Case studies


A Twitter success story: Search leads to new market discovery

Fara Hain grabbed my attention in a big way. In a recent comment on {grow} she mentioned that Twitter had led her to discover a new market for her company’s product. REALLY? I asked her tell us more and here she goes:

To some, Twitter is surely the Paris Hilton of new media, a place popular only because of its own popularity, fascinating because it’s so clearly pointless. And I admit my initial impression of Twitter was similar. But it didn’t take too long to make me a believer because I saw first-hand how Twitter helped our company create an entirely new line of business.

While working at Gizmoz (now digime), I was pulled into the world of Twitter by two friends who were early adopters.  They encouraged me to try it out and I started by “listening” through a daily search for Gizmoz on the Twitter search box. I thought it would be interesting to see what, if anything, people were saying about us. I collated responses into a spreadsheet to see if I could find a theme or locate emerging influencers.

I found that there was a group of people using my site in a completely different way than I had expected. Gizmoz is a B2C 3D animation company which had launched a web-based tool for teens to create greetings and videos using 3D avatars. On Twitter, our tool was being discussed with hashtags like #edtech.

It turns out we were being discussed on the podium at a major education conference!  To my surprise, teachers had been using Gizmoz in the classroom as an interactive tool for students to create presentations (science classes, social studies, even a kindergarten class!). We were blown away.

By making some simple changes to our product, and asking teachers for their direct feedback, we were able to make Gizmoz more classroom-friendly. We added avatars like Albert Einstein and other historical figures and we started to be more aggressive about hiding public posts which featured less appropriate content.

In our new marketing effort, we actively targeted teachers – who are, in fact, major viral influencers – one teacher influencing 30 students is a marketer’s dream! In this example, teacher in Australia embeds a Gizmoz example in his blog post.

It’s doubtful that I would have ever discovered this amazing new market for our products without Twitter. So while the occasional, “I’m drinking coffee” tweet may be annoying, I now know there’s deep value in there if you know how to look for it.

Fara Hain tweets on Marketing and Financial Media for her company Seeking Alpha

A voice from the Nashville flood: Social media as a lifeline

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Click in downtown Nashville. She had an incredible story about how people used the social web to pull together amidst the greatest catastrophe in the city’s history and was kind enough to share her story with the {grow} community. If you would like to donate to the flood relief effort, I will match your contribution up to a total of $1,000. Honor system – I trust you.  Just send me a DM on Twitter and tell me what you donated and I will match it.  I’ll post a running total in this spot throughout the day. Current reader donations total $855 + match = $1,710. Here is Laura’s post:

In the wake of the catastrophic flooding throughout Nashville last weekend, social media has proven to be an essential communications tool throughout the crisis. In my experience, the most relevant and up-to-date information came from blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

During last Sunday’s storm, 44,000 Nashvillians were without power (myself included). The only way I was able to receive critical information about the severe weather advisories and the growing flood problem was through Twitter and Facebook on my phone.

In the days following the storm and subsequent flooding, my social media circle has continued to keep me informed about road closures, the need to conserve water and how to volunteer with relief efforts. It has been amazing to see the exchange of important, timely information take place online.

The Nashville flood has proven that you don’t need to be a journalist to share valuable information during a crisis. Thousands of citizens have used social media to share their first-hand accounts of the flood. Simply follow the #nashvilleflood hashtag on Twitter and you’ll see a real-time conversation about where help is needed most, photos of the damage throughout the city and positive stories of people who’ve made a difference.

Social media has also amplified how individuals, groups and businesses have found their own unique ways to help flood victims. While some of these efforts have been covered in traditional media, most groups have used Twitter, Facebook and blogs to get the word out. Here are some great examples of the work being done throughout Nashville that have been heavily promoted online:

  • Web site resource. A group of web developers and bloggers banded together to create Donate Nashville, a Web site where flood victims can request assistance or needed items, and volunteers can find ways to donate time and money.
  • Nashville flood t-shirts & posters. A number of graphic designers have created t-shirts and posters with proceeds benefitting a variety of charities supporting flood relief efforts.
  • Business discounts and donations. Many local businesses and restaurants have donated portions of their sales to charities or offered discounts to volunteers.

If it weren’t for social media, many people wouldn’t know about Nashville’s flood disaster. As other bloggers have noted, it took days for the national media to sit up and take notice. And when they did, I credit social media for getting them here.

Some bloggers have received huge national exposure because they did the leg work before the national media arrived. For instance, a post entitled “We are Nashville” from a local hockey blogger has received more than 900 comments and was even mentioned on The Huffington Post.

If you ever question the power of social media, look at how it has been used to connect people during a crisis.

Just ask the people of Nashville.

Laura Click is a marketing consultant in Nashville, Tenn. You can find out more about Laura at www.lauraclick.com, or by following @lauraclick on Twitter.

Image credit: Nashville Flood Tees

 

An eye-popping integration of digital media

This short video was a total “wow” for me — and a digital best practice to share with you.

The case study shows an inventive way of integrating several digital technologies to engage people in a charitable cause  … people on the street actually interact with a digital projection of a homeless man through text messages.

The only thing missing here is results. How much did this cost? What were the goals and were they achieved?  This was an attention-grabber (and there is certainly value in that) but would the money have been better spent buying meals at a mission?

Regardless, this is an exciting demonstration I think you’ll enjoy. Please take a moment to let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thanks to our dear friend Sidney Eve Matrix for introducing this video to our community.

Can Twitter be used as a workplace tool?

A recent research study by IBM indicates that micro-blogging sites like Twitter can be a powerful internal workplace communications tool.

The study said that despite the inherent simplicity, microblogs are evolving into a richly-nuanced medium for maintaining awareness, building relationships, and finding and sharing valuable information from internal and external sources.

The study analyzed more than 5,000 microblog posts from a group of IBM employees who used both a proprietary internal tool to post and Twitter to post externally. The internal IBM micro-blog, called BlueTwit, has many of the same features as Twitter except it had a limit of 250 characters instead of 140 and could only be used internally.

Some key findings:

Real-time Information Sharing and Awareness — IBM heard repeatedly from employees that the value of Twitter was to get access to good information sooner than through other sources. It provided access to thought leaders without having to know them personally. For instance one person said:

“As far as Twitter is concerned the value is two-fold: learning much of what is happening in the marketplace, picking up trends, and picking up news… get a lot of news items earlier that way than any other way… With Twitter I know it’s a human who has selected the information and is saying that you should read this article. RSS feed is robotic selection for topics while Twitter is human selection based on the quality of my network”

Collaboration and Connection — Reading BlueTwit allowed employees to become aware of what their colleagues were working on in areas of the company they would not normally access.   BlueTwit was also used for social purposes. For example, some people used BlueTwit to broadcast lunch and dinner plans asking others if they were interested in joining. An important side effect of microblogging is that mobile and remote workers felt more connected to the company.

Employees  equated interaction on BlueTwit as “family conversation.”  Users could engage in constructive criticism of company products since all discussion was internal. They would avoid doing that on Twitter because they did not want to give the company a bad name.  Contrary to a common perception that microblogs are really just for posting messages about personal activities, IBM found that workplace employees are mostly using the tools to post business information and to engage in brief directed conversation with other employees.

Political expedience — Microblogging can increase the visibility of a topic compared to discussing it over email or instant messenger. Since microblogs are generally public and searchable, more people have access to it. Some employees reported using microblogging intentionally when they wanted to get more visibility on an issue. “Value as an employee is to be visible inside the company,” said one employee.  Another participant mentioned, “If I only ask questions then people will see me as someone who only asks questions. But if I answer, people will see me as someone as who knows and who can help.”

Crowd-sourcing — The report mentioned that one of the benefits of microblogging that has not received as much attention is its use for “crowdsourcing”.  Participants said they got a more rapid response to questions because more people beyond their normal network, including many technology experts, were awares of their problems.

Confidentiality — There was no ambiguity about posting confidential information; all participants exercised common sense and were very clear that they would never post any information that might be construed as confidential on Twitter or even BlueTwit.

Negatives:

  • Participants mentioned that the sheer amount of information on Twitter can get overwhelming, and not all of it is useful.
  • Some users had concerns about spending too much time wading through various pieces of information. Finding intelligent ways of filtering information in microblogging tools such that only information relevant to an individual user is visible is needed for widespread use of microblogging in the workplace.

IBM found opportunity in using micro-blogging with employees.   Is it happening in your company yet?  Why or why not?

Illustration: Scott Hampson: “Twitter Bird In Real Life
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