While there are plenty of brands already using Twitter – GM, Comcast, JetBlue, Dell, and Starbucks to name a few– many of them are simply applying old media applications to one of the most exciting new mediums to emerge in decades.
Consider that Comcast and BofA use it for the most basic customer service. Starbucks does little more than announce offers and engage in some dialog with customers about those offers. Jet Blue micro blogs special deals and weather updates. All of these serve a purpose, but are they as inventive as they could be?
Instead, maybe brands and their creative teams (and by the way that includes the folks from PR, technology and media, not just the writer and art directors) should start with what Twitter enables: the chance to connect with, learn from, influence, and maybe even mobilize like-minded people who in and of themselves comprise the best free medium anywhere.
Sure you can do all the things you did in other media on Twitter. But isn’t the real opportunity is to do something as new as the medium itself.
Here are some suggestions to get you thinking. Hope you’ll share your ideas, too.
Lowes (just 200 followers and eight days between tweets) could start a grass roots movement to rebuild America. Using search.twitter.com and other tools they could identify community activists interested in constructing playgrounds or fixing schools, announce a contest to provide supplies and know-how, solicit proposals, announce winners and tweet on the results and impact. In the process they’d generate thousands of followers and plenty of positive press.
Barnes and Noble could tweet an announcement of a new partnership with 826 Valencia to teach literacy skills to at risk kids. They could identify all the writers on Twitter, promote volunteer opportunities, connect willing tutors with one of the 826 chapters around the country, and in doing so endear themselves to a community of writers, readers, and teachers. A hash tag could collect the experiences of everyone involved, possibly even generating enough content for book in and of itself.
Barnes and Noble would get credit as a brand that cares. They would attract the loyalty of followers who share the same values. And finally, for those who still believe in the value of long term thinking, they’d be inspiring a future generation of readers.
UnderArmour could build a following of athletes and tri-athletes then foster a dialog and exchange of training tips, resources and diet information to help athletes improve their performance. They could even host and moderate a weekly panel using tinychat.com.
Some of the advice could come from UnderArmour themselves, but much of it would come from the willingness of athletes given the chance to participate. In the process UnderArmour would position themselves as a training authority and acquire even more faithful followers.
Nearly 2500 brands have taken the initiative to tweet and connect. But as with any technology the art isn’t in what Twitter does, it’s in what you do with it. What will it be?