Big Brands Make Pilgrimage to TWTRCON SF

It was pretty clear at TWTRCON SF 2010 that Twitter is not only here to stay, it’s going to continue to grow in importance in future. I know this because TWTRCON, held at San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko on Nov. 18, was populated by big brands: Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines and H&R Block, to name a few. 

And although there was one small business panel that provided a fair representation of how small businesses can leverage Twitter (a curry truck, the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles and Zoe Keating, the online-only musician with 1.3 million followers), it also seems clear that Twitter is now the communications arena of the big boys. Snoop Dog being paid to tweet for Toyota and AOL needing help tweeting its own content were just a few mentioned. Then there is the #McRibIsBack fiasco, in which an $80,000 promoted tweet campaign garnered more flames than fans (beware, professional communicators—it’s still the Wild West on social media networks).  Kudos to McDonald’s for not throwing in the towel. They are planning to introduce a new espresso-based drink by holding a Twitter-based scavenger hunt. But no promoted tweets or paid Facebook deals this time. 

Also at TWTRCON was an H&R Block case study showing how Twitter can be used as an early warning system for crisis management. H&R Block was alerted to the presence of a disgruntled consumer in one of its 13,000 tax offices. First he Foursquared his location and immediately started posting angry, and rather witty, tweets about his assigned tax adviser. How’s that for a PR nightmare, especially when multiplied by thousands of potentially unhappy customers? The H&R Block virtual customer service team, knowing exactly where he was and what his specific complaints were, contacted the on-site office manager, who quickly resolved the customer’s problem and turned the situation around. All in four minutes. 

There was a lot of technology flashed at TWTRCON.  MacBook Airs, iPads and iPhones 4s abounded, and new technology vendors were represented in force. What emerged however, rather than a discussion of the cutting-edge nature of Twitter, was actually a return to basics. Along with authenticity and engagement (Twitter’s raison d'etre), customer service and customer support were the buzzwords of the day. And for all the talk about the “social consumer,” off-platform benefits and follower engagement, there was even more talk of brand awareness, increased visibility and ad equivalencies.  

This is not to say that new technology didn’t turn heads at TWTRCON.  Tools such as Twitter’s beta advertising platform called Promoted Tweets and real-time business tools and applications were well represented.  In the end, however, the message of the day was that these new technologies provide the tools that are means to a rightful end. Long gone are the days when Twitter was considered a stand-alone, fringe tool. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, Twitter is a mainstream part of every marketers and publicist’s toolkit.  Coming out of TWTRCON, it’s not hard to agree with a post from @Geek8ive’s Top 10 Takeaways from #TWTRCON SF10: “[Twitter] is not a fad—it is the future.”

Jennifer Kaplan (@Greenhance) is author of Greening Your Small Business, editor of and founder of