Now that I got my rants on the business of media out of my system, I can finish my thoughts on Twitter.
Someone recently sent me a link to a Twitter "how-to" manual on Mashable that serves as a pretty good description of what it is and the features, but makes a pretty poor guide on best practices. It basically treats Twitter as a typical mass medium, which it isn't
As I mentioned previously, Twitter is part of the mass media subsection I call micromedia and requires a different approach to communication than traditional mass media, or macromedia. When you apply traditional communication approaches to micromedia, you will inevitably fail.
Take Coca Cola for example. When they started out on Twitter, they were just pushing advertising and messages. As a result, one of the biggest companies in the world could only garner 15,000 followers. But in the past few months, Coca Cola has changed their strategy and is providing information and athletic celebrity connections through Twitter, as part of their Super Bowl and Winter Olympic programs. The result is 500 million interactions and not a corporate message in the lot. Note the difference in the measurement: Followers vs Interactions.
In contrast, their Super Bowl advertising only reached 100 million viewers with no measurable interaction.
Closer to our world, as a good example, is Best Buy, which uses Twitter in two directions, but only two. One is for internal communications and one is for customer support. In both cases Best Buy uses Twitter with a specific audience in mind with the goal of creating a conversation, an engagement between the corporation and the audience (employees and customers) on a specific topic. Employees can make suggestions, point out issues and connect directly with each other. Customers can get real-time responses on product problems and questions. And more to the point, they get them without alot of bother. You have to get pretty specific with only 140 characters and you have to take a lot of emotion out of the mix. No name calling, in other words. Much more efficient.
Bad practices on Twitter abound and are at the heart of a lot of the disaffection and abandonment of Twitter. Corporations and individuals with a promotion-only (read one-way messaging) find they get ignored (no response) or get flamed. They don't understand that this isn't an advertisement. Lots of people don't get/like Twitter because all they see is a raft of links to ads and news releases and they walk away from it. They are right to, unless they wise up and start blocking people who only or mostly only send those kind of links. You have to do some culling to to get some value.
The real value of Twitter is four fold. One, if you look at it as a place to find trusted sources, it will take some time (the culling process) but it will yield results. That's my primary use for it. I find good sources of information through Twitter on a regular basis, but I follow only a few dozen people.
Second, Twitter can serve as a very effective alternate email system. I maintain connection to several of my followers and followees through direct messages. There is no spam. None.
Third, it can be a great measurement tool. When I send out my rare press release, I never put it on Twitter directly. i wait to see if it gets picked up and disseminated from any of my trusted sources. If it does I know that the news has some real value. And from that point I can feel free to retweet that.
Fourth and finally, it can connect disparate social media/networking platforms. Not all the people on my Linkedin community are on my Facebook community, jsut as not all in both of those are on my Twitter accounts. But by sharing tweets, retweets and links on Twitter to my other platforms I expand readership across all and foster the conversation.
And that's the difference between macro and micro media. The latter is conversational and is best shared with a limited audience.