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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.

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