Who needs telephones? We’ve got Twitter! Phone calls are all good and well, but by the time you’ve looked up the number, dialled it, listened to the ring tone and got through to the person you are trying to reach – or left the inevitable recorded message – you could have made a cup of coffee or had your next million dollar idea. Besides, it is so last-century… There must be a better way to make a restaurant booking.

Twitter might not replace the telephone any time soon, but for lots of things it can be a faster way to communicate. There are times when it is better to have a real time conversation. Hearing someone’s tone of voice, and seeing their face, helps to clarify potential misunderstandings straight away, providing a much better understanding of how the other person is really reacting. There is an emotional richness to a two way conversation which isn’t there in a short piece of text. If you have got into an exchange of more than 3 messages, then it is probably  time to pick up the phone – it will be more efficient in the long run.

However, sometimes the message is straight forward, unambiguous and not emotionally loaded. Twitter is great for those sorts of things, very fast and efficient: “Can I have a table for two at 8pm tonight?”.  Less than 140 characters later… I had a dinner reservation.

Picture 10

I booked a table at the Landings Restaurant in Farnborough (@landingsrestaur). The outbound marketing potential of Twitter is constantly pushed, making it easy for forget that it is an inbound communication mechanism too. Popping up a window, typing a user name and message is much faster than scouring through a phone directory (electronic or otherwise) and making a call, so why wouldn’t someone want to communicate with a business that way?

Picture 11

I’m not sure if it is a UK first, it might well be, but I’m sure it won’t be the last such exchange. Businesses need to communicate on their customer’s terms. Twitter is my communications dashboard, and by being there the Landings Restaurant won my business on Friday night. More than that, I found them via my social network too (thank you @andypiper for the tip off – I saw your tweet and followed the restaurant as a result).

Landings Restaurant aren’t alone on twitter of course, there are tweeting bakeries, coffee shops and bridges already, but taking a booking via Twitter is a neat trick. As a business, you need to meet your customers where they are – don’t just wait around expecting them to come to you. If you do, you’ll find that your competitors may have got to them first.

Organisations need to be accessible, there is a big jump from a cold, corporate web page to a person to person conversation. Twitter provides a nice stepping stone in between the two.