Canadian Vending

Features Payment Technology
Dispensing Strategies: July/August 2009

All “A Twitter”


August 31, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

If you’ve been dismissing social networking tools like Twitter,
Facebook and blogs as fringe strategies used only by the young
consumer, think again. Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the
Internet’s evolution from “data source” to “party host.”

If you’ve been dismissing social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs as fringe strategies used only by the young consumer, think again. Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the Internet’s evolution from “data source” to “party host.”

Where we used to surf to gather information – we now surf to gather friends and to interact with those friends. Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Twitter and Plurk were foreign terms just a few years ago.  Today, they describe digital venues for communication but for many of us, we’re still in the dark as to where this technology may or may not fit into our business objectives.

When Pizza Hut advertised to hire a “Summer Twintern”, it was considered a sign that social media was entering the mainstream marketing mix. The vending industry stands to truly benefit by leveraging some of these tools yet many of us struggle with the learning curve associated with a new technology.

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Who has the time in the midst of running a demanding business? It’s easier than you think and the payoff may be very sweet indeed.

These social networking sites are kind of like virtual cocktail parties. You may start over by the cheese tray chatting with the group discussing politics and then at some point mosey over to the group by the kitchen chatting about music. Social networking is just a few years old but it’s caught on like wildfire with all age groups.

The Entertainment Trends in America study by The NPD Group found that “social networking sites used by teenagers and young adults are also being adopted by baby boomers (aged 44-61). The findings show that 41 per cent of baby boomers have visited social networks, such as MySpace or Facebook,” The study, which surveyed 11,600 consumers online, also found that “over 57 per cent of Web users overall have stopped at social networking sites in the past three months. Baby boomers stopped on average of eight times in that period.”

For industries looking to target men, Twitter may just be the weapon of choice. Harvard Business Review recently surveyed 300,000 Twitter users and discovered that “although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15 per cent more followers than women. Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other.”

The study also reveals that an average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. Similarly, an average woman is 25 per cent more likely to follow a man than a woman.”

The study concluded that “These results are stunning given what previous research has found in the context of online social networks. 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 know.”

The researchers theorize that Twitter’s concise, text-based format appeals more to men. Women are thought to prefer sites rich with images as well.

The key to success with social networking is to blend in. Become part of the conversation rather than an intrusion.

David’s Vending in Vancouver B.C. has been active on Twitter since April 2009 with over 500 followers garnered within two months.

“The key is to not do the hard sell all of the time,” points out Matt Astifan, social media marketer for David’s Vending (MattsMedia on Twitter).

“We’ve included some tweets (posts to Twitter) about tips for successful vending and some trend information. It’s important to honour the social aspect of the site – otherwise you’re spamming,” cautions Astifan. One upside from a Twitter presence for David’s Vending has been the procurement of new machines.

“Someone found us on Twitter and told us about some good machines they had for sale,” says Astifan. “That was an unexpected benefit but it worked out well.”

Naysayers will point out that these social networking sites are time wasters or only for the youth segment. That argument is harder to make since Twitter has begun to serve a political purpose. 

In January, a plane crash-landed on the Hudson River after losing both engines in a bird strike. A photograph posted with the Twitter application TwitPic was one of the first close-up looks at the emergency landing. When a wave of terror attacks sent the Indian city of Mumbai into chaos, many turned to Twitter for the most immediate information available.

Twitter:  Not just for twits anymore.

Blogs are great for longer messages and are more of a one-way communications tactic. They’re well suited for describing new products, adding context and offering advice. Facebook allows people to chat directly with each other, to include video and link to groups of interest.

Twitter’s appeal seems to be its brevity and immediacy. The maximum length of message is 140 characters so Twitter is perfect for quick one-point commentary. There are Twitter groups (called Twibes) that allow birds of a feather… all puns intended.

All of these tools can be leveraged for free. All it takes is a bit of time to play with them, testing their usefulness as a marketing tool. Young employees may well enjoy taking on this responsibility if you don’t have the time or inclination.

Go ahead, log onto Twitter.com and type in “vending” into the search bar. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how progressive many in our industry are.


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