Illustration by Martin Gee
But say you’ve decided to join the Twitter few. You’ve just invested the 45 seconds it takes to sign up for Twitter. Now what? Here are examples of how Twitter can be a feather in your company’s cap — and how it can be a black eye.
CREATIVITY: Michael Buchino at Portland Center Stage updates @NixonLOLZ as a demented version of Tricky Dick to promote the upcoming production of Frost/Nixon. Buchino’s amusing tweets as Lady Bracknell, Scrooge and Nixon — characters from Center Stage plays — have attracted 890 followers. Twitter sends about 600 unique visitors to the Portland Center Stage website each month, and a Twitter-only Halloween special sold 100 tickets to that night’s performance, says public relations manager Trisha Pancio.
SPAMMING: One strategy for getting more followers is a kind of Twitter spam — follow as many users as you can, hoping they’ll follow you back. Visitors to the Twitter page for JELD-WEN, a window and door maker based in Klamath Falls, may be impressed by the number of followers: 1,416. But check out how many feeds @jeldwen is following: 1,995. The contrast in the numbers will make people wonder why JELD-WEN is interested in more people than are interested in them. It’s as if they sent out 1,995 invitations to a party, and 579 people didn’t bother to respond.
USEFULNESS: “In 140 characters, how can you tell if a pear is ripe?” Christie Mather from the Northwest Pear Bureau, based in Portland, has turned @USApears into an interactive pear encyclopedia by answering questions from Twitter users. (Answer: “Check the neck for ripeness by pressing the stem end w/your thumb. If it yields to gentle pressure, it’s a sweet, juicy pear!”) Mather has a calendar of topics to tweet about: name at least one pear variety on Monday, link to a recipe on Tuesday, “communicate passion for fresh pears” through song or haiku on Wednesday, and so on. The Pear Bureau’s research showed that 65% of people who saw an article about pears were motivated to buy. Mather and the Pear Bureau hope Twitter will work the same way.
TRASH TALK: @gorgebookstop doesn’t have many followers, but that doesn’t mean Cynthia Christenson should use it to complain about her customers at Gorge Book Stop in Hood River. Christenson tweets about customers who smell bad, say stupid things or linger past closing, and then gripes about business being slow. Who wants to browse at a book store where the person behind the counter is quietly but publicly judging you?
CONNECTING: @BurgervilleUSA tweets about new menu items and more than 800 followers eat it up. @BurgervilleUSA also tweets about online contests, customer polls and nutrition facts. Burgerville’s Twitter following is so sincere that one member recently proposed a “Tweetup” at a Burgerville in Vancouver, which is where the company is based. The Tweetup breached the online-real world gap when 12 people actually showed.
NEGLECT. More than 100 loyal Double Mountain fans are following the Hood River brewery’s feed at @DoubleMountain. But the company has only updated a handful of times and they haven’t filled in the only information Twitter asks for — a short description and their web site address. It’s the e-equivalent of letting customers walk through the door without being greeted.