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12 posts from October 2009

10/02/2009 Why Twitter, or Something Like It, Matters


You can tell how successful Twitter's become just by seeing all the articles announcing that the fun is over, it's not that important and that sure decline is on the way. The articles might be right about the business of Twitter but they're dead wrong about the changes Twitter has wrought.

An experience I had with AT&T over the last two weeks illuminates the power of this medium and shows why it's too important to disappear.
  1. Vox Clamantis in Deserto - That was my college's "Tag Line." It's the New Testament quote "A voice calling in the wilderness." Used to be that online was just like that; you shouted into an empty echo chamber with little chance of someone actually hearing you. Twitter changed all that. Now, people call out into this wildness all the time, and people hear them. Yes, people hear them! That's what happened with AT&T. I shouted out that my Internet coverage was crappy on my iPhone and, low and behold, someone from AT&T answered.
  2. Twitter has Big Ears - That's why AT&T heard me. It, like other brands, has grown big ears to listen to all sorts of chatter and comments about its brand and its category. Don't disregard the significance of this point. The biggest challenge in online marketing, in my opinion, has been to convince companies to actually open its ears and listen to what people say, positive and negative. While some companies still shy away from this, so many, like Zappos, have embraced it and made it part of its customer service. The fact that Twitter, unlike Facebook, enables all sorts of third-party listening tools makes it a game changer.
  3. It Happens in Real Time - I love that people respond to me on Twitter pretty quickly. It doesn't have to be within the minute, but it sure is a lot quicker than e-mail or phone communications happen. On Twitter, brands respond within an hour or two, usually. Compare that with how long it takes them to respond to an email! Remember the phrase "at Internet speed?" Now, it's finally happening.
  4. Real People, Real Contact - While you can't always solve problems in 140 characters, you can get the gist of the problem and follow up via phone. That's what happened with AT&T. After a few tweets back and forth, I was talking to @ATTJohnathon and he patiently walked me through solutions, even though I was frustrated to have to go through them. Within a few hours, on my time and my pace, he solved my, somewhat complicated, somewhat random, problem.
How did Twitter improve my communication? I didn't have to get into an automated voice mail system that never let me talk to a human being. I didn't have to wait days for an e-mail response. I had my problem solved in probably the quickest way available.

That's why it's significant. Now, some other cool company may build this functionality into a faster, more intuitive product with better features down the road. But whether that company has the name of Twitter or Blabster or Zoom, Twitter's functionality has changed the way we communicate.
10/01/2009 Teach Your Dumb Media to Speak


I had an interesting conversation yesterday that started about social media but turned into a discussion about two-way communication. Right now, there's so much buzz about social media and things like Twitter's billion dollar valuation that we might be missing the whole point of what's going on.

The business of Twitter isn't that important. The functionality Twitter introduced is. That's why companies like Facebook are trying to duplicate it.

Twitter and social media created a giant leap forward in dialogue branding. They provided ways we could have two-way connections in real time with people and brands all over the world. The connections are immediate and public. That combination is unique and is changing the way brands communicate.

What's lacking right now is the way companies connect its overall marketing to its social media presence. That's why everyone talks so much about Starbucks, Dell or HBO when they actually do something like this.

Since you can access social media from any connected device, like laptops or cell phones, it's surprising that we don't see more marketing that connects fixed and dumb media (think billboards, taxi tops, truck siding, or products like cups, hats or food wrappers) to social media.

Think of all the McDonalds paper wrappers people open up to eat their burgers. For most people its garbage. How many of those do they produce each year? Imagine if there were something fun you could actually do with those, connecting to Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare?

How about if billboards and truck siding encouraged you to do something on social media and you received rewards for acting? In that way, social media could make ignorable media worth participating in.

Now I know that some of these do have response mechanisms. But they broadcast: "Everybody look at this and call this number of visit this Web site." It's not immediate, and it's not public. That's where the fun of social media comes in and that's where the difference is. McDonalds burger wrappers might be a stupid idea, except when you can see that other people in the restaurant participate at the same time you do. Then you've built some unexpected and sometimes odd connections. But they're usually pretty fun and memorable.

Every company has a ton of fixed and dumb (that is, it can't speak) media. It's time to teach your dumb beasts to speak and create dialogue with your audience.

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