Twitter: You Suspect It Would Waste Your Time, Are You Right?

What is it?

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which enables 160 character text messages (called “Tweets”) to be broadcast to “Followers”.

From a business perspective, Twitter can be useful in 2 ways:

  1. For introducing your brand to a new, tech-savvy segment of the population
    • When you “Follow” someone they are notified via email (unless they opt out of this notification) and they may be curious enough to find out more about you by reading your profile, reading your recent tweets or clicking a link to your website
    • A Korean BBQ truck in Los Angeles became famous for using Twitter to update their customers about what street corner they were parked on every night (this was back in March 2009)
  2. For monitoring what is said about your brand online
    • Telecom New Zealand is especially good at this. They have a small team who respond to every negative or positive comment about them, usually within minutes.
    • One of the most famous Twitter users in New Zealand in the food service category is the manager of an Italian Gelato shop in Auckland called Giapo:

What did owners of NZ cafe’s, restaurant’s and bar’s have to say about Twitter?

I interviewed 7 owners one-on-one in April 2011. None of the owners interviewed had used Twitter for personal or business use.

Owners had this to say:

  • “I don’t know if my staff use Twitter, they haven’t talked about that much. I did hear about it from the news in a story about how a celebrity was using it. From a business point of view I don’t really understand what it is, so I wouldn’t know how to apply it”
  • “I’ve never gone on it. Facebook is enough for me”
  • “I don’t know what that is”
  • “I’m sceptical that it will bring in more customers. I’m concerned it will just suck up even more time”
  • “I don’t think it is really a kiwi thing”
  • “We intend to start using Twitter soon. We will work on developing a formula over time by trying different kinds of content such as announcements about the freshness and taste of our dishes, and questions about their last visit”

What did customers say?

105 members of the public answered a questionnaire as part of my research which had several questions about Twitter specifically.

15% of these respondents reported “Sometimes”, “Often”, or “Always” seeing people they follow talk about their experiences at cafes/restaurants/bars on Twitter.

Perhaps this result is more an indication of the low levels of adoption of Twitter amongst New Zealanders than anything else.

The implication for owners is that it is easy to set up alerts to monitor any mention of their brand names on Twitter. If they get one, they have an opportunity to communicate directly to the person praising/complaining and solve the issue.

6% of respondents indicated they “Sometimes”, “Often”, “Always” ask friends via Twitter to recommend a new place to visit.

7% of respondents indicated they “Sometimes”, “Often”, “Always” tried a new place after seeing a Twitter message about it.

Should Cafe/Restaurant/Bar owners get a Twitter account?

Based on the results of these 3 questions about Twitter, it would seem that Twitter should be low down the list of priorities in terms of online marketing methods.

Having said that, there may be some first-mover-advantage of getting involved now rather than waiting to see if critical mass is reached.

Speaking from 3 years of personal experience with Twitter (I recently mothballed 4 of 6 Twitter accounts I have) I would summarise by saying that Twitter is for individuals who follow like-minded individuals who share information and links about topics they are interested in. Those with an explicit business agenda are shunned or worse, ignored.

In short, there is very little opportunity for explicitly converting followers into patrons of your cafe/restaurant/bar. But many people enjoy this medium as a way of keeping up to date on issues and topics in industries that interest them.

How can you get started with Twitter?

The steps are as follows:

  1. Go to and signup for a free account
  2. Fill in your details; a short biography, your location, a link to your website, and upload a photo
  3. Find interesting people/brands to follow:
    • Eg celebrities, media personalities, a guru in a topic you are interested in, influential people or brands in your industry, friends, journalists etc
    • You can search by name, location, words in their profile, or search their latest tweets for a certain keyword
    • By “Following” them you begin to feed their Tweets into your timeline for you to read at a time of your choosing
    • For example you might follow Richard Branson because you find his “just do it” attitude inspiring
  4. Write tweets of your own for your followers (and for people considering following you):
    • Write some wise words
    • Or “ReTweet” something interesting you’ve seen another Twitter user say
    • Or you can post a link to a photo or video
    • Or ask the universe a question
    • Do NOT tell people what you’ve had for lunch!
  5. Reply to other peoples Tweets
    • Reply to other peoples tweets to show your interest, provide feedback, or start a conversation

You don’t need to be infront of a computer to use Twitter. You can post messages to your Twitter page by txt message from any mobile phone. All Smart Phones also have Twitter applications with full functionality.

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