Is Your Business Ready for a (non-Twitter) Community?

June 17, 2009 - 11:13am -- Erik Olson

Skillet Street Food

After receiving multiple requests for a follow-up to my anti-Twitter rant a few months back, I've decided to try and do just that. While my overall position on Twitter has not changed one bit, I have been closely watching the Tw-efforts of many businesses as they attempt to turn Tweets into cash.

So what did my investigation yield?

An Airstream Skillet TrailerWell, much to my dismay, there are a few pretty decent uses for Twitter that even I was impressed by. I met with the founder and owner of Skillet during a private dinner, and he shared with us how their business was using the Twitter fad to their advantage. For non-Seattle-ites or local folk not familiar with the company, Skillet is a local street food company that cooks high-end food from inside multiple Airstream trailers that are strategically parked in random areas in the Seattle metro area. The menus cater to advanced palettes, but because they are mobile, they are able to keep their costs down.

However, serving complex street food and being mobile does have its challenges. The first major challenge was sharing what was being cooked in a given week. With weekly items like fennel and rosemary roasted pork shoulder sandwiches or sardine salad, keeping their customers up-to-date on the menu was nearly impossible. The other challenge was that their business moved daily, so customers were not able to know where the trailer was parked on a given day.

Enter Twitter. Tweets from Skillet have kept the food-faithful informed on what is being served where, all from the comforts of their phone, Twitter account, or for the Tw-insane, their Tweet-Deck. Now their customers can stay informed quick and easily without bombarding their customers with daily emails or expecting people to log onto their website.

So what does that mean for the rest of us?

Well, I stand by my claim that Twitter is a fad, and that businesses need to be ready for the post-Twitter era, also known as the Tw-apocalypse. I do now have an additional opinion: Businesses that can build their communities on Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace now could very well have a distinct advantage over businesses that missed the fad IF, and this is a big IF, they are able to slowly migrate this community to their own unique space.

How you ask?

Enter Drupal. Drupal can build and manage communities, in fact, it excels at doing just that. I've been busy over the past few months transitioning a few of my Facebook and MySpace communities into a Drupal CMS. There are certain challenges with moving an entire community, whether its a community of hungry eaters, wine drinkers, or music lovers, but what I've found is the hardest part is getting the "Bookmark" or "Favorite" link changed and not the understanding of the community. If anything, the community becomes even more proud to have their OwnSpace on the web.

If you would like to see an example of a community that was migrated from Facebook, take a look at my Dorks & Corks community website, built on the Drupal CMS. Our little wine community has grown to be quite a crowd, and since our launch at the beginning of this month, we've had a 700% increase in traffic with the average time spent on the site at 20 minutes. Is 20 minutes even possible on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter with so many updates, images, and ads flying everywhere?

So my parting shot to the Tw-aithful and final question to you is this:

What could you do with 20 minutes of your customer's time?

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