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Live at TWTRCON: Tips and a touch of controversy

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Digital Technology

This post is from SmartBrief on Social Media contributing editor Ambreen Ali, who is at TWTRCON, the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform.

There’s been a buzz of activity (and controversy!) at TWTRCON in San Francisco today.

First, the controversy: The audience grilled Alltop’s Guy Kawasaki after he admitted to using ghost tweeters and asserted, “I am probably a spammer, but what is spam on Twitter? Twitter is a marketing tool. I use it to promote a product. I’m not on Twitter to make friends.” His unapologetic tone rubbed some the wrong way, but as he notes, people can choose who they follow.

The sold-out conference kicked off with a pre-keynote address from Pistachio Consulting’s Laura Fitton. “Providing value to others is an important way to become influential on Twitter,” she said. “You will perish unless you create value.” She emphasized contributing to the knowledge base and discouraged Twitter marketing campaigns, though a panel later offered some great examples of how they used it for just that purpose.

My favorite campaigns came from Intuit, which is using playful contests to put a human face on @TurboTax. “Rappers everywhere know that TurboTax is easy,” touts a rap competition that seeks rap videos on — no surprise — taxes.  The company is also offering a $25,000 giveaway that people can enter by updating their social media statuses. “About to call someone and tell them they won $10,000,” Seth Greenberg, the company’s online advertising and Internet media director, recently tweeted.

Virgin America also demonstrated the power of Twitter as a customer service tool: The WiFi-enabled airline responded to a mid-air tweet from a hungry customer by bringing him food!

The social media vets offered these tips for using Twitter:

  • Don’t lose track of customers. Use the auto-follow feature to make sure you don’t lose track of the people writing about you and requesting your attention, says Virgin’s Porter Gale.
  • Keep your “enemies'”close. Follow conversations about your competitors, but Twitter netiquette goes against stealing customers from others, says Intuit’s Greenberg.
  • Make interaction fun. The Intuit rap campaign is a great example of how to generate buzz while giving followers a fun way to interact with your brand.
  • Take advice from your peers. The recurring theme at today’s conference: Nobody is an expert. We are all learning, and Twitter is still being fleshed out. Given that, Virgin America’s Gale says she isn’t afraid to talk to other tweeters and seek their advice on her social media ideas.

Twitter-based start-ups have also been pitching their ideas all morning. Here’s a glimpse:

  • HootSuite: Still in private beta, this tool lets you pre-schedule your messages and provides measures of success.
  • PeopleBrowsr: This hyper-search app lets you narrow the tweeters you’re following based on location. For the Hudson plane crash, PeopleBrowsr could have been used to see only those tweets coming from the crash site, filtering out a lot of unrelated noise.
  • CoTweet: Companies like Whole Foods, Starbucks, and MailChimp are using this service to manage their brands and follow the conversations happening around them.

Image credit, iStock