Twitter: It’s Not Just For 15-Year-Olds

by Vicky Frank

Not very long ago, I wondered why people older than 15 would bother with Twitter. I’m afraid to say I don’t really care what anyone else is doing right now, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

But then I started using Twitter, and now I find myself brimming with enthusiasm for it and wishing my friends and colleagues would give it a try. This isn’t a “Top Ten” article. I don’t have a specific number of reasons. These are just the best reasons I’ve found so far. And, as it happens, not one of them has to do with telling people what I’m doing right now!

As a searchable source of FRESH content
I’ve lately been bothered by the elderliness of Google search results – pages from 2005 returned in the top three. What would you say to FRESH, even REAL-TIME search results? A search on Twitter reveals things that are happening NOW: recent blog posts, discussions, conferences, even news as it’s happening. Did you know the United Airways landing in the Hudson and the attacks on Mumbai were first reported on Twitter?

Google and other search engines just aren’t cutting it when it comes to fresh, up-to-the-minute content. As reported in “Google Next Victim Of Creative Destruction?”:

Excerpt: “Imagine you are in line waiting for coffee and you hear people chattering about a plane landing on the Hudson. You go back to your desk and search Google for plane on the Hudson — today — weeks after the event, Google is replete with results — but the DAY of the incident there was nothing on the topic to be found on Google. Yet at search.twitter.com the conversations are right there in front of you.

“… for real time questions, real time branding analysis, tracking a new product launch — on pretty much any subject if you want to know what’s happening now, search.twitter.com will come up with a superior result set.” Read the full article

As a source of authoritative content:  recommended content, recommended by people you trust or people you can check out
You probably already have an expert network of people with whom you consult when you want to add to your knowledge base, need help making a decision, or seek information fast. And you, most likely, are part of other people’s expert network.

It works the same with Twitter. You build your own expert network and you become part of other people’s networks. You choose the people you’ll follow and people choose to follow you. You can communicate with them via broadcast message, group message, or direct (one-to-one) message.

The difference between the expert network you’ve developed over the years and the one you can build on Twitter is threefold:
1. Your Twitter expert network can become massive in a matter of days.
2. Your Twitter expert network is keyword searchable.
3. Your Twitter expert network reduces six degrees of separation to one: e.g., you can follow Stephen Hawking today if you like.

See “Twitter and Google Search. Because you can’t reply to a search engine result
Excerpt: “Real time, trustworthy recommendations made relevant by time. People by nature trust recommendations made by people they know or respect. These recommendations factor in making decisions about the biggest purchases and actions in their lives. Think choosing a college, buying a car, shopping for baby clothes and choosing the best school. To solidify my choices I talk to people I know and read people I respect.” Read the full article

As a way to broadcast your message, exponentially, to people who are interested in your subject
In the same way Twitter delivers knowledge and information from many individuals straight to you, Twitter delivers your knowledge and information to many individuals. Many, many individuals. Because, for each person you follow, you inherit their followers, and their followers’ followers. And so on. You have the ability to send a message that could reach millions in a matter of minutes. This, previously, was the domain of Super Bowl ads.

However, with the 140-character-limit on Twitter messages, you don’t get a 30-second TV spot. You need to encourage your “Twitterati” to visit the locale of your BIG message. Fortunately, there are many wonderful destinations you can create, including your blog article, web page, YouTube video, SlideShare presentation, or wiki, and Twitter is the perfect portal to your personalized content. Twitter is especially well suited to small devices because of its economy of message. You can use Twitter to reach out across devices to pull (attract) people to your more substantial content.

As a way to listen to your potential audience
Use Twitter to obtain essential intelligence about your target audience directly from the audience members themselves. What do they want? What keywords do they use to describe it? What’s missing that you could potentially provide?

Twitter underscores the shift from what Hubspot calls “sledgehammer marketing” to “attraction marketing.” (see “Twitter for Marketing and PR”)

Social media and Web 2.0 tools have changed the dynamic from one of hitting the consumer over the head with a jingle, tagline, logo, or interruptive ad, to one based on attracting consumers using their keywords, content relevant  to them, knowledge they seek, the ability to connect with others like them – anything that supports their “opt-in” behavior.

In “Your Context Here,” Amber Naslund comments, “We characterize our brands in the terms in which we’d like others to see us. We craft a vision, or an idealized perspective of our brand, hoping that others might be influenced or intrigued by that viewpoint. Maybe see things our way. We even give them things like taglines, or brand attributes, or magic marketing terms.

“But social communication and the power that companies now hold to capture the conversations around their brands changes all of that. Brands aren’t viewed from a singular viewpoint (they really never have been), and now that brand is a composite of everything. As David Alston is fond of saying, a brand is now the sum of *all* of the conversations that take place around it. Branding isn’t myopic any longer. And that multi-faceted perspective is searchable, shareable, and visible to the world at large.” Read the full article

As the perfect portal to your content
If you still think that Twitter and other social media is still purely the domain of 15-year-olds, the findings of this study will surprise you. According to “Shifting Content: A young peoples’ game?,”
people were asked what consumer electronics products they own, and identified some of these as likely content shifting devices: laptop computer, MP3/Portable media player, Digital Video Recorder (DVR), Apple iPhone, and other Smartphones.

They found device ownership on the rise across age groups. Adults 18-24 were the most likely to own four or more of these shifting devices, but not much more than those aged 25-44. The study authors observe: “our increasing ability to shift content across time, place and device is bringing about major changes in how we interact with media.”

Accordingly, content owners are taking advantage of this trend. Netflix, which now offers movie download to your computer, Xbox, or Blu-Ray device, recently announced that one million people, more than 10% of their membership, have downloaded their Xbox Live application since it was introduced in November. Hulu offers streaming video of new and old movies and TV shows from more than 130 content providers – for FREE! As Amazon is shipping the new version of its e-book reader, Kindle 2, CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, announced on the Today Show, “more than 10% of Amazon’s book sales are in Kindle format.”

As a way to monitor your brand
If you’ve read the first five reasons I’ve offered for using Twitter, think about how they come together to work for – or against – your brand. Up-to-the-minute opinions about a brand, recommended or vilified, exponentially distributed in minutes, and placed directly into the device your target audience is holding at that particular moment. That’s powerful stuff, and worth a listen. Monitor your organization, products or services you offer, or even yourself by name and see what people are saying.

Still not convinced? Take a look at some real stories of organizations that blundered spectacularly or succeeded wildly in “How Social Media has Changed Word of Mouth Marketing” (Slides 25 – 39).

What are people saying about your brand?

Update 9.14.09: A group of researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Science and Technology examined half a million tweets in a recent study. The team looked for tweets mentioning a brand and why the brand was mentioned — to inform others, express a view on the brand or something else — and found that people were using tweets to connect with the products. This research is among the first academic studies in the area of micro-communication within the business sector. Using this research as a backbone to build on, the research team is now conducting a focused study specifically on how companies manage and use their Twitter accounts. Read more


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