Don’t hail a cab. Tweet for one: @ChicagoCabbie

I love stories of how everyday people stumble into innovation for a traditional business model when they aren’t even looking for it.

Jacqui Cheng has a great article at Arstechnica.com spotlighting Rashid Temuri, who goes by @ChicagoCabbie on Twitter.  When I was standing outside freezing the teen temperatures the other day, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could tweet a cab and then get one fairly soon rather than hoping I get lucky by one seeing me?” Glad to see Temuri picked up on this idea, whether intentional or not, using social media to address a common problem – getting a cab to come to you when there aren’t any in plain sight in your location.

Obviously, using social media tools like Twitter to tweet locations has worked out well for everyone from food trucks to municipalities (Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the King here).  Why not cab drivers? One point that I think is going to potentially get lost here besides the story about Tweeting for customers: Good for Temuri to offer extra perks other cabbies don’t to enhance the experience for tech savvy customers who use his services such as free Wi-Fi for iPhone/iPad users and discounts for social media users. Especially since I gather that he won’t be the only cabbie after this to use Twitter to get customers.

I don’t think Rashid Temuri set out to do something dramatic from a marketing perspective as much as just using existing tools to open up the lines of communication a little better. Yet, fortunately, he opened up a nice opportunity for himself along the way.

The takeaway is that you don’t always have to be a person who wields code and builds a cool new app to change perceptions about your business. Sometimes if you take a step back, there are ideas from other industries that you can adapt and integrate into your traditional business model. How? Don’t say “We need to be on Facebook doing ____” Start with the consumer problem first. Think about their biggest pains. What they’ve told you and what you’re hearing. Then you can go about identifying what existing tools you need – existing or custom-made for you – to address that problem. Who knows? The next step forward may be a lot more simple than you expected.

Do you have a similar story where you unexpectedly stumbled into a new revenue stream or product/service line just by trying to solve a common business problem? 

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