In this fast-moving, short attention span era of communication, nothing embodies that high-speed, quick-hitting environment quite like Twitter. The newest social networking fad, Twitter limits all communications to 140 characters or less, giving users the opportunity to quickly hear all about NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal’s latest thoughts on his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, winning the NBA championship to what your mother is making for dinner.
But Twitter can be much more than entertainment. In fact, it’s becoming a popular marketing tool for companies from all walks of life. Here is a roundup of how three direct marketers are using Twitter to leverage their brands and create buzz around their businesses.
Southwest Airlines, the Dallas-based airline, opened its Twitter account in 2007, seeing it as an invaluable opportunity to communicate with its customers “fact to face,” says spokesperson Ashley Rogers. Southwest uses the 140-character posts to inform followers about customer initiatives and interesting facts that are intriguing and important to them. For instance, the airline often updates weather in certain cities—information pertinent to fliers who may be worried about delayed or canceled flights—and also alerts customers of contests to win free tickets.
“It’s sort of like Southwest’s personality,” explains Rogers. “We’ll talk about fun things we have going on in the office or things going on at the airport like a costume contest. … We don’t use it for one specific thing. It’s really just an extension of our brand online.”
That personality is sparked by Christi Day, who Rogers calls Southwest’s “Twitter girl.” Day is part of the emerging media team at Southwest, in charge of all new media, and she runs the Twitter account for the company. The great thing about that brand extension is the direct feedback the airline gets from customers. For instance, many fliers have tweeted about the Wi-Fi planes Southwest is testing, offering wireless Internet access in the air. These types of communications let Southwest know what its customers like and do not like about the airline, though Rogers says Southwest has found Twitter to be an overall positive environment, and it gives credibility to the company. “You have to be where your customers are. … We have over [128,000] followers. It’s like we have [128,000] ambassadors for our brand out there.”