Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another Twitter List

And not a dumb one this time. I've complained before about some of the ridiculous "marketing via Twitter" lists that have turned up; Ann Handley at MarketingProfs offers up a pretty sensible one that serves as nice place to start thinking about how Twitter can be useful.

I still am skeptical. Twitter is entertaining, and I use it myself, but most of these ideas are things that work better when they are primarily done via other media (like blogs). Twitter does, however, provide a nice adjunct to that.

At the same time, I've discovered that some Twitterers use it mainly to say, "Hey, look, I wrote a blog post!" That's something I find tedious; that's why I use an RSS reader. And there is, of course, Twitter spam now.

A couple of specific issues and questions I have...

1. Has anyone ever studied how Twitter users actually interact with the service? When I signed up I had tweets going to my IM, and that stopped within hours - it was just an irritating annoyance. Now, I mainly see tweets through the Twitterific Mac Twitter client. (The idea of them going to my phone just gives me a headache.)

This makes me wonder how many others do that; for me, Twitter is very ephemeral. It's useful for quick notifications of some things, like what Woot is offering right now, but - to pick an application one commenter on Ann's post mentioned - terrible for things like job postings. People could easily miss them.

It would be helpful to see some statistics on where tweets are actually going - the web? phones? IM clients? other desktop clients?

2. Twitter's infrastructure is, frankly, not ready for prime time. There are outages, things often don't work right, there are constant display problems. This is not surprising for a free service with no clear plans to be profitable, but it's something a marketer should bear in mind if he or she is thinking of making Twitter the centerpiece of a campaign. Will Twitter be working correctly the day you launch? Probably, but...

3. Twitter is a very select subset of early adopters who like these kinds of things (and yes, I'm one of them, once I go through my obligatory "Bah! Humbug!" phase). Twitterers are probably not your market, and almost certainly not representative of your market. Which is why I get chills when I hear people talk about using it for marketing research.

There are, of course, some research activities where this doesn't matter. Brainstorming? Floating trial balloons? Sure, it's a handy thing. But the day someone says, "Well, we floated this on Twitter and everybody thought it was a hit!" you need to eject them from your office and send them to a seminar on research to go learn something. Twitterers are not a good sample of anything except Twitterers. When I hear the "Twitter for research" concept, I never hear the necessary qualification after it, and that's a recipe for bad research driving bad decisions.

If your market includes tech-oriented people, you certainly should be paying attention to Twitter. Just keep it in perspective.

No comments: