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More evidence that Twitter is changing business

Twitter Readers of this blog know that our discussion of social media tools goes beyond how great they are (or are not) to how businesses should think about them for their use, especially for communication and marketing. The focus is on Twitter again today, thanks to two interesting pieces in the media and blogosphere that gives us a glimpse not only on how business can use it, but also whether it is becoming mainstream.

BusinessWeek today published its latest CEO Guide to Technology series with a focus on the use of Twitter in business. The main article covers a lot of the same ground that the New York Times and ABC News have done in the last couple of months, mainly how companies like JetBlue, H&R Block, Comcast and Whole Foods are using Twitter to monitor and respond to customer complaints. The more insightful part of the package comes from an article written by Shel Israel, author of Naked Conversations. His article focuses most on how Dell uses Twitter to -- among other things -- drive sales. I thought this was very interesting and an application of Twitter that has not been discussed extensively to date.

[Richard] Guerrero did not intend to pioneer the first for-revenue business foray on Twitter, but that's pretty much what happened. In June 2007, Guerrero opened @DellOutlet, the first Twitter-based direct sales account. It offered followers special discounts on rebuilt PCs.

Twitter let Guerrero get to customers quicker and at lower cost than by direct mail. It let anyone interested in a deal follow him for announcements. It reduced his need to jockey for prominent space on the company's massive Web site, where refurbished products were often relegated to the online equivalent of Siberia.

(I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the BusinessWeek Twitter package also includes a slide show of CEO's that use Twitter that includes our own intrepid leader.)

Another post today revealed more about how Twitter is changing the business of media. For two years now, I've been impressed with how innovative CNN is with regards to social media. I remember in early 2007 when it reported on the YouTube video of a Comcast technician falling asleep on the job, because it had staffers assigned to trolling the site for news making content. It was one of the first to jump on the citizen journalism movement with its iReports. 

And now it will broadcast what some people are saying is the first of its kind "Twitter show." It debuted this afternoon, as part of CNN's Newshour program, which Rick is now hosting from 3-4 p.m. EDT. At the start of the broadcast, Rick tweeted the question "new, rudy gulliani, now black bloggers are using his conv quote about comm org?" to his more than 9,600 followers. Then at several points during the broadcast he showed a screen of responses and read select ones aloud in a new twist of citizen journalism. While I think this is an interesting experiment, what would make it more effective would be to have the Twitter conversation stream on CNN.com so viewers could see all responses. If you're interested in the replies, you can use Twitter's search engine to see for yourself.

(Hat tip to Craig Stoltz for informing me about the Rick Sanchez thing.)

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