My take on Twitter

March 23rd, 2009 by

There has been a lot of hype of late about Twitter and the debate still rages: “Is Twitter a soapbox for useless chatter or a legitimate communication medium”?

I have followed Twitter’s rise since it started 3 years ago though it took me a while to really get into it. I suppose my hesitation had to do with finding my true voice on Twitter vs jumping in haphazardly and using it because all of the cool kids were hyping the heck out of it.

I wrote an article in 2007 on the value of social media for a business within a traditional industry. Twitter was left out of the post as I did not have a lot of personal experience with it at the time. As I have now jumped into the Twittersphere, I have come to learn a few interesting things about the service and its value as a social media tool, especially for businesses struggling to find their footing amidst all of the social media noise out there.

Here are my top 9 lessons learned:

1. Twittering is less time consuming than blogging. As opposed to spending hours on a blog post, you can jot down some whimsical thoughts and presto! you have joined the twittersphere. There is a reason they call Twittering microblogging.

This also means it’s easier to be profilic and develop a following relatively quickly (note: this assumes your tweets are interesting, relevant and not full of narcissistic drivel). When you Twitter, you are publishing to the web which also raises your profile on Google (“Googlejuice” as Jeff Jarvis would say). If you google “rightsleeve”, our Twitter feed is the 3rd result, second only to the RIGHTSLEVE blog and the main web site http://www.rightsleeve.com/.

2. Twitter is a very quick way to learn about breaking news. Depending on who you follow, Twitter is a great way to stay in the loop. The other thing is that the stories are also highly relevant (ie. if I am following tech blogger Michael Arrington, I know I can get up to the minute updates on news I am interested in).

Another example was the way I learned about the FedEx crash in Japan on 3/22/09. I saw the following on my feed from Mathew Ingram. Without Twitter, I likely would not have known about this until the following morning when I read the paper.

3. Twitter’s news feed is an amalgam of your specific interests. If you follow 100 people whose opinions you respect, your news feed becomes your own personal newspaper. Instead of content being delivered to you by a predetermined number of journalists (as you would with a newspaper), you are able to read articles/musings/updates by those you are interested in following. The neat thing about Twitter is that you can access the feeds of total strangers (ie. Lance Armstrong, Barack Obama, etc) and get the low-down on what’s interesting to them. This is fundamentally different than Facebook where the other person has to accept your friend request before you get access to their personal information.

4. Someone’s feeds annoying you? Get rid of them! If you follow someone who spends their time yammering on about something boring, irrelevant, or just downright narcissistic, then remove them. You don’t have to listen to anyone you don’t want to.

5. Twitter is an amazing distribution channel for your content. As mentioned above (and in my previous post on blogging best practices), if your content is interesting and relevant to others, people will follow you. As Seth Godin discusses in Permission Marketing, having a group of people who actually want to listen to you is an incredibly powerful asset. If this privilege is abused, people will leave you as I point out in #4. In today’s crowded marketplace, getting people’s attention is getting harder and harder to do.

One of my favourite people to follow is Mark Evans, one of the co-founders of the Mesh Conference. Mark uses the platform to share his expertise on a wide range of web marketing and technology topics. As a social media consultant, this is an invaluable tool for building his credibility online.

6. Twitter makes it easy to follow and join in on the conversation. Millions of people on Twitter are having conversations about everything from brands to music to swag. All points of view are discussed – the good, bad and the ugly. As a marketer, it goes without saying that following this conversation about your brand is critically important. The bigger your company, the greater the liklihood that people are talking about you online. One of the things I have come to learn over the years is that a disgruntled customer can be turned into a fan relatively quickly if they are listened to by someone who cares.

Twitter allows marketers to quickly gauge what people are saying about them. If customers are crying bloody murder online, then smart marketers join the conversation and show the customer base they are listening and hopefully doing something about the problem. Twitter is a great tool for getting your finger on the pulse of this conversation.

Two great tools you can use to see what people are saying about you are Twitter Search and IceRocket (twitter tab).

JetBlue is a great example of how a company can use Twitter to listen to its customers. Check out this exchange with passenger Mark Hurst to give you a sense of how some companies are using the service.

7. Great way to discover new experts. As Twitter’s news feed allows you to see people’s replies as well as follow a conversation thread, it’s easy to meet new people. If someone is referenced by one of the people I follow, I am likely to track that person down, check out their feed and add them to my follower list so I can get their updates. This is also a standard feature in blogging as well, but I find it to be quicker on Twitter.

8. Twitter gives your brand a personality. As Twitter is the antithesis of the polished marketing brochure, the comments tend to be more personal, off-the-cuff, and informal. Such a conversation style make consumers feel that the brand is talking with them, not at them. In my view, this can only be a good thing. Most consumers see through marketing speak and are wary of slick ads. While advertising is still an important part of the marketing mix, Twitter adds another dimension to the overall puzzle.

9. Speak your mind, but be mindful of who is reading your tweets. Yes, Twitter is a less formal environment, but it does not mean that “anything goes” especially when it relates to tweets that could be incriminating in the future. The Globe and Mail published an interesting article on Twittering (esp. at work) and highlighted an example of a tweet that resulted in the “twitter-er” losing their job offer.

Here was the incriminating tweet:

“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”

As tweets are searchable via Google, Cisco tracked down the comment and ultimately had this person’s job offer rescinded.

The lesson? Speak your mind, but exercise some common sense.

In sum, I think my comments will be most relevant to people newer to the whole Twitter phenomenon and, perhaps more specifically, to people who are trying to make sense of this whole web 2.0 thing and how it could possibly apply to their business.

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts (as well as your experiences in using Twitter to advance your marketing objectives) – just post your comments in the section below.

To see how we use Twitter at RIGHTSLEEVE, click here

3 Responses to “My take on Twitter”

  1. Graham White Says:

    as follow-up, you might want to check out the following article by a college buddy of mine:

    http://yoursinwriting.com/2009/03/the-death-of-twitter-killed-by-facebook/

  2. Nycki Says:

    Thanks Mark! For someone who has just joined the Twittersphere, this was an informative read.

  3. RIGHTSLEEVE News/Views » Blog Archive » 4 Misconceptions about Social Media (an entrepreneur’s take) Says:

    [...] For a longer analysis of Twitter, you can refer to My Take on Twitter [...]