Further proof, if proof were needed, of the fundamental stupidity of social networking, the music industry and the world: a record label executive has been arrested for not using Twitter.
Yes, you read that right.
When a 15-year-old Canadian singer named Justin Bieber was scheduled for an album signing in Long Island, the teen idol’s fans were inexplicably pleased by the news. So pleased, in fact, that 3,000 of them turned up at the venue and promptly started a riot.
Crowd-control police, choosing an inopportune moment to demonstrate that they were down with the kids, reportedly ‘invited’ the senior vice-president of Bieber’s label, one James Roppo, to send out a message on Twitter to inform the screaming girls that the signing was off.
The fans continued to riot, five people (including a police officer) were injured, and the exec was arrested for felony assault, endangering the welfare of a child, obstruction of governmental administration, reckless endangerment and criminal nuisance.
Roppo has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He appeared in court last week with his attorney at the First District Court in Hempstead. Scott Leemon of Manhattan and was released on $50,000 bail. His next court appearance is Dec. 9.
Speaking outside the First District Court Leemon said his client was being unfairly singled out. “He had nothing to do with the injuries that occurred. Mr. Roppo has absolute zero liability.”
We don’t wish to excuse the organizational blunders that led to several thousand teenagers rioting in a confined space on a second-floor balcony.
Witnesses stated they were pressed up against a safety railing so hard that it bent – and there’s nothing barmy or Kafka-esque about calling to account whoever was responsible for creating a situation that could have been far bloodier than it actually was.
But picking out the guy who refused to send a tweet? Come on.
For one thing, rioters (and, for that matter, teenage girls) are by definition irrational.
They’re not going to check their smartphones and change their minds about the whole thing when they see that the signing has been cancelled. Furthermore, if that information would have been enough, what was wrong with a megaphone?
Just because the technology exists to do something, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Twitter is a medium: no more, no less. It has some advantages as a medium, but ultimately what you say is more important than the medium you use to say it. And if your message is weak (“crowd: please disperse”), it doesn’t matter whether you use Twitter, megaphone or carrier pigeon.
Anyway, if we have to be talking Twitter, why not move on to one of its more constructive uses – such as how to use the social networking service to win in business.
Because a Tweet must be sent in 140 characters or less, you need to get to the point of your message quickly and it must be succinct.
Most of all, according to Laura Fitton (who goes by the Twitter handle @pistachio and who runs a consultancy that helps companies utilize microblogging), you need to be interesting.
Here, we take a look at four ways companies and their employees are using Twitter to engage customers and what kind of messages they’re trading with them to draw them to their products.
1. (Careful) Product Pushing
As a company, you should avoid being blatantly self-promotional on Twitter, Fitton says. Because people are choosing to subscribe to your site, however, she says you can assume they’ll expect (and want) some discussion and updates about your products. But the key is to have some voice or commentary in your tweets to go along side product information.
Messages targeting customer problems and needs are more useful than blatant advertising pitches.
JetBlue (@JetBlue) has been especially effective at striking this tone. Here is an example of one of their latest tweets:
“JetBlue has landed on eBay. We wanted to try something different. We’re auctioning off some great packages on eBay .”
Kodak, which has a chief blogger (@kodakCB), wrote about how her company’s product was being used rather than giving blatant product pitch:
“Spent the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival. Saw some great movies shot on Kodak film!”
The messages suggest this lesson: Avoid marketing speak and be up front and honest. JetBlue and Kodak’s tone is informative, sometimes nonchalant, and less pushy than, say, “Come check out all our great deals on eBay!” or “Go buy our newest film!”
2. Community Outreach
One way companies can be successful is by thinking about the communities that they serve, both online and offline.
After Hurricane Gustav hit, Whole Foods (@wholefoods), the grocery store chain, kept people in the loop regarding their stores in the areas affected. One example:
“Louisiana update: Baton Rouge store open 10a-6p til further notice; we’re working on getting New Orleans stores open & will keep you posted.”
Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken), a fast food chain, was also keeping its followers updated and reminded them to evacuate the area:
Closed all the Popeyes in southern Louisiana so there is no need to stay. Please evacuate and BE SAFE! I’ll be here when you return!
Short, sweet, and helpful.
3. How-To and Service Questions
Some companies such as Comcast (@comcastcares) have begun assigning an employee to take customer questions over Twitter. This level of communication allows for a level of intimacy absent from corporate websites that offer FAQ sections of their site.
Pandora Radio, the free service that provides users with customized radio stations and offers them options to buy music over Amazon or iTunes, has been especially effective. They have a community manager named Lucia that runs the Twitter handle @Pandora_Radio.
Here’s an example of a Pandora user who had a question regarding using the “Thumbs Up” feature on Pandora (on the service, when you like a song, you click on a thumbs up button that tells Pandora to play more songs like that one).
@MattDionee: played Jack Johnson on my Foo Fighters station. I want to thumbs up it because I like it but it does not fit the station.
Response from Pandora:
@MattDionne Yeah, thumbs it down if it doesn’t fit the station. That feedback won’t affect your other stations, don’t worry. 🙂 Lucia
4. Humanizing the Head Honcho
CEOs (with some exceptions) have generally been lousy bloggers because they aren’t good at it or they don’t have time, Fitton says. Now, with microblogging tools like Twitter that integrate with their mobile phones, there is a better opportunity for them to communicate with employees and customers, she says.
BusinessWeek did a slideshow about CEOs on Twitter. It included Sun’s CEO, Jonathan Schwartz (@SunCEOBlog), and Tony Hsieh ( @zappos), Zappos.com’s chief executive. The latter has been especially effective at humanizing himself to his Twitter audience, which Fitton says pays dividends in building social capital.
Hsieh’s tweets don’t always center around Zappos.com, the online retailer. Instead, they give you a glimpse into his day-to-day life:
Haircut @ Great Clips, I wanted sideburns removed. Shocked, they asked if I was sure abt getting rid of my manhood. I said yes. Manhood gone. Just saw a coyote (or fox?) 2 blocks from my house. I got out of my car to say hi, but it ran away. I hope it wasn’t looking for @el_gato All of my SF friends twittering about 4.2 earthquake, 1st tweet at 9:01 PM. No way I would have found out about it so quickly w/o twitter
Evidence this style of Twittering is working to build awareness of his public persona? Hsiesh has one of the largest followings for a chief executive. As of the time this story went live, he had 11,267. He in fact follows even more people than that himself: 13,105.
So when he does mention something about his own products, it should be more palatable because he has built “social capital” – that is, he’s posted enough interesting messages to warrant a following and a discussion about his products.