More Thoughts on Twitter

First of all, let me say that Twitter has dramatically improved their service – I haven’t seen the fail whale logo since April which is pretty amazing given the growth that Twitter is continuing to experience these last two months and the massive surge in tweets in the days immediately following Michael Jackson’s death.

Twitter’s founder, Biz Stone, was quoted in the NY Times Bits Blog  as saying: “We saw more than double the normal tweets per second the moment the news broke—the biggest increase since the US presidential election (and Twitter has grown tremendously since then).”

Not many businesses ever have to deal with the exponential growth that Twitter continues to experience. So it’s understandable that they might have had/will have some scaling issues with the service – especially since they aren’t generating a whole lot of revenue beyond a loyal user base. After all it must be hard to hire people, pay for bandwidth and hosting space when have little or no revenue. But user demand and loyalty are usually good things. I’m sure Mr. Stone, and his fellow founders and venture backers, will find a way to “monetize” twitter sufficiently to reward their investments of time and money.

Meanwhile individual businesses are already making money with Twitter – the most famous being the Kogi Truck – but other business, both big and small, are finding out about the power of Twitter.  For example Dell  has made over $3 million using twitter and has the analytics to prove it. Monday’s Boston Globe had a front page article about the power of twittering for restaurants who have embraced the free way to connect and build a loyal following.

Our favorite cheese store and restaurant is on twitter– and I have to say I find the tweets fun and interesting plus they make me hungry. Craigslist may have taken away the classified business from newspapers but Twitter just might be the one that takes away the display ads. After all why would a company pay for an ad that goes out to a broad audience that only overlaps their target demographic, when they can have a free way to communicate directly with their fans. Would you rather have 400 customers who want to hear from you on a daily basis or 40,000 potential customers, most of whom have no idea who you are? You can only crank so many plates out of the kitchen in a given night. Once a restaurant is full, it’s full. Personally I would rather have 400 rabid fans than 40,000 people I have to convert.

Despite all of this verifiable top line revenue and net income, the first reaction many people have when discussing twitter is still: “I don’t care what somebody has for breakfast”.  How that particular meme became the most quoted line about Twitter is a topic for another discussion. Maybe some of this publicity and the ever increasing number of success stories in traditional media will start changing people’s minds. We’ll see. 

Now I’m not saying twitter is the be all, end all, but I think it is an interesting an effective tool if used properly as part of your marketing tool kit. And like any tool it can be abused. I’ve already been spammed and ponzi-schemed more than I like but I’m slowly developing my own guidelines to help weed out those undesirables.

It’ll be interesting to see where Twitter goes this year and next. Over half of  people who check out Twitter wander away but the recent protests in Iran have show what an effective tool Twitter can be when used as a crowd-sourcing citizen’s journalism tool. All of the Ashton, Oprah, CNN hyper-focus on followers seems to be dissipating into something more organic but maybe it’s only ebbing after reaching a temporary high-water mark before surging again to new heights. Only time will tell. What about you? Do you twitter? What do you think about Twitter? You can follow my tweets @jobhuntin  and I’ll follow yours. -t

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