It all started with a random tweet:

 “@shawnanctil: @Diefenbunker haunted bunker #zombie walk tonight with @sarthepandabear. Underground, nobody can hear you tweet!”

I was killing time before heading out to The Diefenbunker (Canada’s Cold War Museum) and Haunted Walk Ottawa’s “Incident at the Bunker: A Zombie Adventure last Saturday with MB’s resident “juggler” – Sarah O’Connor – and our mutual better-halves. I didn’t really think much about the tweet, I was really just goofing off.

But then a conversation started.

I have often chatted back and forth with friends and co-workers on Twitter, occasionally sending and receiving the odd “thanks for following, check out our website” message-in-a-can from a random business as well. But before last Saturday, I had never really engaged with a business using the platform.

For the next few minutes, @Diefenbunker and I exchanged idle tweets, joking about being trapped underground with flesh-eating rage monsters – without cell service, no less.

Then the Diefenbunker sent me this message:

“@Diefenbunker: @shawnanctil @sarthepandabear just a heads up, a fire alarm was tripped at the Bunker so the tours are running behind about 45 min – 1 hour.”

Inconvenient? Yes. Zombified degrees of customer service awesomeness? Also yes!

Whoever handles the museum’s Twitter account “gets it” – they understand how social media, better yet, business social media is done!

If you think Twitter is about posting updates of what you’re singing in the shower, you don’t get social media (also, you’re likely to ruin your phone – stop that)

If you’re only using Twitter to post promotions and product information, you may be doing social media wrong.

If you’re only using Twitter to get a bunch of followers whom you can sell to, you’re doing social media wrong.

If you’re tweeting based on a strict internal communications policy provided by “Legal” – you’re about a million miles away from achieving any social media objectives.

Business social media is about finding the customer where they are, engaging on a human level, and helping them out when the opportunity presents itself. It’s about providing world-class customer service for a fraction of the price of an expensive cumtomer management system and call center.

I really can’t stress enough how easy this is:

All you have to do is listen, share content, and engage!

As “Power 50″ social media influencer Mark Schaefer points out, Twitter is an outstanding platform for capitalizing on a range of opportunities, including:

  • customer service
  • competitive intelligence
  • market insight
  • finding new suppliers or providers
  • publicity
  • education
  • expert solutions to problems
  • and even lead generation

Let’s see your expensive contact centre do that!

For the rest of the afternoon, the Diefenbunker kept me up to date on how the delays were progressing. They even made sure to let me know when they were back on track. While that may sound like an expensive customer service operation, from what I could see when I got to the bunker, it was just a few customer service agents who balanced checking in guests, managing a crowd of delayed zombie enthusiasts, and tweeting.

That’s it.

All it takes to get the most out of Twitter is an account, a broad strategy, and a few employees who you trust not to embarrass your brand. And you should trust them, because they already are your brand. (more on that next week)

Yesterday, the Diefenbunker tweeted me to find out whether I got out alive. I told them they could read all about it here. I’m not sure if there are still tickets available, but the “Incident at the Bunker” is a riot of an adventure. If you can’t make it this year, don’t miss out in 2013!

Also, if you have a Twitter account, follow @Diefenbunker and learn. They’re doing social media right.