“Twitter boosted my business” says internet entrepreneur

"This year has been extraordinary," says Moonfruit director Wendy White. ‘I was really worried coming into this year: recession, the credit crunch. But the impact of recession has been surprising. People have increasingly turned to social media to have a voice online. It’s been the rise of personal publishing. This is great for us, as a website builder, as we have seen 70 per cent growth."

To take full advantage of the opportunities created by the popularity of social networks, White joined Twitter and launched a full-scale campaign to gain followers and create brand awareness for Moonfruit. The campaign asked Twitter users to come up with ways to celebrate Moonfruit’s tenth birthday and gave away a MacPro to the most creative entry every day for ten days.

Twitter users simply tweeted their entry to @moontweet to enter.

"People thought it was funny," says White. "We got pictures, animations, songs. The viral carried us to unprecedented heights. We got thousands of entries and had to extend the promotion, giving away iPod Touches for the most talented entries."

The campaign resulted in over 30,000 followers for White and Moonfruit, part of €13m-turnover Gandi Group. And some unforgettable artwork for the firm to use and publicise. But Twitter has done more than just create brand awareness for Moonfruit. It also brought about a partnership with fellow small business MOO. "I follow @thenextwomen on Twitter," says White. "That got me on to Bindi Karia from Microsoft BizSpark. I mentioned my idea to link up with a company that has a similar customer base but a very different product. I’d used MOO to print cards when I did my degree at Central St Martin’s to publicise my projects and mentioned them as an example."

It turned out that Karia knew the MOO founder, Richard Moross, very well. She set up a breakfast meeting with the two entrepreneurs and a partnership was born. "Richard was looking to do more online and we were looking for products our customers would like," says White. "Both our company cultures are quite quirky and humourous so it was an instant fit."

The partnership has already been a runaway success. "We offered a free pack of 50 MOO business cards to 200 of our premium customers," says White. "We only launched the offer on Monday and within a day all the packs had gone." Pretty soon 10,000 Moonfruit customers will be able to order MOO’s 50 business cards for free, paying only for postage. In return, Moonfruit is giving MOO’s customers a 20 per cent discount on all its premium web packages.

"We expect to see significant revenue generated from the partnership," says White.

And that’s not all. "We recently did a beta release of new interface," says the Moonfruit founder. "Our customers were helping us on Twitter. It was like live snagging. It was the first time we’ve experienced that on a release."

Twitter has also helped Moonfruit to break the coveted US market. "Since our Twitter campaign, we’ve seen 100 per cent increase in US traffic," says White. "You usually have to throw a lot of cash at US market to even get a look in. We went in the backdoor."

But using Twitter to drum up sales, customers and brand awareness has its downsides. "It’s very time intensive," says White. "Twitter is a 24-hour network. The US wakes up when the UK goes to sleep. When we launched our campaign, someone senior had to be constantly on call to make decisions. And now we have 26,000 followers, we need to keep talking to them. That’ll involve a real investment."

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