Twitter: Time to Dip Your Beak in the Water


Share on LinkedIn

What do Barack Obama, Stephen Fry and Sir Richard Branson have in common? They are all avid ‘Tweeters’. is now the 3rd largest social networking site after MySpace and Facebook with 6 million users according to latest estimates. It is also the fastest growing community on the planet.

“So what?, you say; Twitter is just for self-absorbed teenagers who wish to share the minutiae of their sad lives with their circle of sad friends. Why should you care? Well, maybe because IBM, Virgin, Cisco, O2, Wholefood Markets, Jet Blue, The BBC, The Los Angeles Fire Department and the President of the United States, to name but a few, care. They use it to communicate, listen to their customers, gauge reactions and help manage crises.

In January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 experienced multiple bird strikes and had to be ditched in the Hudson River after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Janis Krums, a passenger on one of the ferries that rushed to help, took a picture of the downed plane as passengers were still evacuating and tweeted it via TwitPic before traditional media arrived at the scene so that the emergency services and media knew just what was unfolding.

One of my favourite brands is The Geek Squad. The other day, one of their Special Agents was fixing my computer and as always, was giving me great advice on technology in general. He told me that The Geek Squad and their partner, the Carphone Warehouse, use the search functionality on Twitter to find people who have problems with their handsets and technology and then send a message to them offering help and advice-even when these people are not their customers.

Think about that for a moment- no more sitting in a queue waiting for some IVR machine to answer your call; you merely tweet about your problem and then you get a call from someone like ‘my’ Geek Squad Special Agent offering to make the pain go away!

I decided it was time to put away my middle-aged prejudice and check this out. I opened my Twitter account and pretty soon was ‘Tweeting’ like a good’un. And the penny dropped for me-there is a world of information out there and people willing to share the best bits for free. Interested in CEM? Politics? Vintage cars? Whatever your interest you can get great sources of information and recommendations with a few clicks.

So what does it offer that Google doesn’t? – recommendations from people who share similar interests. For example, if you want to get some great tips on customer experience papers and research then follow my friend Randy Saunders of Cincom.
Of course if you get tired of working you can check out the most followed person on Twitter, Stephen Fry (306,017 followers and counting) and find out what he is having for dinner…

Alternatively, if you get really bored you can follow me at

Go on. Dip your beak in the water…

Shaun Smith
Shaun Smith is the founder of Smith+Co the leading UK based Customer Experience consultancy. Shaun speaks and consults internationally on the subject of the brand purpose and customer experience. Shaun's latest book 'On Purpose- delivering a branded customer experience people love' was co-written with Andy Milligan.


  1. Nice post Shaun, agreed…in my opinion Twitter is one of those tools that doesn’t seem to have much appeal on the surface, but can be quite useful for mining customer data.

    The web in general is about people connecting with other people, and twitter is another tool that facilitates that. Where consumers are talking, producers need to be listening. It sure seems like twitter has become too broadly used to ignore.



Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here