Can Twitter sway an international brand and its potential relocation plans?

That remains to be seen. But I’ll argue it can’t hurt.

A few weeks ago, Twitter’s J.B. Kropp contacted me and expressed his desire to get organized around what is now known as #NOCincyBananaSplit. It’s our Twitter-based campaign to make sure Chiquita knows that Cincinnatians want them to stay in town.

It was inspired by the news that Charlotte, the other Queen City, was being considered along with a third city as possible spots for Chiquita to relocate. And it’s great to see how quickly we were able to tap into Twitter and show our support.

Here’s how a phone call turned into an online dialogue with Chiquita’s CEO in less than 36 hours.

On September 16, 2011 at 9am J.B. Kropp contacted me about the Chiquita news. As a Cincinnati native, he saw the opportunity to tap into Twitter to make a difference.

Within an hour, a colleague and I came up with #NOCincyBananaSplit and an initial email from J.B. went out to a small handful of local influencers. From there it snowballed into 140 character calls to action. This initial burst of activity got Ad Age’s attention. This in turn got the local media’s attention.

And by the end of the work day, the news had taken place, it was covered by the media and we all moved along with our lives.

Twitter a CEO Tool
That next day @FdoAquirreCEO responded to Cincinnati’s show of support, via Twitter of course. And it’s important to note that, while Chiquita’s CEO’s use of Twitter is not unique, Fernando Aguirre is definitely more evolved than the average Twitter user. He understands more than the basics and uses it to engage with other users and not to simply broadcast messages. It’s a potentially humanizing tool and he’s using it to put a face with a large company.

Tweets continued off and on. And a week later, on September 24th, @BrianDFrancis turned the Cincinnati campaign into a friendly competition by getting Charlotte organized for its own Twitter campaign.

#BananasForCLT did as much to underscore the importance of these efforts as it did to make their own side of the story heard. In addition to giving #NOCincyBananaSplit a second wind, this whole exercise has reinforced a few things.

1) Offline & Online: While the vast majority of this, including media coverage, took place online, it all started with a phone call and an email. The need for more direct and personal contact should never be overlooked. And making sure online and offline complement each other is the easiest way to make this happen.

2) Less Can Be More: We talked about supporting the Twitter campaign with everything from a Facebook page and a microsite to larger, offline expressions of our love for bananas. But it didn’t make sense. @FdoAguirreCEO’s use of Twitter was proven and doing anything more would simply diffuse our efforts.

3) Professional vs. Personal: If this was more than a friendly-competition, I’d take several steps to generate a bigger impact. Creating a Twitter landing page to make avatar swaps and creating tweets of support dead simple for people to join the cause would be my first step. Paid ads, most likely on Facebook, would help drive folks to the page. And an offline way to express your support would also be made available.

4) Don’t Be a Jerk: With most any online effort, there will be trolls trying to take over your bridge so to speak. But it was great to see how friendly competition helped both sides out in the long run. It would be easy to get into trash talk with 400 jobs on the line. But there were even cases of members from each side policing their own supporters.

Twitter’s ability to sway the relocation of 400 jobs is still up for debate…even after Chiquita announces its selection. But it’s a humanizing platform and it’s helped @FdoAguirreCEO connect with consumers nationwide in this example. And its helped two cities make sure Chiquita knows exactly how much their presence is appreciated. Mission accomplished.

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