There has been a lot of discussion about Twitter on this blog. This entire week will now be devoted to Twitter stories. Here is one example of how a company is using Twitter for a variety of customer facing activities. I have written about Central Desktop several times (e.g., Central Desktop Moves Up with Enterprise Edition and How Barack Obama is Using Web and Enterprise 2.0 in the US Primary Campaign Through Central Desktop). They provide a comprehensive SaaS based social technology platform used by business teams to interact, share and manage their daily work activities. Unfortunately for me I have no other connection with them (disclosure).
I recently spoke with Isaac Garcia, their co-founder and CEO, on another matter, how they are using Twitter. Isaac said that they first started experimenting with Twitter more as an interesting toy. They established a company account and Isaac and few others also started their own accounts. This was last March. They would point to selected blog posts, company news, as well as comment on more issues within their market niche. If they saw conversations about Central Desktop or relevant social media issues, they would join the conversation. This latter move was when it began to get exciting.
Isaac said they were able to respond to questions about Central Desktop, as well as both positive and negative issues. In the later case, they could often correct wrong impressions such as a Tweet hoping for the addition of a feature that they actually provided. People would often be amazed after simply Twitting to the general world about an issue connected to Central Desktop, that the CEO himself would provide a personal response, answering their question. It has become a great listening device for them and a way to engage in conversations with client and prospects.
Then it went beyond customer connection and service to become a sales channel. Prospects have been contacting them to learn about features. In one case, a marketing firm contacted them through Twitter and they began a Twitter exchange addressing their questions and concerns. The firm was considering whether to expand their current on-premise solution or move to a SaaS offering. This conversation went back and forth between public replies and some private direct messages. Finally, the firm called Central Desktop and signed up. Soon the story spread throughout Central Desktop about a 27 Tweet and one phone call sales close. People were amazed that they had closed a sale on Twitter and more people became engaged with the channel. Many other sales have now involved Twitter in the process.
I asked Isaac for his advice to others who want to use Twitter to better engage with customers and prospects. He said to not be too aggressive on the promotional side. It can compromise the authenticity that people expect with Twitter. He feels that because of the chatty nature of Twitter, authenticity is even more important than with blogs. Just engage in conversations. Look for people talking about your product and provide answers. Do not avoid negative discussions as you can often turn these around with honest answers. People have been amazed that they get instant responses at the moment of frustration. Central Desktop is now asking questions on Twitter such as “has anyone in a (certain industry) used Central Desktop for (a certain purpose)” and they are getting responses. It is a great tool to listen to whatt customers want. Prompt them with questions rather that start with your answers and then answer their questions.
Impressed with Twitter’s capabilities, Central Desktop is now evaluating approaches to implementing micro-messaging capabilities into their platform for secure use by teams within an enterprise.
I asked Isaac how they were doing in the down economy. It was good to learn that, like others in the enterprise 2.0 space, they're doing very well. The fourth quarter of 2008 provided record sales and profits. Isaac attributed this, in part, to the SaaS nature of their offering. People are increasingly seeing the low cost of entry that cloud solutions offer. You can try an application on a small scale without upfront software and systems integration costs. He also said their focus on the mid-tier enterprise market has helped. I am pleased at the continued growth in this sector. I do not think it is simply counter-cyclical, it will only expand as we move out of the downturn.