Sunday, June 14, 2009

What good is Twitter?

This question was posed in a Q&A session on Linkedin as an effort to help quantify what people find as valuable in Twitter. In some way, isn't twitter just the CB Radio of the 21st century? Back during the oil crisis of the 70's, truckers relied heavily on CB. It also became a phenom with the general public. Do you recall the movie "Smokey and the Bandit"? In CB even a special lingo developed..."10-4 Good Buddie, watch out for that Bear in the grass." CB provided a means of communication for travelers to find gas during shortages and location of speed traps during the mandated 55 mph speed limit of the 1970s.

Twitter has its special lingo such as RT, @wdbuck, #hashtags, #musicmonday, #followfriday and so forth. Twitter provides a means of two way text communication between users. Users are allowed "handles" or alternate names much the way CB radio users made handles for themselves.

So what good is Twitter?

Well for one, you can receive updates from your favorite celebrity. There is a service called WeFollow that allows you to create tags for yourself and categorizes you to groups. Checking WeFollow Celebrities - Ellen, Britney and Oprah appear to be the most followed. Since most celebs "push" there updates to their followers it is only one way communication.

Other "push" processes include informational updates to your cellphone for weather update, sports scores, job listings or traffic updates. One caution is to be selective with turning your device updates on because you can get deluged with text updates to your cellphone if not careful.

Online Marketers appear to be embracing Twitter as a way to spread the word about their products. Twitter has one advantage and/or disadvantage over email in that there are no spam filters. Once you start accumulating followers you will be deluged with spam for various marketers offering a variety of schemes. Affiliate and MLM marketers seem to be hoping for the 7th level and millions of dollars in revenue from Twitter. Unfortunately, none of them even mentioned that had made a single sale from twitter. Other uses for online marketers is for promotion of "deals" and events.

One respondent indicated a Roach Coach in LA has successfully used twitter to communicate their locations to customers. Look up @KogiBBQ they have 30,818 followers. Isn't the business model for sales of a roach coach limited due to the amount of food that can be carried and the number of cash registers on the truck? If they are randomly roaming the city, I guess sending out the updates helps get customers. I think for the vast majority of these types of businesses the coaches have a set schedule at businesses during break and lunch time. What does it say about you if you are following the chatter about a roach coach?

Two respondents indicated that twitter was an effective means of getting news. It is perceived more responsive than RSS feeds. I can see how news travels fast on Twitter. However, if you get it from someone who passed a link from the NYTimes, then the NYTimes had the story before the users on Twitter. So it appears to be a way of passing around old news. If you subscribe to the RSS feeds of the newswires you will most likely get stories. Using the device updates would allow you to get the news while you are on the move or traveling.

One good use of Twitter is exemplified in @ASQ. The American Society for Quality has it's own twitter account and uses it to promote professional activities within the community of quality professionals. ASQ also sends emails, has a website and most members receive information through mailings as well. Tonya Cannariato, Web Project Administrator at ASQ stated, "On the positive side, we've seen significant interest in following the ASQ brand on Twitter since we've started posting quality quotes and links to useful resources. We view this as part of our effort to be where the people who are interested in us are--outreach, engagement, customer relationship building, etc."

Spam appears to be the largest drawback to Twitter. Some respondents did indicate that they have found no good uses for Twitter. One respondent perceived it as "a giant spam machine". Another respondent quipped, "I haven't found one yet.." in response to what good is twitter? Some just indicated there is improvement needed in twitter to help weed out spam.

Finally, I am not going to pass judgment just yet on Twitter. I am still wondering if Twitter is just a fad, like the CB radios of the 70s and 80s. Will this technology stick with us and be here 20 years from now? Is it here to stay? What do you think?
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