It’s Not Just for Kids – Businesses Love it, Too
by John Van Horn
If someone told me two years ago that I would be following Twitter and Facebook, I would have told them they were crazy. This social media stuff is for kids, and it opens us up to criticism and takes an inordinate amount of time if you want to do it right, and it’s not for business, but for fun. Besides, I don’t understand how to “Tweet” anyway.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Your Twitter account is a “list” (Twitter feed) of “Tweets” that appear one after another from companies or individuals that you are “following.” When a company you are following Tweets, it appears on your list. If you Tweet, it appears on the lists of all the companies or individuals that follow you. Pretty much instantaneously.
I have learned that social media have become a large weave in the fabric of our lives. Companies make earth-shaking announcements on Facebook and Twitter. Grandmothers communicate with their grandchildren on Facebook.
IBM has a quarter-million followers on Twitter, Ford has 750,000, Intel has 4.3 million. Boeing also has a quarter-million; the IPI, 2,000; Laz Parking’s Boston operation, nearly 800; and Ace Parking, 2,000.
Twitter can be frightening. With all those @, #, / and tiny URLs, it’s a whole new language to learn. You are forced to put your message across in less than 140 characters, and in the end, who will read it? You can “favorite,” “retweet,” “follow,” “unfollow,” send private messages − yikes!
And assume you fight through the gobbledygook, so what? What good does it do a company?
I have learned that, for business, Twitter is about branding. It’s about reminding customers and competitors just who you are and what you are about. Using this techie communication, you are telling the world that you understand we are moving into a new era. You are not giving up the old, but adding another arrow in your marketing quiver.
Plus, by becoming familiar with the media, you will find information about customers and competitors that you might not know.
The University of Nevada, for example, is closing a surface lot to start construction on a new parking structure — it will need equipment, lighting, elevators, plus ongoing commodities and services such as tickets and enforcement software.
That would be good to know.
In the beginning, I spent an hour a day or so dealing with Twitter; now it’s 15 minutes. I check out my Twitter feed in the morning and at night, and have an app that allows me to Tweet all at one time and then spread them out throughout the day.
I have a couple of young, bright staff members who love it, and follow and Tweet our info throughout the day, in addition to their regular duties.
We get feedback from our customers. Thanking us for mentioning them and then forwarding our Tweet (retweeting) to their followers. That helps us in two ways — our customers feel like we remember them, and our message is sent to their followers.
(This is called “going viral” — that is, if maybe 100 or 1,000 followers retweet and the numbers go up exponentially. It usually happens to Miley Cyrus, the Kardashians, or a video of cat playing the piano − but you get the idea.)
And that, of course, is the goal. The more followers, the more impact, the more chance of going viral, and the more growth.
On Twitter, our @jvhpt and @parkingtoday have more than 1,600 followers (after only about two months of active tweeting) and are growing daily.
Don’t expect a parking Twitter account to explode like @realdonaldtrump (3.5 million followers), but do expect slow and steady growth. If we get a couple additional followers a day, we are happy.
Consider Twitter. It’s world-class marketing, it’s intriguing and, dare I say it, it’s fun.
I’ll try to explain it in layman’s terms later. Don’t ask a 14-year-old or a hip employee — they make assumptions about knowledge you simply don’t have.
Oh, and do follow us on Twitter @jvhpt and @parkingtoday.
John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jvhpt