From Idiot to Genius: My First 7 Days on Twitter

Twitter Screen Capture

Twitter . Heard of it? Sure you have–it’s that inane social network where people post random 140 character entries about what they’re eating for lunch, or listening to, or how their kids are running amok . . . right? The very definition of a productivity killing black hole with little to no business value, right?

That’s what I thought too, and was the sum and substance of most discussions we’d had in our offices as we pondered wading more deeply into our exploration of the social media sphere.

(This concludes the “Idiot” portion of the article.)

In fact, if you were to take Tweeter at its face value–what you see in the stream of twitter consciousness on their home page–my idiot pronouncement would be true. Here’s an actual transcript below, or check it out for yourself.

serena: @DougH: That’s awful (the redeye, not client meetings). Welcome back to LA. At least the weather cleared up! less than 5 seconds ago
Darnhall Observing:
space (17:24:07 +60:58:47) www.jb.man.ac.uk/vlb… less than 5 seconds ago
tightsweater: knows there is work to be done!..but is feeling oh-so-daunted! A Clay Aiken pick-me-up is needed. <3 less than 5 seconds ago
bybtwit @g10r3 che link metti su twitter che poi @bybtwit li apre e vede i finley e sta male less than 5 seconds ago
ks1234_1234 つええな日経平均。先物序盤は「CMEなんで低いの? いっち まえ」「あ、配当落ち忘 れてた」みたいな動きだが、無事に保ってる。わし まっさかさまを覚悟してたのに。 … less than 10 seconds ago

See what I mean?

But, patience, grasshopper. Judging Twitter by its homepage is book : cover stuff. What’s really happening is this (and hold on because the “genius” part is just around the bend):

When you sign up for Twitter, you must form a community or else you’ll end up talking to yourself. So, one-by-one you select people to “follow” while you gain “followers” (those whom you choose to follow often return the favor.) In the seven days since I began, I’ve chosen to follow 65 people, and 31 people are following me. Among those 31, I know only one person from my actual life: Thom. The most popular Tweeter is Leo Leporte who has over 65,000 followers.

(This marks the beginning of the genius part.)

A PhD Level Crash Course
If you choose to follow a herd of 16-year olds you’re likely to be fed a steady diet of OMGs and Britney references (not that there’s anything wrong with that). On the other hand, if you choose to follow some of the brightest minds in the marketing and technology industry, like those included on this list or this one you’ll be in the middle of the world’s coolest virtual coffee house, reading and often engaging with people you’d likely never encounter unless you’re on the new media A-List. Um, I’m not.

I’m currently following/being followed by and have had exchanges with: Guy Kawasaki, Jeremiah Owyang, Robert Scoble, Maki, and one helluva bassist, Jeff Schmidt.

Genius Point 1: regarding your need to stay abreast of new media and branding opportunities, building a Twitter community of experts can accelerate your understanding of the social media space with remarkable speed and efficiency.

Brands in the Conversation
As community is built, relationships are formed, and trust is established. In my seven days I’ve observed a remarkable amount of social intimacy and respect among my small group. And it’s in this context that brand recommendations are freely shared and trustingly accepted. So, imagine six months from now that I’ve got several hundred followers (which is not uncommon) and I start singing the praises of my Neorest toilet, telling my fellow Twitterers “it’s like having a Ferrari in my bathroom”. I would suggest that my endorsement of that product, made within a social context, among people who’ve grown to respect my opinions, is far superior to any other single impression in a traditional advertising medium.

I’ve observed this dynamic on many occasions with people Twitting:

“I’m heading to Amsterdam next week, where should I stay?” A hotel recommendation was offered and accepted within minutes.

“I need to replace my old Treo, what’s the best new smart phone for me to get?” Several suggestions and micro reviews posted within minutes

. . . and these scenarios are happening thousands of times a day on Twitter alone.

Genius Point 2: Want to hear what people are saying about your brand when they think no one else is listening? Do a Twitter search for your brand’s name and you’ll see. What if no one’s talking about your brand at all? Maybe you need to begin that dialogue.

Driving Traffic to Your Website
Forward thinking marketers are establishing their own branded Twitter accounts. Jet Blue, for example, announces limited offer airfares to its followers, Carnival Cruise offers sales and news, while the Dell Outlet offers checkout coupon codes. Your brand’s opportunity to engage in this medium is only limited by your imagination.

Genius Point 3
The front in the battle for consumers hearts and mind is constantly shifting, and you need to follow them to where they’re congregating. As the graph below shows, Twitter’s growth is remarkable, and as it succeeds, other micro-blogging sites will appear, offering the same kinds of opportunities for brands to participate in the social dialogue. Now would be a great time to begin exploring this opportunity with the goal of becoming, at a minimum, more fluent in this emerging medium.

Twitter Growth

(credit: twitterfacts)

In closing, I’m still awed by how completely wrong I was about Twitter. My ignorance of Twitter nearly prevented me from discovering a brand communications channel that is nothing short of ingenious. I encourage you to get a Twitter account for yourself and see if you agree with me.

As we continue to explore the future of branding in the social media space, I look forward to sharing my Facebook experiences and insights with you in our next “Get Social” post.

Addenda: Jeremiah Owyang just posted Social Media FAQ #3: How Do I Measure ROI? that offers an excellent overview of social media analytics. Make sure and read the Comments–Sam Lawrence’s links, in particular, are illuminating.

This recent BusinessWeek article also serves notice that social media is approaching critical mass.

And, of course: follow me, and I’ll follow you.

Posted in

Rick Julian

8 Comments

  1. drt on February 29, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I’ve bookmarked your site and would be back to read it thoroughly. May be I’d become one of your followers.

  2. Hock on March 3, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I too joined Twitter just a few days ago. I’m still trying to get a sense of what I can use it for. Thanks for the insights you have posted here.

    The key is to have a community of like-minded people who are committed to updating their tweets. Otherwise, it will become a monologue.

  3. admin on March 3, 2008 at 8:51 am

    @Hock. Glad you’re getting your Twitter feet wet. As you noted, the community you build is critical to your experience and the benefit you’ll gain. I approach it as though I’m curating a collection of people, and try to be selective–picking people who both inform and entertain me.

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. drt on March 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    As promised, I join twitter and of course become one of your follower. 🙂

    Hope you’re okay over there. No tornado, I mean. 🙂

  5. […] twitter yesterday after reading Doug Karr’s posting. When I saw Doug’s post, I remember Rick Julian’s posting I found from bloggingzoom few weeks ago. That was the reason I wrote this posting to see if any of […]

  6. Nick R Thomas on September 9, 2008 at 5:07 am

    The clearest explanation I’ve seen of what Twitter is about.

  7. rjulian on September 9, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Thanks, Nick. Six months later, Twitter continues to impress me with the sense of community it offers participants. There are people who use it as their primary conduit for business communication. Mind you, it takes a while to build a critical mass of followers and a baseline of relationships, but once that’s accomplished, remarkable opportunities can present themselves.

    I’ll be writing a new post about my current experiences with Twitter soon.

  8. BradandPitti on October 14, 2008 at 9:45 am

    cool site 🙂

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