Why do you Tweet?
This is a question that increasing numbers of people have asked me lately. Read Write Web published some research on this topic, however I feel that people are drawn to Twitter primarily for three things and they are inherently social. They are:
A couple of things to pick up on first, Twitter is useful for any PR person as there are a high number of key opinion formers Tweeting in the form of journalists, celebrities, bloggers and customers. It is a great way to build closer relationships with these people as Twitter is massively personal: you are peering into people’s conversations, finding out their thoughts and building up a better understanding of them.
But what also makes Twitter so appealing is that it runs in real time. It is quicker than any TV channel or newspaper with the unraveling of events. Think Hudson River plane crash or more recently balloon boy.
The trending feature also allows you to gauge what people are talking about at any given time. Whilst it is not the zeitgeist that PR people so crave, this information can shape the news agenda – and earlier this year Sky appointed Ruth Barnett as their Twitter correspondent. Throw in the fact that there are a plethora of Twitter applications out there to help you make sense of all this information and you begin to see that despite its simplicity, Twitter is a lot more than just 140 characters.
Back to the three Cs and the question…
Without doubt I have found Twitter to be a great conversation tool and many of these conversations have led to exciting new networks. People are naturally drawn to Twitter as it deals in human, two-way conversations and from a business perspective, I believe that companies need to be taking part and engaging in these conversations.
The fact that you can follow (apart from the few who protect their Tweets) anyone gives almost unfeted access to CEO, MD’s, industry figures and customers. This opportunity is not to be dismissed. In terms of networking, Twitter is more effective than email in the first instance and creating a rappor with people via Twitter has thrown open many interesting opportunities. But it is also the conversation with family, friends, colleagues and potentially superstars that keeps people returning.
Twitter is a place of exchange and there is vast amount of ideas, conversation and reciprocal behaviour being shared for the common good – the phenomenon of retweeting (RT @) is testament to this. Whilst, Twitter is an open, communal place, people can choose to disengage by protecting their Tweets – (I understand people wanting to protect their privacy), however I find this a rather odd concept and goes against the spirit of Twitter.
Whilst there is no substitute for meeting people in the flesh, Twitter allows you to network with people all over the world. There is a lot of knowledge being shared on Twitter, it is direct and open which adds to the feeling of community.
Thirdly, people use Twitter as customers, both future and existing can be attracted and retained. Micro-blogging gives organisations the opportunity to communicate with customers, see what competitors are up to, spot trends and offer comment. Two great examples are lastminute.com and Dell who are using Twitter to do all of the above, but perhaps most importantly drive up sales.
I’m all for corporate Twitter accounts, however they have to be a two-way conversation. This is what the social web is about. Spamming and corporate schpeel will be seen through – remember the Habitat case. If done well and sincerely, I have no doubt these conversations will increase brand loyalty.
Twitter has significance and the ability to see what people are thinking, what matters to them and being able to interact with these people should not be underestimated. This coupled with the simplicity and low barriers of entry are what make Twitter so effective – and importantly, keep people coming back for more.