from 2009-2010, the percentage of users who provide a phrase for their username on Twitter increased by 40%.
The hash tag is also used to create hyper links within tweets. Placing a hash tag “#” creates lists of Twitter users who have included the word or phrase in a tweet of their own. Twitter also includes up to date trending topics listed by hash tag each time you log in that are arranged by location. Hash tags can be used to create categories for just about anything, from #thingsthatdontmakesense to the #mtvmovieawards find what others are tweeting about. Hash tags have been also known to spark topics during times of crisis or disaster.
This is an example of local news anchor of NBC San Diego tweeting updates during the Tsunami in Japan:
KushiNBCSD :: Can't stop thinking about #prayfor japan. New video this morning of #japan @nbcsandiego 5-7am and keeping track of local breaking news. Busy Twitter - Mar 14, 2011 4:17:09 AM
Due to Twitter’s real time results, users were able to post about news, events, and fundraisers surrounding the aftermath of the quake. In fact, many users were able to spread awareness for those need by including #Japan in their tweets.
Just as a traditional face-to-face conversation would consist of a combination of listening, acknowledging and responding: social networking sites have developed into social media for business when consumers can ‘converse’ with the company online. With Twitter’s combination of short, timely messages and user-friendly interface, there are a variety of networking capabilities: both online and offline. Allowing an interactive and virtual way of communicating, Twitter allows for users to tweet, mention and follow whom they wish.
Networking, in general, can be defined as “a way of connecting with other people who share your interests or who might be interested in what you have to say” (squidoo.com). Using this definition, Twitter provides an acceptable online and offline networking system; however, it might not be exactly what people initially expect. There are two different parts to Twitter’s internal virtual networking system: what you tweet and who you follow in addition to the offline meet-ups wherein users can connect in the real world known as “Tweet-Ups”.
When connecting with another user in the Twittersphere, you “follow” them and in turn become one of their “followers”. Perhaps the best use of the hash tag is what is known as follow Friday. As a strategy to receive more followers, there are ways recommended for marketing using the hash tag. “If that person finds you interesting, they tend to tell their followers to follow you. The most popular day when this is done is #FollowFriday. People usually give recommendation on people who are worthwhile following.” (The Relationship Age).
While Twitter allows for an updated list of what, where and why, a Tweet-Up is an event where users get to know who is who by connecting profiles to people. A Tweet-Up allows Twitter users to interact and network in person and meet someone they would have only known virtually. "And considered a great opportunity to really connect with the people in your network and share just a little more than 140 characters at a time" (socialhat.com).
Beyond its social function, Twitter is used increasingly by business to communicate with employees and customers. The one-way transmission of information is morphing quickly into two-way interaction. Businesses can now communicate real-time message to the customers they want to reach. But with good conversation, there is also bad. Social networking profiles have allowed for individuals to voice their opinions with every comment, link, post and update in an accessibly digital public sphere which has proven to make or break reputations. Conversely, when customers are unhappy with a product or service, they can spread the word quickly – and do damage – with a few tweets.
This was the case for Urban Outfitters, a corporate clothing retailer, just a few weeks ago when Twitter user @AmberKarnes tweeted about a design that they had stolen from an independent jewelry artist. Her tweet then sparked a number of Twitter users who then began to respond diligently in disappointment to this news and proceeded to cause some serious negative attention to the company.
Ricardo Sandoval is the Director of Production for NBC San Diego Morning Show and is also the coordinator of the first ever NBC San Diego Tweet-Up. As an active twitter user for NBC San Diego, Ricardo uses his Twitter profile for business and networking purposes. I contacted Ricardo Sandoval through Twitter and sat down to ask him a few questions about his involvement with social media and his job, specifically Twitter.
“For a television production company, we are late getting into the social media game, but we are realizing how important it is for business and image. Nationally, we have had a number of incidents where employees have put [their] boss on blast on Facebook or Twitter. Every few months, we have a lawyer go over the do’s and don’ts of the legalities of media. [For NBC] Twitter is a lot less interactive than our Facebook, if anything [users] will click on a link. Our links always direct back to our NBC website.As the person behind the first NBC San Diego Tweet-Up, what were you expecting?
“We were surprised at how many people showed up. As our first event like this, knowing what to expect was difficult, but it was a great success and there are plans for another in the near future. It was a new way to publicize and event and the turnout was great.When asked about having a personal Twitter account versus a business account, Ricardo responded:
“I often thought about having a personal account, but I often wonder who to follow. Most of the people I know on Twitter are through work or PR [professionals]. I interact more on Facebook and have more of my friends on there.”
Tweet-Ups are usually facilitated using Twitter, but also with the help of with other social networking platforms such as, Tweetvite. These sites help Twitter users organize, plan and find Tweet-Ups on the basis of interests, location and usernames. Tweetvite is different from other evite services being that it was built specifically for Tweetups and other events using Twitter. Offering complete integration for things like custom shortened URLs, tracking of tweets and re-tweets, event hashtags, and authentication of guests using Twitter.
Laura Rubinstein is founder and CEO of Transform Today, an interactive marketing and social media agency. Coach Laura is a Twitter user, Certified Social Media Marketing Strategist, Hypnotherapist and Master Leadership Coach, she works with business owners, speakers, authors, and service providers around the globe. Specializing in social media training, consulting and strategy development for business owners, Laura works with professionals helping them to develop their brand and buzz on social media.
Laura has mastered the art of relationship building and coached more than 1,000 business owners in relationship based marketing strategies. Using her hypnotherapy background, Laura brings a keen awareness of habits and motivators that cause action and results. I met Laura at a Tweet-Up in February of this last year and asked her a few questions about Twitter and business.
“What I love about social media is building relationships. For my clients, it is important to create an online image that represents an interactive business and one that customers can turn to the networks to communicate with. I learned launching an interactive Twitter campaign is something that does help with the overall company brand. Tweet-Ups are great because they allow users to interact in the real-world and network for employment opportunities. Social media is on the rise and I like being able to work with companies in helping them navigate the social media world.”Conclusion
Twitter is social networking site that accurately fuses the requirements of a successful communication and marketing medium in a way that is unexpected and unconventional. Which should make no surprise that from 2009 to 2010 was when 44% of Twitter users joined the site and more than half of the users are companies, products and brands as seen in Figure 5.
Twitter is easy to use, has endless networking capabilities, and allows its users, companies and brands to represent themselves on the site. Its growing popularity is beginning to change the way the world has previously viewed online communication, interactivity and the way business is conducted. We can either accept it and join along for the ride or try to ignore it and risk getting left behind. Either way, Twitter is forever changing business, one tweet at a time.______________________________
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