Is Twitter just the newest, shiniest yet useless Web 2.0 toy or a powerful way for your business to connect with your customers?
It’s up to you to answer that. For the last year or so since it launched, I’ve avoided Twitter like the plague. I may be an internet addict and the typical gadget-fixated geek, but I absolutely abhor hype. I avoid news involving Hiltons, I hate myself whenever I use business-speak, and sadly I didn’t go see Braveheart in the theater. All because I avoid hype.
But, for reasons I care to keep to myself, I registered for an account a month ago and haven’t stopped “twittering” since. During my experiment-turned-obsession I’ve noted some implications for businesses both large and small.
What Twitter Is
If you haven’t used Twitter, then picture a blog- take this one. Now take out all the content on the whole page, but leave the headlines. Twitter is just headlines. Headlines limited to only 140 characters. No pictures, no details, no blathering on and on.
Admittedly, a content-less blog could seem lacking, but posts on Twitter (deemed tweets- yeah, I know) are generally supposed to be answering one question: “what are you doing right now?” Tweets can be submitted and received through the web via either Twitter’s site or instant messaging clients, or using SMS messages on cell phones, making the “right now” part totally accurate.
Now imagine approx. 40,000 people all glued to each other’s tweets with over 1,000 more joining each day. This combination of brevity and immediacy is exactly why Twitter has gripped the internet community.
Why You Should Care
In the most recent issue of Revenue, Sam Harrelson chronicles the impact that Twitter has made in the online affiliate industry as of late.
Brian Littleton, founder and CEO of ShareASale, recently began a “Twitter experiment” with his affiliate network in an effort to judge Twitter’s ability to transform network-to-affiliate communication. Brian announced the experiment both on the ShareASale blog and on ABestWeb and offered affiliates a chance to join Twitter and receive instant updates from him regarding network offers, payouts and other news from his network.
The ShareASale team has attracted dozens of affiliates to its Twitter network since the middle of January. These affiliates are regularly posting and communicating about industry news, offers and their own lives and they have created quite a unique community in just a few short weeks.
According to the article, these Twitter communities become extraordinarily useful at conferences and trade shows, where vendors send out tweets about special limited offers, locate customers and organize meetings. In addition to online affiliates, large companies like BBC, CNN Technorati and online discounter Woot.com all utilize Twitter to distribute urgent information to their audience.
What Twitter Does:
Twitter creates urgency.
Tweets are about “now.” It is a great tool to announce limited-time offers, breaking news, or respond to a crisis.
Twitter keeps you brief
That 140 character limit may feel like a restraint, but by remaining short and sweet you grab the reader’s attention.
Twitter gets you behind doors
Your audience is eagerly logging in to check tweets from mid-day traffic, during board meetings and even on the toilet.
Twitter generates traffic
Posting a link to your latest blog post on a forum elicits snores, but posting it in your twitter community has impact- that can spread.
Twitter is addictive
The good news is, most of the people following you will check for your posts often. The bad news is you may become hopelessly hooked doing the same.
So, is Twitter useful? It definitely has potential. It no-doubt has an addictive quality and is generating the kind of frenzied buzz that blogs did a year or two ago. Whether you use it to build communities and bond with your customers or simply get sucked into posting what you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner- well, how strong is your will power?