retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Content Guy’s Note: Kate’s BlogBeat is a new ingredient in the MorningNewsBeat stew – a regular look at what people are talking about on the Internet, and how it impacts the conduct of business by retailers and manufacturers.


When this column recently questioned whether businesses should jump on the Twitter bandwagon or write it off as a fad, I certainly didn’t expect Twitter to respond. (As a parent of teenagers, I’ve long since lowered my expectations on prompt responses.) So I wrote a primer explaining how Twitter -- which started as social networking site (emphasis on social) between friends to answer the question “What are you doing?” -- could be used by retailers, marketers and service providers. And I cited examples of businesses that were on that bandwagon in a big way, ranging from A (American Apparel) to Z (Zappos).

And then wouldn’t you know it, Twitter did respond last Friday, officially launching “Twitter 101 for Business – A Special Guide,” and hijacking my column for today, from A to Z.

Who knew MorningNewsBeat had such power?

Twitter 101 for Business (http://business.twitter.com/twitter101 ) is a very user-friendly PR effort, and the signature blue Twitter bird logo now has added a briefcase to its beak. It explains the lingo, the 140-character limit per message and presents case studies extolling Twitter’s effectiveness as a social networking medium for businesses large and small.

It’s enough to make you want to hijack the bandwagon to get on.

But before doing so, remember that Twitter is in many ways like a teenager – full of creative energy, immediacy and limitless potential, along with growing pains, inappropriate language, stupid jokes and unpredictability.

Which probably explains why the Twitter-er with the largest number of followers (a whopping 2,961,880) is overgrown teen Ashton Kutcher, actor and creator of the MTV practical joke show “Punk’d.”

On the flip side is e-commerce shoe czar Tony Hsieh, the chairman of Zappos.com, a convincing proponent for Twitter. His tweets are a readable blend of business philosophy and personal insights, with 1,042,341 followers. (No wonder Amazon.com was willing to spend more than $800 million to acquire the online shoe retailer.)

Other major players with full time Twitter departments are the auto makers, Coke and Pepsi, Dell (with more than 80 Twitter accounts) and the airlines Jet Blue and Southwest.

I track Whole Foods (which broke the 1 million mark with a contest earlier this month and is now at 1,093,538 followers) and Starbucks (262,375). Both combine updates from headquarters, lots of local banter and customer service exchanges. Given my social networking habits, I prefer to get Whole Foods and Starbucks corporate news via Facebook and skip the Twitter chatter. But it seems to me that it is critical for retailers and marketers to be working all sides of this equation, because it will give them the most exposure and allow them to reach out to shoppers who feel differently than I do. There’s too much potential there – too much creative energy – to ignore.

BTW…MNB user Louie Yan introduced me to GoodGrocer, which is the Twitter presence of Save Mart, Lucky and Food Maxx stores in Northern California and Nevada, and I’ve quickly become a fan – enough so that if I lived there, that’s where I’d shop. It is the perfect mix of nutritional information, local news, and seasonal recipes – a real winner.

We’ll continue to follow Twitter for MNB and let you know about the ride on the bandwagon.

As always, if you have a Twitter/Facebook/MySpace story to share, shoot me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com . I’d love to hear from you.
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