“New marketing is about the relationships, not the medium.” – Ben Grossman, founder of BiGMarK

I periodically use FriendorFollow, a tool that allows Twitter users to see who they’re following and who isn’t following them back, to keep track of my Twitter contacts.  Although I rarely unfollow users, I sometimes choose to do so if the account is inactive or if the user isn’t engaging.

While recently visiting FriendorFollow and taking a quick look at my friends who aren’t following me back, I realized 70 percent were organizations.  These businesses ranged from professional services (public relations agencies, communications/social media freelancers) to companies that cater to consumers (restaurants, retail stores, etc.)

friendorfollow

This realization made me wonder: How does an organization gain value/bring value to me as a consumer and/or professional if it isn’t following me back?

Should a consumer have to blast a whiny tweet (“My service at ‘x’ was horrendous last night…”) or suck up (“Like, OMG! You’re like, my fave store everrrr!”)  to get a follow?

I’ve read tons of blog-based discussions about whether certain businesses should build an online presence.  In my opinion, the line is clear: A consumer-focused business should not be on Twitter if it cannot devote the time/resources to engage its audience.

I was recently impressed by @CupoJoeCoffee, a Columbus coffee shop with multiple locations.  I love Cup O’ Joe’s coffee, and I began following its Twitter account.  The account followed me back promptly, and several days later, it replied to one of my statuses.  My 140-character update had nothing to do with coffee, but Cup O’ Joe’s comment let me know that it was listening to what I had to say.  And to me, that exemplifies a company that’s interested in engaging its audience.

The web is constantly changing the way companies interact with consumers, and this generation craves interaction.

So that’s my ramble of the day: If your business is on Twitter, find ways to be engaging. (And please: Auto DMs don’t count as “reaching out” to your audiences.)  Don’t create an online presence just to blast robotic tweets; take time to find your audience and interact with users.  You’ll be surprised by how much you learn through a little interaction!

(Side note: @crimsoncup and @DSWShoeLovers are also excellent Columbus-based examples of companies that actively participate in online conversation.)

Feel free to share your experiences with consumer-focused organizations on Twitter.  Who’s doing it right?  Who’s doing it wrong?

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