Twitter – Terrific Tsunami or Tiny Trickles?

August 4th, 2009   •   3 comments   

twitter-gaping-void
Courtesy of gapingvoid.com

Incubated and hatched just three years ago, Twitter was then a little chick in a nest, struggling to find its way in the world of social media dominated by giants.

Today, it is huge, with staggering growth rate of 1,382 percent a year (compared to 228% for Facebook).

Founded by Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey (Williams was also the developer of the highly popular Blogger application), Twitter is a service that allows you to send short messages of 140 characters to your followers, and this can be done both online or via a mobile phone. Unlike SMSes though, messages can be embedded with links to websites. You can also retweet messages to your followers, and this is where the Word Of Mouth and buzz qualities of Twitter comes in.

More and more people are hopping (or flocking) to the Twitter microblog wagon. In fact, Twitter is the social media application of choice amongst Fortune 100 companies according to a recent study from Burson-Marsteller (from mashable.com). Their study cited that 54% of the Fortune 100 companires have a Twitter presence, compared to 32% with a blog, and 29% on Facebook.

Twitter has grown so huge that there are more than a thousand third party applications developed for it, most of which have adopted the prefix Tw – Tweetdeck, twistory, twhirl, Mr. Tweet, twitterholic, twinfluence, We Follow and God knows how many more others. Blogs like this have also been established to purely track, analyse, report and comment on the state of the state of the Twitterverse.

The latest developments in Twitter are money making advertisements or sponsored tweets. One of the company’s name is just that – Sponsored Tweets – and it provides a pay per tweet service (read more here). Others include Magpie and local player Nuffnang’s latest foray called ChurpChurp. Bytebot.net has an interesting take on this, which you should read here.

Some businesses have been twitterific. They include sport e-tailer Zappos.com which was recently sold to Amazon.com for a cool $928 million – and all its management will stay intact. Its CEO Tony Hsieh has more than a million Twitter followers.

While much of the news appear rosy, cracks are already appearing in the Twitterverse. Some naysayers are already predicting its death, saying that its too crowded. In fact, Oprah Winfrey (with almost two million followers) has already abandoned Twitter.

For a start, most twitter followers are not friends, and the authority of Twitterers based on just followers alone is questionable. Like blogs and facebook accounts, most of the people on Twitter are sheeps – 80% have 10 followers or less each. Like other social technologies, 90% of tweets are generated by 10% of users according to a Harvard study.

Many Twitterers are also quitters, with 60% quitting within the first month. This compares badly to its competitors Facebook and Myspace, which have bigger retention rates. I suppose this could probably be attributed to the amount of effort needed to set up a Twitter account compared to a Facebook or MySpace account, which are seen as more personal profiles. Easy come, easy go?

Like other social media applications, monetising the platform is also a contentious issue. A major challenge is the 140 character platform which makes it difficult to put disclaimers in there. Plus, I bet the click through rates for links on tweets are going to be a lot less if you are following 10,000 Twitterers.

So should one flock chirpily to Twitter in that humungous aviary?

Well, there are lots of ways to use Twitter. They include providing a customer feedback channel, disseminating “live” news quickly, providing conference updates, sharing jokes, quotable quotes, making new friends, setting up meetings… the list goes on. You can also be connected to Twitter online or offline (through the mobile), so its a (God forbid!) truly 24 by 7 channel that you can bring around.

However, one needs to tamper one’s use of Twitter with realism. Unless you are a celebrity, a president or a hardcore Silicon Valley insider, you are never going to have a hashtag that spreads to millions (unlike #michaeljackson, #obama and #sexscandal). Finding the right followers who are believers of what you have to say may be superior to having a gazillion followers who barely knows who you are.

Do beware of twitter spamming others – there is a huge backlash against folks who use their Twitter accounts purely for selling purposes. If you really want to broadcast all the time, try television.

Remember to also keep it personal and individual, even on corporate Twitter accounts. People like to relate to another person with their quirks, idiosyncracies and emotions. Otherwise your tweeter account will feel like its operated by a faceless, nameless bot.

Like blogs and Facebook accounts, the principle of reciprocity works here. So if you retweet me and recommend me (eg on #followfriday for instance), the likelihood of me doing the same is high.

Ultimately, like many other social media platform, Twitter is about cultivating relationships and providing information or resources of value to one’s followers. That’s where its true value may lie.

Tags: , ,

3 comments

  1. ZQ Travels
    posted on Aug 04, 2009 at 8:50 AM

    Walter, cant agree more with you on the twitter situation.

    There is just way too much selling and noise in the twitter environment..

    Your article adequately summarises how there is to know abt Twitter

    Thanks
    ZQ
    PassportChop.com

  2. Jaky astik
    posted on Aug 05, 2009 at 4:41 AM

    The future of twitter, as I see, is just for customer care and news.

  3. posted on Aug 05, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    Hi Walter,

    A very good write-up, with facts and all.

    I have tried out Twitter, just to see what so good it is about after reading so much about it.

    Maybe there are many ways to “use” Twitter. Like “spreading news” or first hand info. But I am not interested in though. In fact, I do find it very noisy. And for those friends of mine who automatically link the Twitter to Facebook, I am really considering to take them off the wall display. Cuz while I am interested in how you are doing in your life because you are my friend, I have absolutely no interest in those re-tweet from people whom I don’t know.

    For me though, it is sort of fun to follow the celebrities and hear out what they are doing in their day-to-day lives. And I don’t expect followers either, cuz I am not of that caliber. And seriously, I am more interested in hearing messages from those whom I know in Facebook, or my regulars in my website.

    You wrote: Many Twitterers are also quitters, with 60% quitting within the first month. This compares badly to its competitors Facebook and Myspace, which have bigger retention rates. I suppose this could probably be attributed to the amount of effort needed to set up a Twitter account compared to a Facebook or MySpace account, which are seen as more personal profiles. Easy come, easy go?

    This observation could be true. I suspect that not many can or want to keep up with Twitter. I for one, like Jaky writes, more in for the news. Such as from my favorite online game. Facebook is a much better platform for me to keep in touch with my friends. And it does fill up the gaps of where my website can’t fulfill too. That is: there are friends of mine who are more open to drop me a comment on a note I write in Facebook than coming to my site and share their opinions openly with the rest of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *