Everyone from this guy to Edison Research has pondered this same question over the past year or so. We’ve all become familiar with that pervasive little blue bird, yet for most ordinary folks (and a decent share of communications professionals), the question lingers: What is the deal with Twitter?
It’s fairly safe to assume that you’re one of the 87% of Americans aware of Twitter, and you probably have a pretty decent sense of how it operates. But for those of you actually using Twitter, you’re in the company of only 7% of Americans. Seven percent!? For the sake of comparison, approximately 41% of Americans are on Facebook, including my mom.
Without a doubt, Twitter has made itself useful. How else would Lindsay Lohan have let us all know – within minutes of the incident – that she got punched in the face by a waitress? But is Twitter anything more than the latest PR channel for celebrities?
Of course. The beauty and the challenge of Twitter is its simplicity. Unlike Facebook – which takes a hold and never lets you go thanks to its supremely robust platform – Twitter is more of a social utility than a social network. There is success to be had; however it requires creative thinking to identify the ways in which Twitter can be useful to you or your organization.
Putting aside the celebrity phenomenon, the most noteworthy Twitter success stories involve identifying a solution to a given challenge. The challenges faced by the following businesses and organizations would exist in a world with or without Twitter; the use of Twitter to solve for these challenges is noteworthy in that someone simply saw new opportunity afforded by a new technology.
Kogi BBQ – Their twitter success is the stuff of legends. It’s the tale of a popular L.A. food truck that leapt at the real-time nature of Twitter to keep Angelinos abreast of current locations, wait times, and to provide a steady stream of good-humored, street-wise updates. Kogi BBQ currently has over 72,000 followers, a good deal more than McDonald’s. Their success has cemented social media – namely Twitter – as a marketing must for similar businesses.
Tweetsgiving.org – Clever in its simplicity, this was a highly effective viral fundraising effort from epic change. With the goal of raising $10,000 (via Chip-in) to build a classroom in Tanzania, influential twitterers got the ball rolling as folks were asked to tweet their gratitude alongside the web address and the hashtag #tweetsgiving. Look for the effort to return around Thanksgiving 2010.
Your challenge could be as simple as distributing organizational news quickly and efficiently. This may not be a noteworthy use of Twitter, but it’s certainly a good one.
A lot of discussion is taking place over who uses Twitter and why (Twitter collects only scant information about its users), and about just where it will settle within the pantheon of social media. Is it a B2B space for industry insiders? Is it the ultimate celebrity news fix? Is it our collective consciousness streamed live?
Twitter is all of these things, all at once, because it’s up to its users to make of it what they will. The question becomes: What is Twitter for you?