On the surface, capturing what you are doing on daily, hourly or even minutely (double meaning intended) basis seems like a useless activity.  Who has the time to send these incessant "tweets" all day long?  As it turns out, lots of smart folks with respectable jobs, but that’s besides the point.  Driven by Mark Simon’s dismissal of Twitter and my hectic travel schedule of 5 cities in 5 days last week, I decided to give Twitter a real test run and become an active user of my dormant account I created several months ago but never really used.  This post is a compilation of the lessons I learned about Twitter and an inside look at the appeal of microblogging and why smart marketers should pay attention to this trend and some ideas for the possibilities it offers. 

  1. Broadcast Yourself For Real. This may be YouTube’s tagline, but it really applies more to Twitter.  As you start sending these messages to update what you are doing right now and gain "followers" – you start to feel like you are broadcasting yourself.  When you’re Twittering, you’re on the grid and sharing your thoughts and actions real time.
  2. Replace Invasive Instant Messaging. I don’t use instant messaging at work, because it is interruptive.  Even when you set your status, you’ll often get instant messages that are hard to ignore.  Twitter has the same qualities of instant messaging, without the interruptive qualities.  As a result, it lets you send quick short instant messages to people that they can view and answer when they have a moment.  I found myself quickly using direct tweets the way I might use instant messaging to ask a quick question to one of my contacts.
  3. Build An Entourage Quickly.  With the easy import feature from Gmail and the relatively low barrier for following someone, I was up to more than 70 contacts in my Twitter account within 5 minutes of starting to use the site.  Not bad for a quick payoff, considering how long it would take to build a friends list of that many people for a new user of any other social network like Facebook or Linkedin.  Even better, the vast majority of people who you follow will start following you right away.
  4. Get Satisfaction by Venting. Throughout the week last week I found myself occasionally annoyed at a stupid ad or a flight delay.  I would never "waste" a blog post on these topics most of the time, but found myself twittering them with great satisfaction.  Somehow, just sharing the negative experience of having to walk all the way to the last gate in the B terminal at O’hare made me feel better about it.
  5. Always Find Out What’s New.  With Twitter, I knew right away when Matt posted a photo of the guys from our panel at Promo Live, and when Gordon Moore finished his chat at IDF.  The running commentary of the latest news from my contacts was actually really useful and somewhat addictive.  Longer term, at the very least I’ll be sending a Twitter update every time I publish a new blog post.
  6. Fills A Gap Left By Blogging. Now that I have gained a few thousand consistent readers, I find myself considering more carefully what I write about.  The people who subscribe to this blog invest their time and expect to find something of use … and there are often times when I abandon a topic because I don’t have a strong point of view about it.  My blog has never been about pointing out things out there without some commentary.  Yet sometimes there is something that is interesting which I would just like to share a link on, but not necessarily write about.  Twitter is the perfect way to share those links and a quick thought without spending a whole blog post on it.
  7. Highly Useful for Live Blogging. There are several events in the past few months that I have had the chance to attend and live blog.  For most, my live blogging consisted of taking notes during sessions, coming up with a point of view and posting a blog post on it.  This is what I did at the CCR event, and the Ogilvy Verge event.  At Intel’s IDF and Promo Live, I tried using Twitter for live blogging instead and found it to be really useful because you can get your thoughts out much more quickly, you can really do it real time, and it forces you to focus on capturing the really key points.  I’ll be Twittering many of my other upcoming events now as well.
  8. Facilitate Meetups.  When I was heading to a media event after the first day of IDF, I was looking for bloggers to invite to the event.  Luckily Karl from ExperienceCurve spotted me on Twitter and suggested we meet up.  This is one of the earliest benefits that I realized some time ago about Twitter, but it was really nice to see it in action.  Imagine this blown out beyond cities to destinations and you can really visualize the potential power of Twitter.

So what does this all add up to?  For me, Twitter is a compelling platform that can easily become addictive once you start to use it … a quality that many great sites share.  The marketing opportunity here is super simple:

  1. Start following people that care about what you do
  2. Respond to their messages where appropriate to start dialogue
  3. Send consistent and substantial updates of your own
  4. Use Twitter as a platform to inform your followers of news they might care about

Today the end of my week long experiment, I’ll be continuing to use Twitter and I’d suggest you give it a go as well.  Now I need to go and send an update to my group letting them know this post is live …