BY KEVIN MANAHAN
People from all walks of business packed a casual luncheon Tuesday on the second floor of Portland's Bridgeport Brewpub + Bakery. Business cards were swapped left and right, but the focus of the lunch had more to do with the laptops and smart phones lying on the tables than straight-up networking.
The Oregon chapter of the American Marketing Association was holding a “Tweetshop," a workshop designed to help companies use Twitter to its fullest potential. On hand to school the eager learners were digital strategists David Veneski of Intel and Alex Williams of eROI.
The stats brought up during the workshop spoke volumes about the astounding growth of Twitter this year: The site jumped over 131 percent in unique visitors from February to March and reached 23 million unique visitors in June, surpassing the mighty New York Times website and catching up to CNN.com. With such a large user base, networking is easy; Veneski talked about connections he made simply by following people on Twitter. “It’s pretty interesting," Veneski said. "You get access to people you normally wouldn't be able to [reach].” Plus, with users frequently "re-tweeting" other people's posts, Veneski said information can quickly go viral no matter how big your follower base is.
Another big selling point of using Twitter is easily interacting with customers just by replying to tweets about your brand. Veneski brought up a quote on social media from Best Buy CMO Barry Judge, who said, "You're a part of the conversation, a part of what is being said about your brand. You don't get to tell customers what they get to think anymore."
Even if people are just casually mentioning your product – or venting about it – Williams said it's still a good idea to reply. "If you’re a company and someone’s talking about you, this is your chance to have a little conversation," Williams said. And getting an idea of what's being said about your brand is perhaps the biggest draw for businesses using Twitter. With trend-following hash tags and keyword searches at everyone's disposal, Williams said Twitter has great possibilities from a marketing standpoint.
Veneski and Williams fielded questions throughout the workshop, mostly on good practices (balancing personal "what I had for lunch" tweets with useful business information) and defining Twitter's funky lexicon (like that pesky "RT"). But someone brought up an interesting question from a stat on Twitter's surprising demographics. The most active tweeters are the folks in the 35-55 age range, not text-happy teens. So is it still worth it to use Twitter to reign in the young masses? It depends on your product or service. “Don’t just abandon Twitter because it doesn’t fall in the sweet spot of your demographic,” Veneski said.
One attendee keen on diving deeper into social media marketing was Michele Larsen, the state communications director of March of Dimes' greater Oregon chapter. "It seems like if you're not involved in social media, you're missing the boat," Larsen said. "And as a nonprofit, we don't have a lot of advertising budget. So for us to get exposure, we need to be looking at things like social media and hopefully engage people in ways that are free." Larsen said the national organization already uses Twitter, but she wants to bring that same interactivity to the local level and engage people in Oregon.
Twitter is growing exponentially, it's super trendy and it offers huge marketing potential; are there any drawbacks to jumping on the bandwagon? Williams says the time-consuming nature of Twitter is a hidden cost. But hey, it's still free marketing.
And yep, we're on Twitter, too.
Kevin Manahan is the online editor for Oregon Business.