Happy Birthday Twitter! .. Valuable or Waste of time?

Jack Dorsey - Twitter

Happy Birthday Twitter

Happy Birthday Twitter..

On the 21st March 2006 founder Jack Dorsey sent the very first tweet and six years on while it is growing in popularity it is probably still the most misunderstood of the popular social media platforms.

When we run our Social Media courses the results are nearly all the same , pretty much everyone is using Facebook at some level and just a very few are using twitter. I would safely guess that a maximum of  20% of social media users are actively using twitter.

Is this failure, is this most people deciding that it is irrelevant, is this most people not understanding how to use twitter or is it an absolute gem that is yet to be discovered by the mainstream?

At Fuzion we take it really seriously because we see the value of it for us and for our clients but we do understand the difficulty that people have with it. By it’s nature it is looser than the other platforms with pretty much anyone being able to follow anyone, your messages are more public capable of being picked up by anyone searching and then there is the business of hash tags, re-tweeting and #FF, that’s Follow Friday, by the way!

Added to that everything is quite limited, how many characters (you have 15 characters in your twitter “handle”) in your unique identity, how many characters you are allowed in a post, how much information (literally describe yourself in 160 characters) you can include in your bio – it’s just different, different enough to scare users off initially before they get to experience the real magic.

The whole experience is very different and in many ways it is attracting quite a different type of user – often a curious individual who loves getting involved in discussions and who loves giving an opinion! Many of these users seem to leave Facebook behind as they find the twitter experience more enriching.

In the last year we have seen the interface and some of the functionality improve and the numbers using the platform have continued to increase.

Most recently Twitter was in the news for how it played such a starring (and deceptive) role during the Presidential elections in Ireland – while this highlights a risk around how people process information without source verification it also shows the instant and incredible power that it has today.

I won’t start giving a lesson on how to use twitter but I will share with you my Top 10 reasons why we think you should consider embracing it for you and your business –

1. Branded Chit Chat – on twitter you can choose an identity for yourself and every time you post, your “identity” carries with you, it’s like advertising in a subliminal way @prguru. Guess what service that person provides? Even if you are chatting about the latest Liverpool game your identity travels with you.

2. Viral “ability” – of all the social media platforms twitter is the very best for passing on information. The retweet facility makes this possible. I pass the message to my followers, them to theirs and so on. Uninteresting posts will not be retweeted but interesting ones will be, remember Simon Coveney’s, famous Brian Cowen post? Simon Coveney did not have many followers when he tweeted that information, it didn’t matter.

3. Innovators and Early AdoptorsSeth Godin in his famous book the Purple Cow talks about a typical product cycle and he stresses the importance of targeting people who love new things. These are the people who love to try new things out and then tell their friends, they are generally naturally curious and are often the ones who are vital for spreading the word – before you know it when enough people have heard about “that” new product it enters the mainstream, where volume starts kicking in.

If you have a new product or service you will find many of these innovators and early adoptors are already using twitter- makes sense if you think about it?

4. Avoiding the CrowdFacebook has the advantage of so many users and it is really powerful as a result. However it is a pretty crowded space with more businesses joining it the whole time competing for people’s attention. The chances are that your competitors are already up and running and competing with you in this space. Twitter on the other hand has not been explored to the same degree so you can steal a competitive advantage over your competitors and have more of those prospects to yourself.

5. Search – the search facility on twitter is incredible. You can use it to follow topics, to search on people discussing your business and your industry. We find it invaluable in our work with clients and in a “crisis” situation it is really useful. You can literally measure the temperature of a situation on twitter, which can be really useful if you are dealing with a tricky situation. In the last 12 months alone we have used it many times to assist us in our work with clients.

6. Read all about it! – the problem is that it is now impossible to “Read all about it” . With so many newspapers, magazines, radio and tv channels how is it possible? With twitter by following the correct media profiles on twitter you can create your own customised news feed. Everything from your favourite team (have I mentioned this is Liverpool!) to breaking news.

7. Journalists – for some reason many journalists have flocked to twitter, which probably tells it’s own story as to how they value it. If you start using it you can quite easily follow journalists who may be interested in your sector and if used correctly you will be able to learn what they are interested in and what they are writing about. Use the platform to try to build a relationship with them and then pitch your stories – make sure you build trust before you start pitching!

8. Audience – if you use twitter proactively we believe you have a good chance of building “followers” or an audience for your message very quickly, even quicker than Facebook. However, it’s up to you how you use these relationships once you gather them.

9. Relationships – we have found that the nature of the conversations is quite different and at times they are more of a “community” type – the conversations can happen between groups of people. As a result you can have quite different relationships with people. Once you are capable of holding your own on an issue or topic you will build a good reputation and also quality relationships with relevant people.

10. Fun – there can be quite a good sense of humour around using Twitter and even though your topics might be heavy you can build good relationships around lighter issues, which can ultimately lead to a listening for your key messages. My key message is don’t take yourself too seriously on twitter, have fun, build trust and build relationships – after that spread your message.

I heard a great quote by someone who attended one of our social media for business courses in Dublin recently, when comparing Facebook and Twitter – “Facebook is for interacting with people you were in school with, Twitter is for interacting with people you wish you were in school with!”  – This is a big generalisation but it does capture a little bit of the unique spirit that exists on twitter.

Twitter is a load of rubbish, the stuff people tweet is totally useless.. who cares what people have for breakfast

I often hear this type of argument about using twitter so I will leave you with my closing thoughts ..

Twitter is like a radio station, you tune it in by following who you want – find the channels that you like. If someone is annoying you, don’t follow them, block them, change the channel – you are the controller!

So Jack, thank you for Twitter .. I’d miss you if you weren’t there, Happy Birthday!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

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12 Responses to “Happy Birthday Twitter! .. Valuable or Waste of time?”

  1. Tom Keith Says:

    What an amazingly relevant, intelligent, lucid and well thought out blog entry … I wish I could overrule it but I cant 🙂

    Content like this deserves to be retweeted …

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks Tom – one big thing I am seeing with Twitter is the “low value” of the followers compared to your connections on other platforms. When someone follows me on twitter I normally respond by asking them some question , for example “how is business with you” – nine times out of ten you won’t get a response, the same question on linked in for example you will find would be answered.

  2. BrendanDunne Says:

    It’s a very interesting article Greg but I would ask one question;
    If you are using Twitter for your business, would you block or unfollow a client or potential client because they annoyed you?

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Brendan – good question! I certainly wouldn’t block or unfollow them. I find that tweets fly by so quickly that they can easily be ignored. If they were a client I might advise them that they were being annoying !!

  3. Chris Lentzy Says:

    Hi Greg, I think its fair to say that the adoptation of Twitter in Europe and Ireland in particular is very low compared to the States. Here teenagers are just starting to use Twitter while in the US I have come across grandmothers using Twitter.
    The use of Twitter makes inbound marketing possible and this is big. When companies realise that they can “listen” for someone who wants their product, rather than sell a product that isnt wanted, the penny will drop.
    In the meantime marketeers will have to wait for the use of Twitter to become more popular here, but when it does it will explode.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Great points Chris – while I find that numbers of users are relatively low here I find the type of user is quite influential and for that reason very impactful

  4. thephotographersguidetotravel Says:

    Great post Greg, Took me a while to get used to it but now I find Twitter a most valuable resource of information and networking. Happy Birthday Twitter 🙂

  5. Sean Donohoe Says:

    Very good points Greg. Personally and IMHO I feel that the characters limits are very useful and the radio station analogy is very appropriate.

    The character limits help to focus the wrtiers mind directly on the message and the reader does not get distracted.

    Choosing who to follow is very well illustrated in the radio station analogy and I might just add that, in my experience, the task of choosing who to follow gets easier (provided one is selective from the beginnin) because of the retweets. Being aware that one has an audience (which sometimes can often be more than the number of followers one has) also ,IMHO, helps one to be careful about what message is being put across.

    IMHO Twitter is a great way to get information on topics/issues/market sectors etc which someone is interested in. It is also a great way to find out alternative views or opinions on news stories and , as you correctly point out, still have fun as well.

    Personally I feel Twitter suits the natural Irish gift for language and will become more and more popular over time as professionals realise it is a great method for inward marketing. The decision by an inward marketing firm to invest here is not,IMHO, coincidental.

    So happy birthday Twitter:-)

    Best….Sean Donohoe BSc Dip Pol/Gov


  6. Marius Pranskunas Says:

    I am exploring Twitter capabilities at the moment, and am slowly growing to like it. Somehow it reminds me old chat rooms with minimal graphical information Facebook is overloaded right now.

  7. Sean Donohoe Says:

    “140 characters has a way of getting people to the point !”

    @Greg &all

    IMHO that sentence not only asserts the fact but illustrates it as well:-)


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