Twitter and VRM

Positive light A0

I was always intrigued by the idea of VRM: Providing customers with tools for engaging with vendors in new ways. Or as Doc Searls describes it in the Project VRM blog:

“VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. It’s how customers manage relationships with vendors. (Or with other individuals, or with organizations of any kind — such as churches or governments.)”

Basically, VRM allows people to create their personal RFP: Going on a business trip to Austin tomorrow? Send out an RFP to airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, restaurants communicating your travel dates and budget. It saves all of us a lot of aggravation because it will cut down on research times, brands won’t need to waste their money on irrelevant campaigns and a new form of partnership between buyers and sellers will be formed.

While I was preparing for the Twitter panel at OMMA Social, discussing possible business models for Twitter, I was starting to have doubts about my initial proposal:

“Charge each company in the CPC model: Each visit to a corporate Twitter site and each corporate tweet should be charged just like a click.”

Sure, we know that CPM models or contextual ads won’t really work on Twitter. They will be ignored and spell doom for Twitter since the platform would have to rely on traditional advertising to support itself. And that’s the last thing you want to do in the economic environment and the rapidly declining value of display advertising. The CPC idea was intriguing since Twitter has become my personal Google, it’s a self-regulating ecosystem that will punish brands that don’t behave and it’s an amazing opportunity for small, local businesses to connect with people: Get your message out to followers and each click outside of the Twitter Universe to a commercial message goes right into Twitter’s pocket. Mildly intriguing but not a real game changer for Twitter. At the current valuation of $250M, Twitter would have to work with hundreds of thousands of small businesses to be able to sustain this price tag. Sure, a wine shop would pay Twitter $20 for 20 clicks to their special offer. But you need a lot of wine shops to get to $250M. And here comes VRM into play. Doc Searls wrote in the ProjectVRM Blog:

“VRM is about providing customers with tools that make them both independent actors in the marketplace and better equipped to engage with vendors. Those tools are in development. We need to get some of them out there before we can even begin to have arguments about whether or not they’ll work. Fact is, they will or they won’t. But they deserve a chance before we go salting the soils in which they need to grow.”

Do we really need to build new tools? Or is Twitter almost there to be the tool to issue personal RFP’s and become the VRM hub? When you use Tweetdeck, you have basically four streams: Main Stream, Replies, Direct Messages and Groups. You could easily add another column for your personal RFP’s. Brands would gladly pay a fee to receive leads and, whoever, wins the pitch, will pay a sales fee as well. It could go like (the % is my symbol indicating a personal RFP)

%Los Angeles Hotel Rental Car Flight Leaving Austin 1/28 am Returning 1/31 pm 3 Star and up close to Beverly Hills

People would to be able to engage brands on their own terms, could take the first offer or decide to negotiate, become a real partner and not just a target. Project VRM and Twitter should involve the early-adopter crowd that’s still dominating the Twitterverse and let them participate in the product development process, helping all parties to work out the kinks. I’m not sure building new tools is the answer. We have a great tool that aches to expands its capabilities. And the time is ripe for a new way to deal with markets. Why not strike while the iron is hot?

What do you think?

4 responses to “Twitter and VRM

  1. Great post. Cool idea.

    If you (or somebody) wants to use Twitter as a personal RFP system, and personal RFPs could enjoy the same status as @ replies, direct messages and groups, hey: go for it.

    I’ve tried using Twitter as a personal RFP system, with mixed results. But, as I said in that post, it’s still early. If the % symbol (why not a $ sign? … must be a reason…) works for a personal RFP, rock on. Love to see it.

    I still think we need a whole box of VRM tools in the long run, but I’m also a big believer in making the most of available tech. So, let’s see what we can do.

    FWIW, I’ve not been able to use Tweetdeck, because Adobe Air gives me an install message in Korean or something, then fails. Another argument against proprietary environments.

    Maybe fixing that’s a personal RFP.

  2. great direction. I like it. need to cogitate on it a bit more, but most definitely on the right track.

  3. Been thinking a lot about this myself.
    The way I understand it there are several aspects to VRM. The tools are needed to manage your data and Twitter can’t do that job. But it can certainly be the market place. Where Vendors and Customers meet and talk

  4. Some questions as I think through this problem:

    Q1: What is the right protocol for issuing a personal RFP via Twitter ? Here are a few suggestions that I am currently entertaining:

    A) #RFP – very precise, but will the average punter get it?
    B) % – short and sweet, but might get inadvertently mis-used
    C) $? – again, concise, again mis-usable
    D) $$? – maybe too long now, smells of expensive
    E) ?$ – I like this best because you don’t normally find ?$ in that order
    F) Anything else you can come up with?

    Q2: If I issue an RFP via Twitter, e.g. “%Los Angeles Hotel Rental Car Flight Leaving Austin 1/28 am Returning 1/31 pm 3 Star and up close to Beverly Hills”, what would I expect back?

    Thinking a re-tweet followed by a set of responses from appropriate vendors – in this case airlines, car rental companies, hotels and travel consolidators. I also want reviews and recommendations Tripadvisor style on 3* hotels in the Beverley Hills area.

    Your thoughts here?

    Q3: If I issue an RFP via Twitter, e.g. “%Los Angeles Hotel Rental Car Flight Leaving Austin 1/28 am Returning 1/31 pm 3 Star and up close to Beverly Hills”, what DON’T I want?

    1. I DON’T want to be followed from this point on by potential spammers (I will block them)
    2. I DON’T want responses after 1/28 pm
    3. I DON’T want responses from hotels in San Diego, Dublin or Dubai
    4. I DON’T want invitations to sign up for someone’s travel site, travel blog, travel community or anything else

    Q4: If I issue a request via Twitter, what is the likelihood of being able to get to a web-browser to view responses and act on them?

    A) Very Likely
    B) Maybe
    C) No way

    I’m interested to hear what you’re all thinking on this matter.

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