Why You Should Twack Twitter


Sorry about the headline, I mean “track” twitter. I was channeling Barbara Walters instead of Larry King that time. Sorry.

You're probably sick of hearing about Twitter in the media, they're obsessed with it. I've been using Twitter since the first of the year and I'm sick of hearing about it. So if you're not a Twitter user, I can empathize with your annoyance.

Should everybody being worried about posting messages on Twitter? Probably not. Personally, I've found it helpful in promoting my blog and my book, Lean Hospitals. I've met some new people in the lean world and in healthcare improvement circles, so it's been helpful. But do I spend hours a day in Twitter world? Of course not.

I do have some recommendations about how you can or should use Twitter if you're the owner of a business or the manager of a brand.

Claiming Your Name

If you run Mark's Pizzeria and you haven't claimed the Twitter name “MarksPizzeria” then go to Twitter and claim it today, even if you don't plan on using the account. There's a fair amount of “cybersquatting” going on, as in the early days of the dot com boom, so go ahead and claim your trademarked names, just to make sure others don't claim the name and pretend to be you. You can probably do this as an individual also.

Update: Claim your own personal name, as well. The USA Today ran a story about how NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has a twitter page, but @GaryBettman is not the REAL Gary Bettmann (4/29). Claim your name now before an imposter claims it.

Listening to Twitter

At the least, you should be listening to what is being said about your company or brand on Twitter. If you are in the management, at say Walgreens, a quick search this morning at http://search.twitter.com (even without an account) brings up a comment from Twitter user @dv8 who says “Walgreens in bridgeton smells like a shitty bathroom.” You can gauge the pulse of Twitter to see if people are happy and spreading positive word of mouth or if they're just complaining.

Automating the Listening

In the name of saving time (and I guess that's “lean”), you can set up automated searches for terms and phrases. I use service at TweetLater.com that automates the searches and sends me a daily digest message with relevant terms. This service does require registration, but it's free.

Interacting with Customers

In what's now a famous Twitter case study, JetBlue Airlines was watching what customers said about them on Twitter. They were following this in real time. A customer posted complaints and got almost immediate responses from JetBlue:

Not only did JetBlue respond to me directly, but other folks who follow me on twitter also gave me insight based on their own experience. JetBlue, with the help of the crowd, was again able to turn a situation that would have normally annoyed me into one of understanding and outstanding customer experience.

JetBlue gets it and Twitter helped them deliver it. Just Awesome.

There are many case studies and examples that people have shared online, spreading positive word of mouth about JetBlue.

I did something similar when I was at the Society for Health Systems conference recently in Chicago. In the enormous McCormick Place, they were preparing for the giant HIMSS expo. SHS had a small number of attendees (hundreds) compared to the thousands or tends of thousands who attended HIMSS. So it was hard to find the small SHS conference, which rooms or which part of McCormick Place.

Coming out of the Hyatt McCormick Place, being there for the first time, there were not even signs pointing you to the convention center. I Twittered about it and got a reply from the Hyatt McCormick Place, they were monitoring Twitter. They sent a Twitter message asking for suggestions but then they never replied back. They quit listening. They could have, from my Twitter profile, easily figured out what room I was staying in at the hotel, to leave a message on the hotel voice mail, lettting me know who, specifically, I could call to give the suggestion to.

So the Hyatt sort of twied, I mean tried, with Twitter, but they didn't really carry it through like JetBlue did. I think @HyattMcCormick is learning, as the more recent comments on there include invitations from the customer to send a “DM” (direct message) with an email address so they can interact outside of Twitter. I had sent a DM to Hyatt with my cell phone # and they never called me. Oh well.

You might still NOT care about Twitter, but there are some things about it that might be helpful for your business. Don't just brush it off as “people Twittering about what they're having for lunch.” There's much more to it than that if you dig beneath the surface.

I also like this video with Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter. Here, he talks about how listening to their customers, or giving them control, has helped shape Twitter in unexpected ways. I think there's a good general business lesson there, too, of following a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle and letting a product or service evolve based on input from users:

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  1. Anonymous says

    @LeanBlog – I never received your DM with your phone number! I absolutely would’ve given you a call! I did contact the head meeting planner with HIMSS, as I said in my @reply on April 1st, to let her know that more signage was needed in W190-196 for SHS. I’m sorry you felt that this issue was not fully addressed! Thanks for sharing your experience. Let me know if I can ever be of service.


  2. Mark Graban says

    Thanks for the response. The wireless signal from AT&T was horrible in the building, so maybe the DM never got off of my blackberry.

    I could have done more to pursue it and follow up, I guess, but I didn't want to spend too much time on it.

    The signage didn't improve the 2nd day, from what I saw, and lots of SHS attendees were complaining about how hard it was to find the conference from the hotel.

    I appreciate you following up, but you're right, it wasn't addressed. My initial messages should have been enough to get it resolved, but oh well.


  3. Mark Graban says

    There’s another use of Twitter — networking. Use the twitter search function to find people who are talking about your profession or topics that you’re interested in. You can contact them through Twitter and I’ve found that people are very willing to help. It’s opened some doors for me, just from the standpoint of networking with medical professionals and those interested in Lean, although I haven’t been in a job search mode.

  4. KeAnne says

    Great post. A coworker and I are playing with Twitter, and I find it fascinating and helpful. We are paying a lot of attention to how service organizations can use it effectively.

  5. Mark Graban says

    I complained about Comcast online and got a response (not that they helped) from a comcast rep… at least they are listening.

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