Saturday, May 12, 2007

Back to Basics

The marketing blogerati are abuzz over Delta Airlines apparently setting up a Twitter account (or, at the very least, someone who claims to be Delta Airlines doing it). (You can see it here.)

It's interesting, but I'm a bit surprised at how many people are treating this like big news.

Is it interesting? You bet. Is it important for Delta? I doubt it. Is it important for Twitter? Other than the PR, I doubt it.

As I was reading about it, I found myself thinking about that Pew report on American internet use that revealed that half the country simply isn't terribly interested, many others use telecom technology but see it as an aggravation as much as a boon, and that the elites are a small group. (And how many elites are Twitterati? A fairly small group, I think.)

It's not news that I'm a big Twitter skeptic; I haven't seen a use for it that couldn't be accomplished more easily with email or SMS or instant messaging. And even if you use Twitter the way most people seem to - to keep up with friends and thought leaders - it's hard to imagine that a lot of people are interested enough in Delta Airlines to want their tweets. (If Continental, the airline I fly 99% of the time, followed suit, I'd have no interest in it.)

If, of course, this is even really Delta.

The content of the Delta (or faux-Delta) Twitter stream makes me think, would I want to be distracted by getting this kind of information via Twitter, versus while reading the business news?

There are so many variables in this industry- sometimes ppl like Sarawara still get stuck on the phone. Sorry @Sarawara :( I'm working on it

sending out flight notices/reminders to those who've signed up for my messenger service [Continental does this via SMS. Doesn't Delta?]

@Blephen - been trying to make the employees happier too. Gave out bonuses and part-ownership in the company

Am I saying Delta shouldn't do this? No. What I'm saying is that a little perspective is in order.

I think it's great when any company (assuming this is them) experiments with new media. Some of those experiments will become major communications and marketing channels in the future. Most of them won't. If there's some Twitter guru within Delta who championed this, great.

But when people start talking about this as a groundbreaking moment, my BS detector goes into overdrive. This is utterly irrelevant to most Delta customers, and even if Twitter is a massive success, it will be for quite a long time. (I mentioned that Continental sends you updates via SMS if you request them; I bet most customers don't use that service.)

And there's nothing here that can't be replicated in 15 minutes by any other airline that wants to do it.

Delta's main marketing challenge is getting business from the flying public, and that means basics: their web site, their customer service, internal cost controls, quality assurance, and communicating with the public in ways that are relevant to them - which means via the news, their web site, customer emails, through their reps, and so on.

I'm not knocking the idea of any major company experimenting with Twitter (or Second Life or any other over-hyped bit of technology). In fact, every company should have a little skunkworks going where people are free to play with all of this stuff and figure out if it belongs in the mainstream of their marketing efforts.

And those of us observing the marketing world need to keep it in perspective, rather than hailing all of these experiments at the next big thing. (Are you actually pushing Twitter as a strategically important channel to your clients? I suppose there are a few out there for whom that would make sense, but I suspect their businesses have to do with Twitter itself.)

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