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TWTRCON SF09: Twitter for business use

June 1st, 2009 · 15 Comments · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

While the media may have found Twitter, only 5% of Americans are currently using it, according to a research performed by Harris Interactive in April. This doesn’t mean that Twitter is a fad. The adoption of new behaviors is generally a much longer process than is usually anticipated by innovators and early adopters. The truth of the matter is Twitter is still very new – and significantly enough, TWTRCON SF09 that took place on May 31, 2009, was the first conference focusing on Twitter as a business tool for marketing, customer service, PR, or to make money. Quite a few companies explained how they already use Twitter today. The conference was very well organized, very well attended and had great speakers and panelists. Here are some of the highlights for me (for a more complete survey, you may want to check

Operation Smile: Let’s start with a NPO. A great sign (albeit rare) is when a business conference starts with an inaugural party to help a humanitarian cause and provides updates on the money raised throughout the day. Presented as a live case study of a twitter-centric marketing initiative, Operation Smile launched a Twitter 140 Smiles with the goal of raising money to help fund 140 reconstructive surgeries to repair childhood facial deformities, including cleft lips and cleft palates. Check out and! Twitter is not just an American thing! It helps change the life of people thousands miles away from the Silicon Valley.

Navigate inside and through this zoomorama (you can zoom-in/out the pictures as well as see them in full screen). 

Great speakers: The main characteristic of the major individual speakers was their authentic spontaneity.  

Laura Fitton started with a pre-conference keynote, Twitter for Business 101. The first time I heard about Laura Fitton was when I read Seth Godin’s Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us . In less than two years, she has become a real social media guru (although she views herself more as a “Twitter student” than an expert), and her company, Pistachio Consulting ( focuses on ways to connect businesses to new ideas and innovations using microsharing platforms. So, find the right followers, leverage this huge opportunity to connect to customers, and integrate Twitter into your operations – just as Salesforce is integrating Twitter. Her book Twitter For Dummies  (coauthored with Michael Gruen and Leslie Poston, to be published in July) will certainly convince even the most skeptical.

Twitlebrity is not the point. Efficiency is. Guy Kawasaki is a most famous twitterer, not for the sake of fame, but for business. His interview by Gina Smith was a great moment of humor and honesty. “I’m not on Twitter to make friends,” he acknowledged unambiguously, “but to promote Alltop.” View this as spam (but, you willingly subscribed!) but do not forget that Spam is a delicacy for Hawaiians. And what is perceived as ghostwriting by twittering lone-riders is teamwork potency in business. We knew that already: Kawasaki is no macho. His team: four women who have real names and are real people.

Shel Israel announced his future book, Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods, to be published in September. His speech featured the stories of like-minded people, who assemble through Twitter, build personal global neighborhoods – in other words, a diverse Twitterville population, ranging from business folks to Janis Krums, who sent an image of the US Airways plane moments after it plunged landed on the Hudson River. “If the Pulitzer judges don’t consider an iPhone photo next year,” he comments, “I’ll eat my hat.”

The last individual speaker was Steve Rubel. He created a life chart using Mind Note, a mind mapping program, of where Twitter stands in the industry ecosystem and the directions the product might possibly take as a social OS that enables to a site to make social or a marketing OS. The diagram, inspired by Brian Solis’s Twitterverse, is now published at Here below is a zoomable version of it:

Steve Rubel was definitely more exciting than the conversation with Anamitra Banerji, from the Twitter Product Management team, who rehashed that Twitter’s corporate motto is “We don’t know” for about 30 minutes. I truly wondered if I was watching the Silicon Valley aesthetization of cluelessness, a repeat of the “no-business model” snobbishness of the Internet bubble – only adapted to social media, or the elaborate staging of a revolution-to-come. Strange when there were a number of companies eager to discuss the viability of Twitter for their businesses.

Great panelists: The various representatives from large corporations were significantly more eloquent and enthusiastic about Twitter than the Twitter representative that appeared. What some of them do is already quite remarkable. Virgin America, Intuit, Phoenix Suns, PR Newswire, Boingo Wireless, Well Fargo, Comcast, Carl’s Jr,. Kogi BBQ, Dell Outlet, eBay, Cisco, and FutureWorks see Twitter as a platform: companies can strengthen their brand by engaging with their customers in real time, inform and support them better, create user communities, and generate more revenue. In doing so, each of them insisted on the necessity of defining clear strategies and measure actual results using different methodologies and various products (Radian6 was the most frequently mentioned), define rules of engagement and ways to personalize their brands, and eventually manage potential liabilities (while taking into account that the Twitter universe already has its own codes of conduct and is in many respects governed by its members — as is the case for most social tools). Even though many of these efforts are still at a fairly early stage, it is obvious to them that Twitter has the potential to drive real business, as was clear from the remarks of Stefanie Nelson at Dell, or Beth Mansfield, from Carl’s Jr. Beth has a real strategy on when is best time to tweet (the tweetspot), and she made a few people smile when she described herself as “a chubby 42-year-old wife and mother” interacting with her followers, “18-35 young hungry males.”

They are also all aware that “Twitter is dramatically changing the era of top-down management of corporate communications in real time,” as Brian Solis said at some point, and that if Twitter is a great environment to turn customers into evangelists, it also enables them to scream when they are unhappy — which turns out not to be such a big deal, as it enables marketing to better escalade problems and solve them faster. Forward-looking companies understand that the era of hidden dirty secrets is over, anyway. With platforms such as Twitter, customer-centricity is more than the one-to-one deal of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It’s a public commitment in a world that has morphed into a public tribunal: When a first class passenger on Virgin writes a tweet to say that he is hungry, you have to feed him!

Most of these companies are also looking at leveraging Twitter within a global social media perspective and working at the its integration with not only their Web sites using products such as Hootsuite, but their overall operations and IT environment. (We can only hope that Twitter will be able to hire the right folks to address their reliability and availability problems).

On the lighter business use side, “Your Brand is a Person,” I can’t help mentioning MC Hammer on the stage with Stefanie Michaels ( While agents try shield to shield entertainers and athletes and build their mystery persona, the life of celebrities is so exposed in the media and sometimes beyond recognition, that MC Hammer doesn’t see the risk he tales. “There was socializing before there was a platform,” MC Hammer said plainly; “embarrassing yourself on Twitter is not a new risk.”

Let’s Cut to the Chase: This was the title of the last topic of the day. The Twitter concept is here to last one way or the other. How big will Twitter is going to be? That’s everybody’s guess. I believe that Jeremiah Owyang ( could be quite right in assuming that the approach will turn into a universal protocol that will make it normal stuff. As far I am concerned, I tend to believe that the company’s somewhat complacent procrastination about defining its business model (even if it’s to find out the best practices nuggets, which is often absurd in a startup) may accelerate the commoditization of the concept. I hope this does not jeopardize the business prospects of the multiple — and often bootstrapped — companies that have created beautiful, interesting and useful products around Twitter. Here are some of the ones featured at the Conference: ObjectiveMarketer, PeopleBrowsr, UserVoice, ThumbFight,, or Twitfunnel.

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis (

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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Twitted by Jimcer // Jun 2, 2009 at 12:56 am

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  • 2 Franklin // Jun 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Thanks for a great wrap-up of the conference. Twitter may be like CB radio of the 80’s, which showed enormous growth and hype but subsequent total deflation. I find very little in the Tweets I follow, mostly a bunch of links with little description. Not enough time to waste chasing all this information.

    On another similar topic of hyped up communities, I wonder if FaceBook is not losing it’s core constituency: namely 17 yrs old girls. My daughter and three of her friend have closed their accounts. The problem is photos ! When you have a boyfriend you don’t need photos of yourself all over the net, so you close your account. Then you discover that life is as fun in the real world, if not more, and that you don’t lose any friends from not being on FaceBook. At parties now it is seen as utterly uncool to take pictures instead of enjoying the moment.

    If 17 years old girls leave FaceBook won’t boys from 15 to 25 be far behind ? Since FaceBook has not made the transistion to professional tool then I think it may go the way of MySpace and become irrelevant down the road – a simple email and photos repository.

  • 3 TWTRCON SF09: Twitter for business use Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship | Venture Capital And Entrepreneurship // Jun 2, 2009 at 2:10 am

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  • 4 TWTRCON SF09: Twitter for business use | Money Blog : 10 Dollars : Money Articles. // Jun 2, 2009 at 4:33 am

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  • 5 Krystyl // Jun 2, 2009 at 5:35 am

    This is a GREAT recap of the conference!

  • 6 Twitted by DixonGarett // Jun 2, 2009 at 5:52 am

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  • 8 Amber Naslund // Jun 2, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Hi Marylene,

    What a fantastic recap! We were delighted to hear about all the mentions at the conference, and all the great takeaways that many of the attendees talked about. Sounds like a great event.

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

  • 9 TWTRCON SF09: Twitter for business use « Business Blog // Jun 2, 2009 at 6:49 am

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  • 10 TWTRCON SF09: Twitter for business use | // Jun 2, 2009 at 8:14 am

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  • 11 Twitted by JBanis // Jun 2, 2009 at 2:40 pm

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  • 13 Franklin // Jun 5, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Follow-up on my earlier comment, an Harvard Study about Twitter shows that only 10% of the “prolific” twitterers represent 90% of tweets. A regular member tweets only ONCE !

    Moreover, returning to Facebook, it is clear that guys are on the social networks for girls, and girls are there for other girls. So if girls do leave the social network, then the air goes out.

    from the above mentioned Harvard Study: On a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women – men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they knowi. Generally, men receive comparatively little attention from other men or from women. We wonder to what extent this pattern of results arises because men and women find the content produced by other men on Twitter more compelling than on a typical social network, and men find the content produced by women less compelling (because of a lack of photo sharing, detailed biographies, etc.).

  • 14 Tonia Ries // Jun 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Marylene – I just came across this article today – thank you for this very thoughtful recap of the event! I’m adding it to the links of TWTRCON SF 09 stories and photos we are collecting here: Thank you for participating!

  • 15 articles-twitter-facebook « Stefanm, my link collection // Jun 24, 2009 at 1:26 pm

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