Twitter is all the rage. But it took me a while to figure out why. I’m beginning to understand. Twitter is described on Wikipedia as “a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140Â characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.”
By looking at the fundamentals of the medium it is easier to see the value and how to improve its usefulness.
- Messages are sent only to people who choose to follow you and you allow to follow you. You receive tweets only from people you choose to follow. This self-selecting mechanism is key to its usefulness. If you like what people are sharing on Twitter, keep following them. If you don’t, stop. I was initially overwhelmed with tweets from people who chose to share things I didn’t really care about. I complained about Twitter as a tool for sharing irrelevant personal activities. But some people like to exchange that kind of information. My problem should not have been with Twitter, but with whom I chose to follow. Once I realized that and changed who I followed, Twitter became much more interesting.
- It is a good micro-blogging tool for sharing short ideas quickly. While I finding blogging to be my preferred medium of expression, our chief digital officer prefers to share his thoughts in short bursts as they arise. Twitter is a great medium for that. Often the ideas shared via Twitter are tied to additional material posted elsewhere on the Web. Good blog posts. Interesting videos. Thought-provoking articles. Lists of new data. Books worth reading. If you find something that interests you, odds are it is interesting to your followers. My first use of Twitter was to share my new blog postings with followers who wanted the alert.
- Twitter is real-time and mobile. This makes for a great way to facilitate impromptu “meet-ups” among people with a common interest. Whether it’s riding your bike with Lance or having a drink at a conference, Twitter can advance face-to-face connections among a network as no other platform. It can also be a real-time way of updating loved ones. One of our art directors used Twitter to update anxious family members during the birth of his first baby. Doctors are using it more routinely in similar ways. My wife keeps in touch with our son via Twitter while he tours the country with a band. Being real-time and mobile also makes Twitter a great broadcast updating system for time-sensitive calls to action. Fare deals on limited sets. Reservations for just-released concert tickets. Alerts about special shipments of fresh produce. The marketing applications are growing daily.
- Twitter is a place to share real-time experiences, good or bad. Because it is often used this way, many companies are beginning to monitor how their brands are being discussed in real time. This has led to several positive examples of how a bad customer experience turned positive because the brand was paying attention. It is also leading to proactive customer service applications from many companies that share real-time information with their followers.
I’ll acknowledge I’m not the role model to follow when it comes to Twitter. For better ones, check out this list of Top CMOs on Twitter.