Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Twitter and the Crisis

Ah…Twitter…what are we to do with you? As an entrepreneur, I’ve been trying now for some time to make sense of how to best use Twitter. And while I’m not quite ready to say it’s the best things since sliced bread…I’m also not ready to abandon it either. Take a look at an article from today’s Wall Street Journal titled, Entrepreneurs Tweet Their Way through Crises that discusses using Twitter when you are in crisis mode.

Here are some thoughts from the end of the article; note the caution about using Twitter occasionally or only when you need it.

Twitter can also be an effective way to get a message across to consumers in an emergency. When an ice storm struck the Bartlesville, Okla., area last winter, United Linen & Uniform Services notified customers about the status of their orders through Twitter in addition to its Web site. Scott Townsend, marketing director for the laundry service, says many consumers today will find information about a business on Twitter before anywhere else because it's where they hang out online. "You fish where the fish are," he says.

Entrepreneurs should bear in mind that Twitter is unlikely to be of help in dealing with a problem if it isn't used regularly otherwise, says Shel Israel, author of "Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods."

"If you just go to Twitter when you have a crisis, you will have no followers and no credibility," he says. "The key to using Twitter effectively is to build trust with people who are relevant to your business."

Steve Fusek, owner of Fusek's True Value LLC, a hardware store in Indianapolis, now has an employee dedicated to updating the shop's Twitter profile during business hours. Mr. Fusek says consumers expect to see frequent tweets and swift responses to customer-service inquiries they post.

"You can't just sign up and leave it. You have to have someone on it," he says. "If you're not legitimate, you'll be found out quickly."

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