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Corporations find customer value in Twitter

Best Buy Canada on Twitter
  Best Buy's Twitter account is backed
  by  Twelpforce, a "collective force of
  Best Buy technology pros offering
  tech advice in Tweet form."

More and more corporations are using Twitter to communicate with their customers as an effective means to provide product updates and offers, respond to service queries, and address crises.

Below are some examples, both of success and learning curves, for large corporations to consider in their Social Media strategies.

Product updates and offers
Twitter followers of @BBYCanadaDeals can expect  "Get updates on the hottest deals, the latest products, and exclusive Twitter only door crashers."

Earlier this week, Angela Scardillo, the new Vice President of Marketing at Best Buy Canada, shared the company's social media success with the Twitter “Twelpforce” program with members of the British Columbia American Marketing Association.

As per the Twitter bio, Twelpforce is "A collective force of Best Buy technology pros offering tech advice in Tweet form."  

Best Buy's Community Forum provides a more extensive description:  "The promise we’re making starting in July is that you’ll know all that we know as fast as we know it. That’s an enormous promise. That means that you will be able to ask us about the decisions you're trying to make, the products you're using, and look for the customer support that only we can give. And with Twitter, we can do that fast, with lots of opinions so you can make a decision after weighing all the input. It also lets others learn from it as they see our conversations unfold."

Since its July 2009 launch, Twelpforce has attracted 24,275 followers and is listed 896 times.

Customer service
AT&T has 14 Twitter customer service accounts, including their primary one, @ATTCustomerCare. Fifteen full-time customer representatives send approximately 1,000 tweets per day. 

Despite the impressive representation, the company has experienced its share of negative coverage via Twitter, most recently last June.  It was a powerful lesson in the new rules.  Corporations can no longer expect to control the message via one-way communication.  Through Social Media, the voice of a single consumer can go viral, engaging an extensive online community of AT&T customers.  

Adam Savage, of Discovery Channel's MythBusters, tweeted his discontent over a charge of $11,000 for "a few hours of tweeting," a customer representative telling him "data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half per kb."  Savage rallied his 50,000 followers, and AT&T was forced into action to quell the revolt.

In November 2008, a service outage in Honolulu, Hawaii, prompted reporters and customers seeking information to post inquiries on the company's Twitter account @ATTNews.  Delays in response fueled angry reactions to AT&T's apparent ignorance of Social Media; the account was used to post press releases, and not for customer engagement.  Fortunately, the account monitor addressed the situation and the negative press became positive.

Crisis communications
Toyota launched a branded channel on TweetMeme as part of its response strategy to safety recalls and declining sales. Toyota Conversations consists of news stories, videos, images and tweets from the company's Twitter account, @toyota.

If this recent exchange is any indication, Toyota is on the right track:
@chris pirillo: Recall, Schmecall. I'd lease another @Toyota Prius in a heartbeat. I love never having to spend more than $30 at the pump.
@Toyota: @ChrisPirillo Right on the savings at the pump. Appreciate the loyalty. ^SD

Chris Pirillo is a well-known Social Media blogger and Tech Expert for CNN with 77,762 Twitter followers -  clearly a valuable brand advocate.

For more information:
How 5 top companies win with Twitter
Toyota, looking for positive spin, turns to Twitter
MythBuster Adam Savage Leads Twitter Revolt Against AT&T
AT&T Fails, Engages on Twitter

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Alison Cummings is a Web Strategy consultant and Social Media blogger based in Montreal. You can find her on Twitter @alisoncummings and Facebook.


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