A Twitterview Live From TWTRCON

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)At the conference, which was held in San Francisco on May 31, attendees learned how to create Twitter business strategies, use Twitter applications to create revenue, and use Twitter to listen to customers and respond. Attendees also networked with marketing and media executives, Twitter developers and social media experts. Speakers included Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop; Stefanie Nelson, who runs the marketing communications for Dell Outlet; Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research; Bob Pearson, president of The Blog Council; and Ed Terpening, vice president, social media marketing for Wells Fargo.Mike and I discussed some key concepts brought up at the event, all in tweets of less than the specified 140 characters. The following are some highlights from our discussion: mcampanelli: What are the some of the biggest obstacles for companies looking to adopt social media?mikepenna: Typically 1. Fear; 2. Costs; 3. Scalability concerns; 4. Perceived lack of tools; 5. IT/corporate departments.mcampanelli: I just learned of a study your org. presented there that said Gen Yers aren’t using Twitter. Why?mikepenna: Most don’t get it. They do text messaging and visit social networks, but don’t understand the value of Twitter yet.mcampanelli: What do some of the best corporate social media policies include? mikepenna: 1.What you can or can’t say; 2. What behaviors are appropriate; 3. Who owns what; 4. Disclosure info.; 5. Education. mcampanelli: Are companies starting to put these policies in motion? If not, what could happen? mikepenna: They are — but have to re-examine traditional approaches and policies and address new ones.mikepenna: One example of what companies now must address is “who owns the followers” when an employee leaves? mcampanelli: Let’s talk about marketing with Twitter. Can you do real targeting with Twitter? mikepenna: Yes. New tools are coming to market. In essence they will allow marketers to create groups, schedule tweets, etc. mcampanelli: What are some of the new tools out there? mikepenna: There were several at the show. CoTweet for one helps marketers manage dialogs with customers. They are in beta now.mcampanelli: Any interesting case studies from TWTRCON? Firms that do marketing on Twitter right?mikepenna: Yes. Several in fact. Some of the bigger ones were @comcastcares for customer service and @delloutlet for sales.Click here for a larger version.

To Twitter or Not to Twitter?

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, but are people actually using it? What do the numbers say?

eMarketer estimated earlier this week that there were 6 million Twitter users in the U.S. in 2008, or 3.8 percent of all Internet users. The online marketing research firm also projected the number of Twitter users will jump to 18.1 million in 2010, representing 10.8 percent of Internet users.

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, but are people actually using it? What do the numbers say?

eMarketer estimated earlier this week that there were 6 million Twitter users in the U.S. in 2008, or 3.8 percent of all Internet users. The online marketing research firm also projected the number of Twitter users will jump to 18.1 million in 2010, representing 10.8 percent of Internet users.

What’s more, comScore — according to the eMarketer report — found Twitter.com drew 4 million unique visitors from home, work and college/university locations in February 2009, up from 340,000 a year earlier — a 1,086 percent increase. comScore also reported a surge in March. After months of double-digit growth, traffic to Twitter.com accelerated 131 percent to 9.3 million visitors for the month. That’s more than 5 million visitors since February.

Seems like everywhere you turn lately, it’s Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. The site’s growth is unreal. What’s driving such growth? Celebrity tweeters and substantial mainstream media attention, according to comScore, which added that the site ranked as the top-gaining property for the month of March.

“Twitter lets people know what’s going on about things they care about instantly, as it happens,” Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, told The New York Times in an April 13 article. “In the best cases, Twitter makes people smarter and faster and more efficient.”

But things are not all rosy in Twitterville: Currently, more than 60 percent of Twitter users don’t return the following month, according to an April 28 blog post by David Martin, vice president of primary research for Nielsen Online.

In other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is about 40 percent, according to Martin.

In the post, Martin also compared Twitter to two heavily touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out: Facebook and MySpace. When doing so, Martin found that when these networks were emerging — like Twitter is now — they had retention rates that were twice as high. In addition, when they went through their explosive growth phases, retention went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.

What does this all mean? Twitter as well as the other social networks might not be for everyone. Some people may just not understand their power. But most of those who do use them, swear by them. They understand how these networks can become real-time marketing and customer service tools, not to mention powerful brand builders. And there’s virtually no investment needed, so as I’ve been preaching already, I recommend these sites become part of your digital marketing mix, if they’re not already.

What do you think? Let us know by posting your comment here.

Q&A With Bob Pearson, New President of The Blog Council

Editor’s Note: Bob Pearson, the former vice president of communities and conversations at Dell, recently left his post to become president of The Blog Council, an organization that represents the heads of social media at 45 major corporations including Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, The Home Depot, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart.

Pearson is widely known as the leader of one of the first major social media programs at a global enterprise. His work at Dell is considered the model for how big businesses should work with blogs, communities and other social media. In many ways, his move to The Blog Council symbolizes the significant acceleration of major companies adopting social media techniques and tools throughout their organizations.

I recently chatted with Bob about his personal goals and how he sees blogs and social media evolving with business. Here are highlights from the discussion:

Melissa Campanelli: Tell me about your new position at The Blog Council. What are your goals for the organization?

Bob Pearson: What we are all here to do in The Blog Council is accelerate the sharing of best practices. A big trend we see now is that people are realizing social media is actually becoming a discipline, no different than marketing, communications, HR or finance. And, it can be embedded and used throughout an entire organization. So the intensity of sharing best practices and learning is key.

This is what drove me to The Blog Council. At Dell, we were certainly doing a decent job of building out a social media capability worldwide, and this just seemed like a natural continuation to do it on an industrywide scale with peers.

The changes going on in the market are amazing. There are 500,000 people going online every day for the first time in their lives; YouTube is the second largest search engine (if separated out on its own); and the way people search, buy and interact with each other before they make purchases is evolving rapidly.

MC: I understand you’re involved with TWTRCON. What is the idea behind this event (being held May 31 in San Francisco), and why should marketers be interested in it?

BP: I’m excited about this conference because I think Twitter is much more significant than most people realize today. It’s getting a lot of attention as a microblogging tool, and people are intrigued by it. But what they are probably not spending enough time thinking about is the idea that tools like Twitter can ultimately replace e-mail.

Here’s why: Customers can get the information they want, at the time they want it and in the account they want it in, rather than getting stuff in their inboxes they don’t want even though they have supposedly opted in for it.

MC: Can you offer our readers any examples of social media leaders?

BP: A leader in the practice of using social media to communicate with customers is Tony Hsieh and Zappos (@zappos), of course. Another good example is the Dell Outlet (@delloutlet), which has over 380,000 followers to its Twitter account. The Dell Outlet sells products directly through Twitter, and even offers exclusive Twitter discounts.

I’m also intrigued by what companies such as Ford and General Motors are doing. Scott Monty (@scottmonty), the head of social media at Ford, is doing an excellent job of using social media to pass along information about Ford to its customers. Chris Barger (@cbarger), director of social media at General Motors, is also doing a great job.

Reach Bob Pearson via Twitter at @bobpearson1845.