Is twitter a serious business tool or just a complete waste of time?
Like many people reading this post, I first came across Twitter when reading a story about web 2.0 and the “Facebook phenomenon”. Twitter is normally mentioned in the same sentence as these other websites – but is it really a serious proposition, or one of a number of ways you can now waste your time?
Over the Christmas break last year, I had some downtime, and so I as able to try some of these services for myself to see what all the fuss was about. I felt that if I was to be taken seriously in this evolving industry, I needed to “walk the talk“.
After setting up a twitter account, I logged on and published my first “tweet”. A tweet is a 140 character response to twitter’s eternal question: what are you doing?
I think my first tweet was “I’m trying out twitter”.
Fast forward 6 months, and I a fully fledged twitterist with 58 people “following” me and about 80 people in my twitter network.
So what is all the fuss about? Why are serious business people (I count myself amongst those) using the service that many of us initially thought was “just for kids”.
What is interesting about twitter is that is it NOT trying to be another Facebook, Bebo or myspace. But here lies the secret. Because it is simple to use, and all you need to update is a one line box about what you are doing/thinking/wearing/eating/singing etc it means that you don’t have to water and feed it like you do for Facebook.
As a “business user” of twitter, I have found it to be incredibly useful to me in my job, as the other people that are in my twitter network share my interests, views and passions. They have found me or I have found them and collectively, we contribute to our own zeitgeist, one that provides a look into what’s hot and worth looking at in our space (the mobile industry, advertising, and technology trends).
I can honestly say that over the last few months, I have learned more about what is happening in the mobile industry (or been pointed to a story or blog about it) through twitter than through all my other sources of news combined.
Why is this? Well my other sources of news are professional media outlets, who often just reword a company press release. I get so many of these via my Google news alerts that I tend to filter some of these out. On twitter though, there are no journalists or PRs to spin the story – this is user generated content at it’s best – live views and feeds from what’s happening in the space I’m interested about. This is incredibly exciting because it allows me to collect and connect with those that matter.
I believe the tide is starting to turn with “crowd powered media” starting to take off, with almost anyone able to start their own online publishing machine via a blog – before long we may be consuming our daily news feeds from an entirely different source. I’d say that I am probably running at 50:50 – 50% of my information is from the media/PR and 50% from my networks – these are exciting times.
Throw mobile into the mix here, and now I have a live feed of what’s interesting and happening in my world at any time on my handset. As you’d expect, I access twitter via their excellent m.twitter.com site which does just that – twitter on the mobile and nothing else.
With the recent announcement about twitter’s new funding from Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital and Jeff Bezos of Amazon, let’s hope twitter will get serious about reliability (the site is overloaded with “too many tweets” all day and every day), and look for new ways to monetize this goldmine that the folks at twitter are sitting on.
Are we missing a golden opportunity here?
Twitter is actually a goldmine of information. Each tweet contains a rich source of metadata abut me and my preferences. Let’s have a look at a recent set of tweets to show what it reveals about me.
andrewgrill: at LHR T5 about to board BA 0441
metadata reveals – I’m a regular traveller, I travel BA, and I’m off to Amsterdam (wash the flight code against public BA timetables and up pops Amsterdam)
andrewgrill: just trying out the new cellity twitter client
metatdata reveals: I’m into trying out new pieces of technology on my mobile
andrewgrill: relaxing with our 2 year old daughter in the park
metadata reveals: Bingo! You’re a father of a 2 year old girl. Remember this because next year she will be 3.
andrewgrill: Just saw Dean Bubley at a conference with his new Nokia E71 – I want one!
metadata reveals: I know Dean Bubley (analyst – quick scan of Google name checks him), and I want the new business phone from Nokia, the E71 – again we strike gold here in terms of my preferences and buying habits with regards to new technologies. Nokia if you’re reading this – I really DO want an E71!
Shown here are just 4 examples of my recent tweets – but if I was to provide an advertiser with permission to “follow” me on twitter (I protect my updates so I have some level of control on who can see my tweets), then they can start to build up a profile of my preferences – my likes and my dislikes, who I’m connected to, how often I travel and to where etc etc.
This may be more powerful than a one time interaction when I tick a set of boxes on a registration form. With metadata from sites such as twitter, there is an evolving update to my “profile”. If I fall out with a brand or service, I will probably tweet about it and so my preferences could be updated (or I could be sent something to win me back).[ If you want a brilliant example of preference marketing, look no further than Tesco Clubcard, operating here in the UK. They look at buying habits in a way no other marketer does. An excellent article in the FT by Elizabeth Rigby from November 2006 explains why Clubcard is such an important asset for Tesco. ]
All of this has to be done ethically though (see my recent post titled “where have all the ethical marketing managers gone?”), and if an advertiser or website can promise me that I will have a better experience each time I visit their site of use their service, then I’m in.
Do you agree or disagree with my views? Please feel free to provide a comment below.
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UPDATE: You can also find this story on NowPublic.com – it made their front page today.
RedRocket has also featured this post in a discussion about twitter.
Business on twitter have also picked up the post