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With Sen. Barack Obama being recognized as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, he can make history if he becomes our next president. Not only by being the nation’s first African American president, but he is also being referred to as potentially the first customer relationship management (CRM) president. You also may even consider him to be the first social media president based on his campaign’s savvy use of the Web.
Those who view him in this light suggest that Obama’s approach to the use of social tools such as Twitter (www.twitter.com) was an important factor in his victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows you to send out short messages using up to 140 characters. People can follow your messages, or tweets, and you can follow theirs. Users can receive your tweets via text message at Twitter.com, or even from within Microsoft Outlook by using a free service such as OutTwit (www.techhit.com/OutTwit).
The Obama campaign’s use of Twitter serves as a good lesson for those trying to understand the importance of social media in business. While it is not nearly as popular as e-mail, instant messaging, and other important business tools, its influence is growing rapidly. As of March 2008, there were more than 1 million users on Twitter, with 200,000 active weekly users, according to popular industry site TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com). Tweets from Twitter can drive significant Web traffic. Twitter power user Jason Calacanis, CEO of the human-powered search site Mahalo.com (www.mahalo.com), recently noted that Twitter is sending more than 20,000 people per month to the site.
With new users coming on board in large numbers, businesses are using Twitter to communicate with their customers and prospects. Dell Computer’s outlet division started a Twitter campaign offering special deals to their followers to increase traffic to their site while lowering inventory levels of certain products. And discount airline JetBlue is using Twitter to keep in touch with customers. It has started offering real-time deals to their followers. But what really endeared JetBlue to the Twitter community is how they picked up on the excitement of people wanting to attend the annual South by Southwest technical and musical festival that took place in Austin, Texas. When people used Twitter to express their frustration with not being able to find flights to the event, JetBlue offered new flights and used Twitter to spread the word.
Because it’s a free service that’s easy to utilize, small businesses are also jumping onboard with Twitter. Anita Campbell, editor of Small Business Trends (www.smallbiztrends.com), views Twitter as a great complement to blogging. “Entrepreneurs and business owners will continue to write on their blogs, but we’ll also have the added context that comes from Twitter messages. We’ll be able to read a blog and then jump over to Twitter to layer in the context in a real-time fashion. And that just might
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