10 Creative Ways Businesses Used Twitter in 2009

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Social Media by Matt McGee on December 22, 2009 13 Comments

I’ve been following Twitter success stories as much as possible this year, and it’s been eye-opening to see all the different ways businesses are using Twitter to promote their products and services. The following is a collection of just some of the unique ways businesses have used Twitter in 2009. No doubt there’ll be many more to talk about in 2010!

1.) New Product/Service Alerts

Switch Wine Bar uses Twitter (and Facebook) to tell followers about new drinks as they’re being made.

switch

Similarly, a bakery in London called Albion’s Oven, uses a tool called BakerTweet to automatically send out tweets whenever a new batch of goodies comes out of the oven.

oven

Albion’s Oven has more than 1,600 followers at the moment.

2.) Create Buzz


Even before it opened, the Boston-area restaurant Tupelo was on Twitter, posting messages about what it’s like to open a restaurant — the inspections, menu choices, and more.

tupelo

Word spread and when the restaurant finally opened in April, it was packed. The restaurant told local media that “at least half were there because of Twitter.”

3.) Blow Your Customers’ Minds

Via Andy Sernovitz, listen to the amazing thing P.F. Chang’s did for a customer who was tweeting from inside one of its restaurants. Watch this video – it’s barely a minute long.

How cool is that?!?

4.) Tell Followers Where They Can Find You

Curtis Kimball, owner of a crème brûlée cart in San Francisco, uses Twitter to alert followers where his cart will be and sometimes includes special flavors he’ll be offering. He’s gained thousands of followers this year.

creme

Twitter has become a major marketing tool for food trucks all over the country. But the idea applies to any business; if you’re going to have a booth at a local trade show or community event, tell people about it. Give people a reason to come see you when you’re out and about in town.

5.) Establish Authority / Promote Blog & Article Content

Many small business owners are using Twitter to promote their services and expertise as much as anything else. Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist in Sebastopol, California (and a client of mine), uses Twitter to point her followers to blog posts she’s written about skin care and related topics.

cynthia

As I’ve cautioned Dr. Bailey, be careful not to overdo this. Constant self-promotion is a quick way to lose followers … and to keep people from following you in the first place.

6.) Promote Special Offers/Discounts

Woodhouse Spa in Ohio offers a special deal every Tuesday just for its Twitter followers. It’s a great way to make your followers feel special, and gives them a reason to tell friends to follow you, too.

woodhouse

New Orleans-based Naked Pizza is one of the poster children for using Twitter in this way. In an AdAge article, co-founder Jeff Leach said that a Twitter-only pizza discount brought in 15% of the day’s total business. You may also remember me blogging months ago about Luna Park Restaurant in San Francisco doing the same thing; and many, many businesses are using Twitter this way, too.

7.) Promote Special Events

The Silver Barn uses Twitter (and Facebook) to promote its participation in local events.

silverbarn

8.) Educate Customers About What You Do

On August 31, with the patient’s permission, St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, used Twitter to live-tweet the surgical procedure of a 70-year-old woman. A hospital spokesperson said the live-tweeting was educational for its followers and also helped the woman’s family (its customers) and friends stay informed during the procedure.

stluke

Now that’s an extreme example, but the point is this: Are there things you can tweet about other than your products or services? Chances are pretty good that your followers may want to learn about what you do and how you do it. A few “in our office” or “behind the scenes” tweets every now and then may help people learn more about your business, and increase their interest in what you do.

9.) Spread Positive Endorsements

Berry Chill, a Chicago-based yogurt shop, consistently retweets the positive messages posted by its customers on Twitter. In doing so, they’re spreading positive word-of-mouth and reinforcing a strong brand association. Over the summer, they did the same when a few celebrities were in town for a golf tournament and were caught on camera enjoying Berry Chill’s yogurt.

berrychill

10.) Customer Service

Similarly to Berry Chill, Umi, a sushi restaurant in San Francisco, uses Twitter to reply to guests who talk about the restaurant on Twitter. It’s a nice outreach effort and an easy way to show gratitude to your customers.

umi

Scott Seaman of Christopher’s Wine & Cheese shop in North Carolina uses Twitter to answer questions from customers when they’re not sure which wine to choose.

wine

Final Thoughts

This list could go on and on. Twitter’s simplicity and immediacy makes it possible for all kinds of businesses to find new customers, serve them, and keep them happy. And since there are rumors that Twitter may launch formal business tools and services in 2010, chances are good that the opportunities will only increase in the future.

Your turn: What creative uses of Twitter did I miss? Tell us about them in the comments.

Comments (13)

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  1. Jake says:

    great post, thanks for sharing. There are so many creative and unique ways to use twitter. love the pf chang’s example and the creme brule cart example.

  2. I had some success live tweeting an event that I thought my customers would be interested in. We had our first condo auction in town and I knew that folks would be interested in the prices that the condos fetched so I tweeted each sales price as the auction progressed. As a real estate agent it confirmed to others that I had the pulse of the market.

    I also think that re-tweeting other businesses tweets is helpful. When you build social capital it comes back later to help you promote your business when you need it most.

  3. Syzlak says:

    There are really great ideas here, but how does one really connect with users in a slightly less sexy industry…say, high end desks for radiologists…or, say, more specifically – Anthro.com ;)

  4. Sadie says:

    I thought the best Twitter Campaign this year was the #moonfruit win a mac competition.

    Twitter isn’t right for every business which is a mistake a lot of companies make but it can be good for adding the personal touch and engaging with customers, also good for brand awareness.

    For less ‘sexy’ industries :) it can be good for plugging networking events etc but sometimes a brand shouldn’t be given a personal voice and should remain professional to avoid misinterpretation and bad pr. For these companies I would look at other forms of social networking such as linkedIn

  5. Syzlak says:

    @Sadie – I used to agree wholeheartedly, though I’m finding that there are angles our there for the more homely industries ;)

    That being said, I’m finding that those angles are LinkedIn & Facebook integration with Twitter, corporate YouTube use, announcing PR or events, etc. I was hoping for something a little more, out there, and I’m wracking my brain trying to figure something out.

  6. Dan London says:

    It all comes down to providing value. That value can either be in the form of Twitter only discounts or just responding to customer questions, complaints, etc.

    All those “retweet this message and win” contests are most likely pure spam.

  7. Sadie says:

    @slyzlak I agree with your comments but really feel each website should be looked at on a case by case basis.

    A lot of people jump on the social media bandwagon without sorting their own site first so it depends on the best places to pur resources and budgets for ROI :)

    The main purpose of social media should be to drive traffic to the site which will innevitable convert. Sorting out any navigation issues remembering the 3 click rule will go hand in hand with any online marketing. Sort out web 1 before looking at web 2 and 3.

    I had a project a few years ago where we created a viral for an office furniture company, ‘how long will you last in a nuclear holocaust living off the contents of you desk’ this did quite well achieving good brand awareness and traffic which converted into sales.

    If Twitter had been more established this could have made the viral campaign much more successful. Again it depends on the company, this company were very fun to work with and came up with the subject themselves.

    There is always something you can do but I know how it feels to be wracking your brains to help a client! Usually a good brainstorming session in the pub helps our team :)

  8. Andy Francos says:

    Great post Matt, you’ve detailed a number of positive ways in which a company should use Twitter to push their brand/products/services/customer feedback. The one thing I hate to hear is ‘what do I write’ – its difficult to get to gripes with at first but a number of our clients are now extremely proactive in using Twitter and are receiving a vast amount of traffic (not to mentioned increased sales).

  9. Hillel says:

    I think Twitter is only effective for companies or individuals who are already well known. Its not so effective for the small business owner.

  10. excellent examples – it’s interesting to note most of them are in the food/restaurant industry. No doubt about it, being creative with Twitter can pay off, and while it’s not for everyone, your post shows that Twitter can be useful if people are willing to go outside the lines with it.

    thanks!

  11. While traveling I often post “In search of wireless …” updates on Twitter for other travelers. I was in Ellensburg, WA. I found a place with good wireless and great soup; so, I posted it. Within 10 minutes I had a message from an Ellensburg business group thanking me for saying good things about Ellensburg businesses. Now I stop there every time I head west.

  12. Matt McGee says:

    Hillel – may I ask, did you actually read the article? Most of the examples I cited above are not businesses that were already well known. Heck, in #2 that’s a restaurant that hadn’t even opened. :-) These are examples of how businesses who are not well known are using Twitter to become well known.

    Thx for all the comments, folks. :)

  13. Dave Oremland says:

    Excellent examples, Matt. those are are creative. BTW: I’m one of Albion’s followers. Albion is in London. I’m in the states. I see there morning tweets all the time. Unfortunately I can’t easily get over there to buy one. Wondering if those tweets get me to buy a local croissant now and then. hmmm :D

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