“Twitter Means Business”: Minnesota case studies, and more

This is a guest post by Julio Ojeda-Zapata, author of the just-released book, “Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company.” Ojeda-Zapata is a Twitter veteran who also has harnessed the service in his print-journalism work, while writing about the twitterverse and related subjects at length.

“To twit or not?”

That was the main headline on the front of the St. Paul Pioneer Press business section this Sunday. It’s also a question many a company has asked itself. Is there business value in embracing Twitter or other forms of public or private microsharing?

In a series of three articles, I lay it out. (To see these pieces in their original, full-color, printed form, grab the page PDFs).

In the main piece (alternate text here), I profile four Minnesota companies that have learned the fine art of the Twitter-based “soft sell” (versus the harder type that can be a twitterverse turnoff):

Best Buy. This mega-retailer has embraced Twitter at all levels. Its chief marketing officer is using it. So is a customer-service manager in a Tulsa, Okla., Best Buy outlet. One Web-savvy operative has even whipped up acustomized search engine dubbed Spy for tracking Twitter and other social-media sites.

Fallon. You may recognize the name of Fallon Worldwide, the public-relations and online-marketing titan that is part of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe S.A. Minneapolis-based Fallon operatives have become the Twitter-based voice of _S_A_R_A_H_, the HAL-like computer on the “Eureka” sci-fi TV series.

Nabbit. Small, nimble technology startups have also seen big success on Twitter. Nabbit, a service that lets users tag or “nabb” radio tunes they like by pressing buttons on their cell phones, has used Twitter to curry favor with e-influencers while allowing users to generate an automatic tweet with every nabb.

Teresa the Realtor. My fave case study in the piece is Teresa Boardman, a remarkably Internet-savvy real-estate agent who is a superblogger, a Flickr fanatic and, of course, a Twitter maven the likes of which I had not expected to ever see in the real-estate biz. Boardman gave me some of my best material:

As the so-called “twitterverse” has exploded in popularity since its creation in 2006, it has evolved into a casual and conversational online-messaging realm where relationships tend to have a greater value than commercial come-ons, regardless of the source.

Boardman, a longtime Twitter user, knows this. “Real estate is a relationship-based business,” she said. “Its value is in meeting people. The real estate industry still preaches the hard sell, but what I do is a soft sell,” on Twitter and off.

So the cyber-savvy real estate agent has taken it upon herself to teach her fellow Realtors how to use Twitter effectively. It is like breezing through a party, she said, and “being introduced to a friend of a friend who just might be looking for a house.”

In a secondary piece (alternate text here), I explore the new, booming market for private microblogging services now being use within companies. Such business-grade services, the focus of a recent Pistachio Consulting report, are emerging as robust corporate alternatives to public, consumer-focused services like Twitter.

My piece looks at Mix, a Best Buy internal-microblogging service that is launching this week, and the new “Pulse” capabilities built into the Web-based OnePlace worker-collaboration environment pioneered by the Riverock Technologies firm.

The third piece (alternate text here) in my biz-microblogging package is a preview of my book, published by Happy About Books of Cupertino, Calif. Happy About offers e-book and print versions of the book, also now available on Amazon.com.

If you like my Pioneer Press articles, my book has many more and different business-world case studies on Twitter usage, along with a wealth of Twitter pointers for companies dipping their toes into the twitterverse.

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