Tapping the Groundswell with Twitter

This chapter begins with the story of a mother who used Twitter to tweet a message directed to McDonalds about her child, who is a superhero fan, receiving a girl toy from a local McDonalds. The company listens to Twitter and uses it to talk to customers. A member from the company customer satisfaction department responded to the Twitter mention and contacted the woman who then received a handwritten note, a dessert coupon, and the toy the child wanted. This story is an example of company’s who use social media to respond to their customers and create solutions. I personally had a bad experience at a well-known retail store I shop at frequently and mentioned the company name in a tweet and a someone from the company from customer care personally contacted me to hear more about my story after I mentioned that I would not return to the store. Although I probably won’t return to that store location, as a customer I felt that my concern was acknowledged even though I was just one of thousands of followers online.

Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”, limited to 140 characters. It’s free and open, connects people, and allows registered users to update from anywhere. As a result, it’s rapidly become a key part of the groundswell – driving, reporting on, and extending activity in everything from blogs to social networks (Li & Bernoff, 2011). There are a few elements of Twitter:

  • Followers: Anyone can follow anyone else, it only allows connections to form quickly.
  • Hashtags and searches: All Twitter updates are public, which makes them searchable. Hashtags are terms designed to mark a tweet as referring to a topic and are indicated by the pound or hash sign (#). Searches on hashtags are more precise since the person who included the hashtag in his or her tweet intended it to be searchable. Hashtags are not only limited to Twitter. On Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing application and service, users can share pictures and videos with hashtags that link to similar photos and experiences shares by other users who used the same hashtag. For example, uploading a picture of your cat and including the hashtag #catsofinstagram leads to a large collection of other cat pictures and videos from public profiles of other users.
  • Mentions and tweets: Using the “at” (@) symbol along with the user’s Twitter handle provides an easy way to reply to or reference another Twitter user within a tweet.
  • Links: Tweets can include links to websites. You can share an article or anything else on the web along with a note recommending it.
  • Lists: You can create lists of people you follow and share it.
  • Apps and tools: A tool called TweetDeck is an application for collecting your mentions and searches into columns. CoTweet is a tool that evaluates the influence of Twitter users.

Despite the small amount of users actively tweeting, approximately 7% of adults in the United States, these users have a significant level of importance because they’re among the most influential people. According to the Social Technographics Profile of Tweeters, they are more likely to be creators and conversionalists. Around 10% of all the influence spread in social networks comes from Twitter, and more than 70% of Twitter users say they often tell friends about products that interest them.

Twitter can serve many objectives. When your company starts to connect, people will expect the company to listen and respond and not just broadcast. You still need a primary objective and to be ready for the expectations of your customers. The groundswell suggests five reasons for how to use Twitter:

  1. Listening to Twitter: Listening is essential, if you don’t, then you won’t know what you’re getting in to. Finding staff to watch comments is challenging, but someone should be looking at trends and identifying whether some influential individuals are talking about the brand. There are many listening tools and companies that can help with monitoring tweets and identifying overall sentiment.
  2. Talking to Twitter: Think about what you can offer that might get picked up and repeated by others. A company’s presence will demand responses to service questions, not just tweeting news. The first case of McDonalds is an example of a company that talks to Twitter.
  3. Energizing with Twitter: The key to energizing is listening first, which then enables you to find the people you want to energize. Energizing on Twitter means responding to fans and retweeting them, as well as giving them content to retweet to their own followers.
  4. Supporting with Twitter: More companies are using Twitter to do support. If you create a Twitter account for your company, people will expect you to respond when they tweet their questions and problems to you.
  5. Embracing with Twitter: Embracing the groundswell – collaborating with your own customers on products or marketing strategies is the most challenging of the objectives. Companies find ways to embrace their tweeting customers, such as using Twitter to drive people to surveys. The best way to embrace with Twitter is to engage in dialogue. Developing a following can embrace their ideas.

Twitter will only be effective if you choose a clear objective and develop a strategy to make progress toward that objective. Twitter is the visible face of the company in the groundswell, and the following strategies are also good advice for your social strategy in general:

  • Lock up your handle: “Verified accounts” are prominent brands and individuals that help ensure that people know those handles belong to the real company.
  • Listen first: Know what people are tweeting about you before you start posting.
  • Be ready to support people: You need a procedure to identify users who need help and hand them off to your customer service or technical support group.
  • Follow others: Allows people to send a direct message, a best practice for providing support where people need to share personal information with you.
  • Be ready for a crisis: Form a plan to allow your PR people to turn the Twitter handle into an information channel.
  • Respond, retweet, and link

Accounting Today is an account I recently followed which is an independent news and information resource for tax and accounting professionals (Accounting Today, 2017). Other accounting firms can use Twitter to promote services. Having a blog for your practice is a great way to educate clients and prospects about your services. Twitter is a great tool for sharing relevant and valuable content with your clients and prospects. After you publish each article, you can tweet each new article from your blog and then engage your followers in discussions around the article.


Accounting Today. (2017). Accounting Today. Retrieved from Twitter: https://twitter.com/accountingtoday

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review.


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