I just returned from Search Engine Strategies New York and the major topic was Twitter. Now, this was helped by the fact that the week was kicked off by an energetic opening keynote speech by Twitter guru, or addict, depending on how you look at it, Guy Kawasaki. Guy had over 100,000 followers prior to his keynote and now has 94,850, which is very interesting. You would think the opposite effect would occur. However, perhaps some thought Guy may have been pushing the line of spamming just a bit. My sense is that he is not, because, if you don’t like it you can always un-follow Guy. Unlike e-mail where anyone can spam you, in Twitter you need to be following someone in order to receive messages.
Whether Guy or Brittney Spears or Lance Armstrong have 94,000 or 550,000 followers, they are A-Listers and people want to hear what they have to say. It’s not because it’s Twitter, it’s because most of these celebrities previously had a platform. Now, there will be a few new “A Listers” that result simply from Twitter, these will be few and far between however. Guy Kawasaki is being helped greatly by Twitter, because he is being aggressively smart.
But, what about the rest of us? If we have 1,500 followers are any of them really listening? I’d argue that most are likely not. However, it is still a huge marketing tool and the nobodies are now the new somebody for the following reason. Twitter is free. Hence, if you have 1,500 followers and are a local plumber, most likely most aren’t listening. However, as long as at least one person is that is all that matters, because of the simple fact that it’s free. If that one person has a plumbing issue, you as the Plumber now have a shot, especially if you acquired these followers simply by limited your search.twitter.com query to people within a 25 mile radius.
The biggest use right now is 1) big businesses following what is being said about their company – see Zappos, JetBlue, Comcast, etc. 2) Celebrities catering to their following by giving realtime updates – see Lance Armstrong Twitter’s about collarbone 3) Individuals attempt to promote themselves, generate a following and make money
And it’s the last point that may eventually cause Twitter to become Tiresome. Just like on Facebook you X out the person that is constantly talking about their turtle, bad hair day, etc. on Facebook, the same holds true here. Is Dale Carnegie rolling over in his grave, because everyone on Twitter is trying to be heard, when the key to winning friends and influencing people is actually listening?
Part of the reason that Twitter is so popular is that some of it’s effectiveness and cool factor is aided by the fact that not everyone is on it. What could I possibly mean by this? In January we sent over 6,000 students (via Smithsonian Student Travel) on educational tours to Washington DC for the historic inauguration. In the past it would have been difficult to get major media outlets attention. However, it was easy to do with Twitter. NPR, MSNBC and PBS immediately replied to our tweet, expressing interest in hearing from our middle school student travelers and their teachers. Now, only two months later. I’ve #JetBlue about my concern that their TVs may not work for my flight this afternoon and this is crucially important as I booked on JetBlue soley for the reason that I could watch MarchMadness on DirectTV. My concern was that the TV’s only worked about 50% of the time on this route and could they try to take steps to ensure they would be functioning…instead of hearing tweet, tweet, I heard cricket, cricket. It was cool when companies and even CEO’s could respond real time, and some still do, but as more and more people join on Twitter that one-to-one will become less and less until the companies can ramp up. And unfortunately instead of getting a witty and salient reply from a CEO or well-informed employee that took Twittering up with consumers because it was cool, you will most likely get a reply from a call center in New Dehli (should we call them Tweet Centers?).
Now, before I get tons of hate mail, there is a need for micro-blogging tools like Twitter, but it’s somewhere in-between poor e-mail (Google’s Eric Schmidt’s words) and the Greatest Thing ever. I still tweet, because the upside is still greater than the downside, and oh, by the way please follow me @equalman.