When Kinko’s started in 1990, the idea of a social media network like Twitter would have been pure sci-fi. And there are some skeptics who believe that using social media for marketing remains somewhat of a sci-fi-like mystery, but Bernard Perrine, who co-founded the office services giant (later sold to FedEx) believes that Twitter can be used as a productive marketing tool.
Perrine is co-founder and CEO of SocialCentiv, whose technology is designed to help businesses find new customers on Twitter. “Twitter allows a brand to communicate with consumers in real time,” said Perrine. “If somebody tweets ‘Coming to New York next week’ or even something as vague as ‘I need a vacation,’ we can send the right message from the right client.”
That communication might involve a promotion, or it might comprise useful content that ideally leads to business sometime down the line. SocialCentiv uses keyword harnessing, geo-targeting and machine learning algorithms to deliver the right message at the right time – and without Twitter overload.
Perrine claims an impressive average conversion rate of 34% with some clients — like restaurants — as high as 58%. Somebody might tweet, “I’m hungry” and next thing you know there’s a deal from a nearby restaurant. And what does real time mean? That depends on the client. If it’s a meal, the response is immediate; if it’s a trip it could be much longer.
Twitter, as Perrine, points out, is the largest public network, with the ability to bring in new customers that may not know your company even exists. “Maybe,” said Perrine, “they don’t realize that Carnival Cruise Line can be a great value or a hotel brand is in a certain city.”
SocialCentiv strongly encourages social media sharing by client associates. Perrine said that when employees share content on their own channels, businesses cash in with a higher organic reach and engaged employees who are passionate about the company.
Perrine is also a big fan of humor. Example: “We had a client who tweeted, ‘I’m so hungry I’m rofwh’ (rolling on the floor with hunger). We tweeted back a restaurant offer and said he could rofwp (roll on the floor with pizza). He responded that he took the offer because it made him laugh.” Of course, humor has to be in good taste, tied to the business and relevant.
Prices at SocialCentiv start at a level low enough for a small business to afford, but go up from there for more comprehensive account management.
“We can manage this very locally, “ said Perrine. “For instance, we have [a New York hotel client], and somebody might tweet from the plane that they’re flying into New York. We can respond with an offer immediately.”
Bottom line, according to Perrine: “The main things people look to Twitter for are places to stay, go and eat. It’s the ideal environment to target and develop new customers.”
Of course, Perrine is not the only entrepreneur claiming to have solved the social media marketing issue. Time will tell. Kinko’s FedEx Office, after all, has had quite a good run.