I (along with the rest of the marketing world) have been writing more and more about Twitter in the last few months. How to use it, how to leverage it, and why you need to be part of the conversation. While there are now plenty of examples of why Twitter is valuable in terms of networking and driving traffic, David Armano has a great post this week exploring how two companies are using Twitter to interact with customers and to build their brand.

David takes a look at how both Southwest and Zappos (two companies known for their impressive customer service and creative use of social media) are now leveraging Twitter.

To illustrate my point, I recalled a recent interaction I had with Southwest airlines on Twitter. They had found a comment I made about how much I enjoyed using one of their kiosks and responded to it. The last time I flew Southwest, I shot out a "tweet" right before takeoff saying "thanks for being on time". Of course, by the time I landed, they had responded.

Now along comes Zappos. Specifically their CEO. A couple of weeks ago I am notified that Zappos is following me on Twitter. I watch the brand in their new environment. Observe how they behave. Notice that they begin conversations with other people on Twitter and yesterday it all came together as Zappos spontaneously gave away 10 pairs of shoes randomly to Twitter followers. (Above is a direct message from the CEO explaining to me how he got the idea to do the give-away.)

I honestly can't say I'm surprised about either of these companies leveraging Twitter this way. Zappos is well known for their amazing customer service. Southwest is well known for having one of the most engaging blogs in corporate America. In fact, Southwest is so dedicating to using their blog to have conversations with their customers, that they often take business ideas to their core customers before putting them in place at the company.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that these companies are exploring other ways of talking to their customers. In fact, there's something to be learned from following companies like Zappos and Southwest on Twitter.

The Zappos team has done a great job of building up followers. Yesterday they gave away ten pairs of shoes to random followers. Today, they are giving away a trip to Vegas and lunch with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. As of the writing of this post, Zappos had more than 1300 followers. While those numbers aren't staggering, they are impressive for a company. Tony uses the Zappos Twitter account to share details of his day, to gather feedback on company projects and even to invite Vegas area Twitter users to a company picnic.

Southwest tends to use their account more for scanning conversation from Twitter users who are flying Southwest and for responding directly to comments about the airline. If you scan their list of recent posts, you'll see it's absolutely filled with messages to Southwest customers.

The trick here is to remember to find balance. Tony Hsieh explains he often relies on direct messaging to respond to customer comments. It's important to respond to tweets, but it obviously wouldn't take long for folks to start unfollowing Zappos because of all the responses. I'd expect we might see Southwest follow suit with this method of customer response as their network grows as well.

April 14, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


We were just brainstorming the other day about the creative use of twitter. One of the items was the idea that a shoe company (strange!) or a purse company could distribute information about up-to-the-minute product releases for crazy fans via Twitter. Give-aways or a step up from this.

I also had a good example of a business twittering (and yes, it's tough to find); JetBlue



Also, @comcastcares is coming on strong as of late.

I enjoyed your insights and wonder what you think about (a) how a company can use twitter poorly and (b) non-marketing uses such as qwitter.

@comcastcares responded to my twitter-tirade against DirecTV in about 47 seconds. Good stuff!

Read about how DirecTV is hosing me and how Comcast really might care: http://tinyurl.com/647kyk

What an utterly ghastly world you all inhabit.

Bollocks to the airline, and bollocks to kowtowing to them.

You all live in some ludicrous meta-bubble floating high above the real world.

Zappos really has done a great job with their Twitter. Since this post, they have gone from 1300 followers to 206,000 followers. Tony Hsieh was quoted as saying that you have to "Embrace the transparency!" to really succeed and it looks like he knows what he's talking about!

Ya once I made a comment re my Dell corporate laptop (Latitude). It was not positive, lol, screen repair and waiting for 25 minutes with Dell. I got a message from a support rep and it was fixed promptly. So this really empowers the joe schmoe consumer.
Also there's a been a lot of companies using Twitter for INTERNAL employee satisfaction. We use Igloo and when our group got upset about something, Jay (the president) actually poped in and helped us so even internally it is having an impact. (There are a lot of other good internal corporate twitter sites like Snipia and YooLinkPro)

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Great Examples of Corporate Twitter Use