Fee Fie Foe Fum, I smell wampum in Twitterdom! Twitter is like the goose that laid the golden eggs, allowing the giants of industry to run off with all the spoils! Has Twitter sat in its Ivory Tower too long trying to figure out the "perfect" business model, while the corporate kingpins are in the counting house counting all their returns?
I know I am mixing up my nursery rhyme metaphors, but I'm just trying to get a handle on why Twitter's cash cow is weaving tweets into gold for everyone except themselves. If you think I'm spinning a tale, let's look at the Top Five Giants who are achieving tweet success without paying a dime for it!
While only one of these five companies is bold enough to equate their Twitter 'return on investment' in actual dollars, all of them are proving daily how brand loyalty can build a significant following on this microblogging stage. Check out some of the best practices that have improved the social and financial status of these companies. This is not a comprehensive list. It is my subjective analysis of what I perceive to be the best of the best.
1- Dell - Dell is the one company that is willing to equate tweeting to dollars and sense. In June, it announced to the world that it tipped the $3 million mark in sales directly attributable to Twitter. Since the Dell Outlet began tweeting out deals, the company's Twitter stream racked up $2 million in sales, according to a blog submitted by Stefanie Nelson on June 12, 2009. But she goes on to claim an additional $1 million in sales derived from customers who use the @DellOutlet handle as an entry point into Dell's Web site before ultimately purchasing other merchandise from the company online.
Dell's Twitter business model is a savvy approach to gaining followers and offering exclusive deals through Twitter in form of coupons or links to special deals...
Currently, the @DellOutlet has more than 600,000 followers, ranking it in the top-50 most-followed Twitter profiles, according to TwitterCounter.
Stefanie Nelson"Deal-hunters are especially attracted to Dell's Twitter presence. Dell Outlet sells refurbished Dell products at great prices, but inventories fluctuate, making it difficult to know when products are available or on sale. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price," Nelson wrote.
2- Jetblue - In the world of ‘Airline Twitter” the clear leader is Jetblue, with 652,310 followers (at the time of this posting...while Southwest pales in comparison with 49,000). The airline is an excellent case study in how to use Social Media to help a business get closer to its customers. In addition to Twitter, they have used Web 2.0, blogs, video, and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to help customers learn more about them. So,why is JetBlue so successful in the Twitterverse? For starters Jetblue updates consistently with a consistent stream of fare specials and delay alerts.
Jetblue has embraced Twitter as a completely interactive marketing tool to involve its passengers. It is essential that a brand as prominent as JetBlue is managed by humans and not bots. Not only does it respond to its passengers but it reponds in a timely manner. While Jetblue does not issue as many ‘Tweets’ as Southwest Airlines, the airline is much more proactive in targeting their messages to provide immediate benefits for its followers.
While the airline industry is one of the industries the hardest hit by this recession, Jetblue has taken the precautionary steps to build brand loyalty with Twitter, to be better positioned when we get past this downturn in the economy.
3- Zappos - Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com has fostered a culture where extraordinary customer service is the norm. As an online shoe store. Zappos was founded in 1999 and has in less than a decade grown to be one of the leading lights of e-commerce.
Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh is a firm believer in the value of building solid customer relationships and was as an early adopter of Twitter admits to being on track to do about $1 billion in gross merchandise sales. While it doesn't indicate what percentage of that revenue is directly attributable to Twitter, its presence in the microblogging space must account for why about 75% of all of Zappo's orders are from repeat customers.
Hsieh believes Twitter is essential in developing a more personal connections with both employees and customers. The company introduces employees to Twitter during their new hire orientation, and also offers Twitter classes at Zappos for whoever wants to take them.
4- Amazon - Based on the some of the success stories listed here, maybe we're starting to see why Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos decided to invest $15 million in Twitter last summer. The e-commerce king saw the transaction-tickling potential of the simplistic text-messaging platform before the rest of the world. While there has not been any actual revenue numbers released on how Amazon has benefited from this investment, between the success of Kindle and its revenue share with bloggers its just a matter of time Amazon will be primed to get a major return on their investment. I also predict that Amazon at some point will actually incorporate Twitter into the Kindle service and derive yet another revenue stream.
CEO Jeff Bezos & Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital
5- Whole Foods - If you check out twitterholic (which profiles the top Twitter users), Whole Foods Market is currently sitting in the #30 spot, higher than any of the other Top Five Giants on my list. Its popularity is clearly defined by its 775,409 followers (at time of writing). However, the company also maintain some 40 other accounts – and what is intriguing is how their “integrated” Twitter strategy plays across all of those entry points.
Where most companies are using Twitter to simply make announcements, Whole Foods is using the platform to actually interact with their customers; subscribers can request new Whole Foods locations, make inventory suggestions, and request refunds.
One of their best practices includes running a weekly twitter promotion where they Tweet a "pass phrase" for one of their locations where the pass phrase can be used. The first 5 people who go to that location and present the password receive a $25 gift certificate to that store.
When Twitter's co-founder, Biz Stone was questioned why the have allowed these companies and others to thrive while they do not ask for anything in return, he replied:
Sounds a little bit altruistic to me. After almost four years of soul searching, you would think they would have found their vision by now.
- "Twitter will become a sustainable business supported by a revenue model. However, our biggest opportunities will be worth pursuing only when we achieve our vision of Twitter as a global communication utility. To reach our goal, Twitter must be reliable and robust. Private funding gives us the runway we need to stay focused on the infrastructure that will help our business take flight. We will continue hiring systems engineers, operators, and architects, as well as consultants, scientists, and other professionals to help us realize our vision."
As mentioned previously, this Top Five Giant list is subjective. ComcastCares, Woot, Starbucks and others are certainly noteworthy, and you might have found their Twitter success stories better examples. But my point in this blog was to highlight the fact that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that if Twitter were to take a small percentage from each one of the companies listed here, they would be on the road to monetization, in the blink of an eye.
Why they continue to mull over other potential options is questionable. I would think that at this juncture, what's right under their collective noses should be scrutinized a little closer. Stepping down from their Ivory Tower to pick up a few of the golden eggs they were responsible for hatching would be a step in the right direction... failing to do so...would be a giant mistake!
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Feel free to provide us feedback regarding other success stories about these companies or others not listed here.