How Twitter Can Drive Your Bottom Line

“Yes, I have tweeted.” If you’re a fan of Stephen Colbert, you’ll know that his boastful response to Meredith Viera earlier this month wasn’t phrased exactly that way, but it’s clear that America is tweeting along with him.

So, how many people are using Twitter? According to Compete data, 14 million people visited twitter.com in March, a 76% increase from February and a whopping 14 times more than March last year. And this doesn’t count the twitterati who rely on software apps like TweetDeck or Seesmic. The site already attracts more people than Ticketmaster, WSJ and LinkedIn, and the term “Twitter” had more queries than “American idol” and “IRS” across the top search engines last month. Like its social media predecessors, Twitter has captured the attention of consumers — and marketers have to play catch-up once again.

Given this explosive growth, is there any doubt that brands will try to tap Twitter as a marketing tool? But therein lays the challenge: marketers haven’t encountered anything like Twitter before. Despite its large user base, the underlying mechanics of Twitter are really about being atomically small. As a marketer, how can you hope to drive sales or create a branded experience when you’re faced with a 140-character limit and a massively fragmented audience? How do you attract a following? How does it influence your other marketing programs? And how do you know if your efforts are creating ROI?

If you’ve read my other submissions to Metrics Insider on Moneyball Marketing, you’ll know that I am a big fan of marketing that starts with a specific outcome, and then employs creative tactics and new metrics to measure progress and iterate along the way. And in this sense, Twitter is a great tool. While many people are content with Twitter’s soft ROI impact (like seeding and/or listening to conversations about your brand), we are starting to see examples of Twitter’s hard ROI impact, too. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue are tweeting promotional offers to followers, and Dell is probably the first company to achieve $1 million in sales exclusively through Twitter. And you can be sure these brands are taking what they learn from these campaigns and informing the rest of their marketing.

My personal favorite example comes from American Express, specifically its OPEN Forum. The OPEN Web site combines professional editorial, consumer-generated content and product marketing. To tap Twitter, American Express co-opted the popularity of its guest bloggers like Seth Godin, John Battelle and, in particular, Guy Kawasaki, ( who wrote about Twitter on the OPEN Forum site just last week).

To see exactly how American Express and OPEN Forum are excelling with their use of Twitter and getting measurable ROI, check out Compete’s monthly post on MediaPost.

About Stephen DiMarco:
Stephen Dimarco is the Chief Marketing Officer at Compete. He has more than 15 years of marketing and client management experience. With Compete, he has management oversight of Compete’s award-winning consumer services and emerging vertical markets. Stephen also oversees marketing of Compete’s intelligence and targeting services to fortune 500 companies. Previously, Mr. DiMarco was a co-founder of the Internet strategy consulting firm ZEFER and directed business development and marketing initiatives for News Corporation, where he negotiated multi-million dollar distribution agreements for the company's cable programming subsidiaries. Prior to News Corporation, Mr. DiMarco managed the creation of consumer campaigns for Comedy Central, a joint venture between Time Warner and Viacom. Follow him on Twitter @sdimarco

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